The Travel Advice We Get Asked for the Most: How Do We Fly So Cheap?

543079_398267853551977_224908494_nOne of the questions Keri and I get the most is “How do we fly so cheap?”

….Followed by, “I want to take a flight on August 12th from Seattle to New York with no connections and for less than $200, how do I do this?”

All I can do in response to that is shrug and offer up the usual flight search engines.  I think people suspect we may have access to a secret database of flights, or have an “in” where we can pay less than everyone else.  The truth is, we have the same access to the same flights as you guys do, so flying like we do is possible for anyone!

Check out Keri’s post on how she does so much travel.  But here’s how I do it, step-by-step:

1. Be Flexible

Be flexible, not just on what dates you want to travel but also on WHERE you want to go.  Have a list of a dozen or so places you’d like to go to at some point?  Great! View the vacation you are planning as a vacation to one of those places on the list, wherever it ends up being.

For example, I’ve wanted to go to Seattle, Portland, anywhere in Montana, Burbank—you get the point.  I found a great fare to Seattle one day, so I booked a flight there.

I recommend following The Flight Deal on twitter and using Airfare Watch Dog.  I even have The Flight Deal’s tweets texted to me, so I never miss one of their deals.

2. Use the Right Tools

Kayak and Expedia can show you cheap flights, but within certain limitations.  I can choose a location and look at flights generally within my time frame, but I cannot look for any flight to anywhere in a region within my price range.

I’ll use ITA Software Matrix to search for all flights within a general geographical region and then scan the prices.  If there’s somewhere on the list I do not want to travel to, I’ll just un-click it.  But this allows me to search all the general destinations I’d like to go to at once and select based on price.

Using ITA Matrix Software to look for flights, multiple airports can be selected at once.

This is limited because you cannot purchase the flight through this website, but you can learn what flights are available and book them on the airline’s website.

3. Keep Checking Your Ideal Destination

It’s part of my habit to casually check flight prices to Dallas every so often.  I have family there and flights can be expensive sometimes.  So I’ve made it part of my routine to boot up ITA Matrix Software and scan through potential trips to Dallas every Monday morning.

I also check flights to NY to visit my family on random weekends last minute when the flight prices have dropped really low.

You can also use this with your dream destinations.  Keri did this with a trip to Easter Island.  Look at the calendar she’s using in that link.  That is ITA Matrix Software.

Look at all the dates in the month and the prices — YIKES.  Well, all YIKES except for the fare on one day.  Since Keri had been preparing to take this trip whenever she found it in an affordable range, she quickly booked it.

Airport_Travel_and_Related_0094. Speed is Key

When you find a good fare, don’t spend 24 hours thinking about it–it might not be there again.  And you have 24 hours to cancel flights.  So spend that 24 hours thinking over the trip with a booked ticket.

Why?  Flight prices change all the time and that fare can disappear.

When I booked my flight to Seattle, I got it for $150 round-trip from DC (woohoo!).  A few minutes later, the fare disappeared.  No joke.  I was possibly the last person to get in on that deal.

So be speedy.  And if you are afraid of the price dropping quickly the next day, remember–if it is cheaper the next day, book a new flight and cancel the old one.   You have 24 hours to cancel and take advantage of it!

Want more travel advice?  Check out this running list of tips and tricks!

What trip are you hoping to book soon?


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Great advice! This is exactly how we’ve booked some amazingly cheap flights – like DC to Istanbul for under $500 return.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Oohh, I’m jealous. I wasn’t ready to book on that one, and after thinking about it and researching Istanbul later on, I really want to go!

  2. One comment about the “24 hours to change your mind” advice: That’s certainly true on, but NOT on American offers free 24 hour *HOLDS* (and then only if the fare does not require immediate purchase; if immediate purchase is required, one can cancel and refund w/in 24 hours).

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