If you are spending more than $300 roundtrip to get to Europe, you are overpaying. We all know what makes a flight expensive: booking last minute, upgrades, and strict time frames- but cutting the cost of flying doesn’t just come down to those elements. There are tricks that airline companies use that can end up causing you to overspend. Finding affordable airfare can be a time consuming process, but if you regularly keep an eye on it, you will know what to look for. These tips can help get you started.
Play with different airports. Is it cheaper for you to drive to a further airport in the US? Is it cheaper for you to book a flight to another U.S. city? For me, Indianapolis is not an ideal airport for international travel. My best bet is to first fly or drive to Chicago, JFK, Newark, or Tampa. So, I check the airfare from those places to my next destination, rather than from Indianapolis. When I find the city that works best for the lowest price, I book the cheapest flight option or use Southwest points to fly from Indianapolis to that city.
Don’t translate your booking page. Book in the language of the airline’s country. This is something I had happen very recently with Icelandair. When I translated the page to English, they automatically up-charged me. If booking through Icelandair, book in Icelandic. If you are booking to South America, keep it in Spanish. This can be annoying and requires some individual Google translating on your part, but I have seen prices go up as much as $100 USD after I opted to translate the browser to English.
Use a flight service like SkyScanner to show a variety of route options– but try to book with the original airline if possible. I usually start with Google flights to get a general idea of pricing. SkyScanner and other similar apps can sometimes help you find an odd variety of flight paths that you may not have found on your own. I caution you to book through the airline rather than the discount site though, as they can help you at the gate if there is an issue, more likely than a third party can.
Book flights individually. “Round trip” is technically never cheaper. It’s not like you get a deal because you are booking everything in one. Round trip just pairs the cheapest option for the days you chose with the same airline. However, if one airline is cheaper departing and another airline is cheaper coming home, then book separate airlines to get the cheapest price combination. I always book my flights individually. Even further, Chicago to Israel might be $1,300, but I know Chicago to Barcelona should only be around $300 and then maybe Barcelona to Israel is only $450. If I search these flights and book separately, I may have just saved hundreds of dollars. Now, this does get quite mind-boggling and time-consuming. If you are on a tight budget, it may be worth your time. If you want booking to be easy and you have the money, you may prefer the less-hassle option of booking directly from Point A to Point B.
Book in an incognito browser. When I have had my laptop out with a group of friends, all booking the same flight, the person who had looked the most always seemed to have a higher price show up on their computer. Booking Barcelona to Poland with Wizzair was where I saw this happen the worst. We couldn’t say for sure if their search history had caused their price to go up, but to be safe we always searched in one browser and booked through another.
Watch out for add-ons. Many “affordable” airlines are only cheap if you travel with no objects and just need a seat. Watch out that these websites tend to start with add-ons selected that you have to deselect. Sometimes it can appear that you are forced to make certain choices on an airplane that cost more than the originally stated price and you might even get follow-up emails if you didn’t. Do not worry. As long as you purchased the bare minimum ticket, you have a seat. You should never be required to select a seat that costs money. You are never required to book flight insurance. You are never required to pay for luggage, though you should do that ahead of time if you actually do have luggage to bring, as it is more expensive at the gate.