How to Find the Cheapest Flight (part 2)

If you haven’t read the first part of this series click here.

For the Hardcore Searchers

As we covered in the first part, the more often you search the more expensive it will become. Unless you search in private mode. However, some airlines will also give you different prices depending on your;
Browser
IP address
Country
Location within a country
Type of device (stationary computer, laptop, tablet, phone)
Brand of device (Samsung, Windows, Apple)

So, try searching for your flight from anywhere you can with everything you have available.

Quick Overview

Step 1. Clear cookies, cache and browser history before searching. Or change to private browsing.
Step 2. Search with all your browsers. If you have multiple browsers, then search with all of them and see if there’s a difference.
Step 3. Search with all your computers and devices
Step 4. If you can change your IP to another part of the country, do so.
Step 5. Use a VPN to search as if you were in another country or change the currency setting on the site if available.
Step 6. Search at home, at work, at your friend’s places, your family’s places. Use computers, tablets and phones.

(In my experience your location, whether you use a VPN or not, is overruled by the currency and country settings on Skyscanner’s website. If you use Skyscanner for searching then you can probably skip step 4 and 5.)

The reason these things matter is because some airlines change the price the more times you check. It’s just supply and demand. If you check for a specific flight every day, they track it, and it’s stored in your cookies (and your IP address may also be stored on their site) so the more you search the more interested you are assumed to be, and therefore the price goes up. This may be specifically for you, but it may also be for the entire flight in general.

The country you are in, when buying a flight ticket, can also make a difference depending on how popular that route is, and depending on how much people are willing to spend in that particular country.

For instance, at the time of this writing, people in Denmark have to pay 91 DKR/15.5 USD for the Adobe Individual Photography Membership. While an American would only have to pay 9.99 USD for the exact same product. It’s even cheaper for Indians because they only have to pay 499 INR/8.13 USD. Although this is not a flight ticket, it’s still the same principal and it’s based on how much a company assumes people in a specific country can, and will, spend. You can check for yourself on Adobe’s site.

Note: These things will not always make a difference, but sometimes they do, and if you want the cheapest flight it’s worth checking out.

Are You a Super Flexible Traveller?

On Skyscanner you can search for an entire month at a time. If you then combine it with the “Search Everywhere” function, you get a long list of places you can go from a specific starting point. (It could be interesting to just go for the cheapest flight all the time and see where you end up.)

If you are flexible enough to go at any time then searching the entire month can make a huge difference. A difference of $100 or more is not uncommon.

Check Alternative Routes

If you don’t have to be at a specific place at a specific time then check alternative routes. If, for example, you were going from Greece to India, then see if there are any countries in between, or nearby, that are cheaper to travel to, or from. Sometimes it is cheaper to stop one or more times than going directly to your destination. So why not make a stopover for a few days, or weeks, and enjoy a new place on the way?

Overview of the Variables for Alternative Routes

A. Your starting location
Got more than one airport nearby? Search from all of them and see if you can get a better price. Taking a bus or train to another airport might save you some money.

B. Possible stopovers
Are there any cities or countries on the way, or close by, you would like to visit? Play around with different routes when you are searching. You might be able to go to more places for less (or the same amount of) money.

C. Airline hubs
If possible look for routes that go through the big cities with the most traffic. Cities like, Dubai, London, New York and Singapore are all busy and therefore usually cheap.

D. Your destination
Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to a nearby airport and then take public transport the rest of the way or find another flight.

An Example
I just picked a random route and plugged it in Skyscanner; Copenhagen to Cape Town. A direct flight was $798. If you instead chose to stop in Dubai first, it would be $307. From Dubai you could fly to Johannesburg for $361. You have spent $668 and still have $130 left, before it’s going to be more expensive than the direct flight. That money you could either spend on traveling overland, to your destination (in this case Cape Town) or take another flight from Jo’burg to Cape Town for $84. That’s a saving of $46 and you get to see Dubai and Johannesburg on the way. This only took me 5 minutes and it was the first and only search I did.

Note: That the airport tax is not always included in the search results and has to be added on top. It’s usually $10-30.
*Prices are likely to change since the writing of this post.

How to Find the Best Time to Buy

If you are searching too far in advance you may not necessarily get the cheapest price. But there’s an easy way to get an idea of when the cheapest flights are available. Let’s say you have to fly 12 months from now and you want to find out when the best time to buy the flight ticket is.

Step 1. Go to Skyscanner and plug in the details for your flight. (By now you should already know how much the flight costs if you buy it today. If not, go check that first.)
Step 2. Do the same search again but this time you change the search to the entire next month. Or you can search on a specific weekday a month from now. Choose the same weekday as you are planning to leave, when doing these searches, if you have to leave on a specific day. However, if you are flexible choose a Tuesday.
Step 3. Do the same search again but choose 2 months away from todays date. Repeat this process through all the months and see if there is one, or more, sweet (cheap) spots where the price drops.
That’s the number of months in advance you are likely to find the cheapest flights.

Note: You have to take into account any holidays as it’s usually more expensive around those dates.

If you choose to wait before buying your ticket make sure you check back every month to see if there’s been any change.

Happy searching!

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