How I Find and Buy Cheap Flights

I fly a lot. Especially during the summer. Today a friend asked me a how I minimize my traveling costs and I thought I’d share my method.

How I Find Cheap Flights

How I Find Cheap Flights

I need to book a flight to Wyoming for this June. You do a lot of flying. Do you have any recommendations on where/how to make reservations with the intent of minimizing my pain, my frustration, and most importantly, my expenses? – ScopeCreep

How Much is A Lot of Flying

It’s April and I already have tickets to these places for the next 4 months:

  • NYC in June for a native’s tour of New York City
  • 4th of July in Hermosa Beach, by LA
  • Wedding in Washington DC
  • 5.5 Mile Swim in New York’s Great South Bay
  • Wedding in Maine
  • Party in South Beach, Miami
  • Week-long adventure in the Rhineland, Germany
  • Oktoberfest in Munich, beer making in Bavaria, plus hiking, climbing, rafting and cave diving in the Alps

Last summer I flew all over the place, too. Briefly:

  • Manhattan for Christmas
  • DC for New Years
  • Israel to dig like Indiana Jones
  • Palestine to walk parts of the New Testament
  • San Francisco for this crazy half Mardi Gras, half marathon
  • Manhattan for a wedding
  • Baltimore to drink all day in a burning yacht club
  • Boston for a football game
  • Mexico to swim by Mayan Ruins on Christmas

Sprinkle in a few work trips to Philly every so often and it feels like I fly a lot. Others I know, fly a hell of a lot more! And I welcome them to share their tips below.  Also, please don’t see the above as boasting – I do realize how fortunate I have been to take those trips. I also realize that by comparison, I don’t travel half as much as others. These bullet items are just reminders of articles I want to write for future blog posts!

How I Find Cheap Tickets

Step 1. Go to Kayak.com and look around for the dates you want. You should be prepared to come up with a list of possible travel dates. If possible, take advantage of near-by airports.

Ex. I saved hundreds on my London trip by flying into Gatwick instead of Heathrow and taking a train into the city. The cost of the train was negligible and I got to see a lot more than I would have the other way. Ex. 2 I always search NYC going into New York instead of a specific airport like LGA, JFK, etc. I use all of DC when going there rather than Dulles, Reagan, or BWI.

Step 2. Use the carriers listed there to delve down to their actual sites. Prices can be cheaper on the actual site. You may get a mileage bonus for buying there, too.

Ex. Kayak says USAir has the best prices, you go to USAir.com and do the same search over again.

Step 3. Sign up for that carrier’s mileage program (see instructions on the individual websites). If possible, sign up for their credit card.

Step 4. Use that mileage number and that credit card to purchase the flight you found in step 2. (Gate negotiations go better if you have a mileage number and cc whether you want to board early, not pay for luggage, or need last minute help.)

Step 5. Whatever airline you end up using, sign up for their email lists. As many as possible, even if it is to register for something you never think you’ll use. That, combined with your frequent flier status will give you the heads up on many, many cheap flights.

What Did I Miss?

There is bound to be a bunch of better strategies out there. Let the world know! Share below.

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