Travelers shouldn’t have to give up flying (or pay a fortune for it) just because airlines are making it harder to find cheap fares. Here’s how you can save on flights even with the setback:
1. Use a VPN. One way airlines prevent you from comparison shopping, according to André Elmoznino Laufer, spokesperson for SaferVPN, is by looking up your unique IP address in addition to storing cookies in your internet browser. By doing this, they can tie your searches to you. He recommends using a VPN together with your browser’s private mode to prevent airlines from tracking your searches.
“By doing this you can shop around, and even book from foreign booking sites to take advantage of cheaper pricing abroad. For example, I found tickets 26% cheaper in Brazil in my search,” he explains.
Google Flights’ Explore Map option screenshot
2. Check Fare calendars. Personally, my first stop for finding cheap flights is always Fly.com’s Fare Calendar, which lets me compare four months of travel to find the best times to fly. From there I find the best priced dates then check my preferred airline’s website (I earn miles withDelta) for the same dates and compare. I also always check Skyscanner, choosing “Everywhere” as my destination so I can see what places are cheapest to fly from my origin. Google Flightsalso has a handy Explore Map option that shows prices for different destinations all at once, and they offer a calendar view, as well.
3. Research with ITA Matrix. If you have a weird itinerary, want to double check for the lowest price, or are trying to re-qualify for elite status then Matrix-ITA Software — which allows you to search for every possible flight combination known to man — can help you find flight combinations that would never appear in Google or Kayak, according to Parag Raja, CEO ofTravelMore. He says:
“For example, if you needed an American Airlines flight in a specific fare bucket to qualify for some AA frequent flier promotion, ITA would be your friend because even AA.com doesn’t allow you to search by fare bucket.”
4. Peruse Hopper for trip analysis. Miles for Trips blogger Dmitriy Dudarenko recommends searching flights with Hopper, as the website and mobile app provide full trip reports including the best flight deals, cheapest times to go, information on demand stability and alternative routes.
“If you are flexible with dates on your next flight this website is number one. Price predictions and trends, interactive maps, an airline fees calculator, and e-mail and smartphone notification are just a few reasons to use this amazing tool.”
5. Predict airfare volatility. It’s definitely aggravating seeing a great fare go up before you book. Travel startup FLYR forecasts airfares, telling you, for example, “You should buy soon, because this fare may go up by as much as $50 in the next 7 days.” That’s a nice bit of information to have in your travel hacking arsenal.
6. Build in a long layover. If you’re flexible with your itinerary, new travel site Skypicker claims it can save you between 50% and 90% on flights, and our research shows that it can indeed save you a bundle of cash. The catch? Itineraries are often on lesser known airlines and require you to have long layovers — sometimes as much as a day — in cities that might be out of the way. This can be a good or bad thing, depending whether you want to spend a night in Oslo on your way to Berlin.