With these easy tricks, you’ll be booking that dream vacation in no time.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), about “16,405,000 flights are handled each year,” and “every day, the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) provides service to more than 45,000 flights and 2.9 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace.” With numbers that vast, it’s safe to assume air travel is on track to reaching pre-pandemic heights. So how do we make travel a little less painful as more people take to the air? We search for the best hacks to help you book better flights. We’ve compiled a list of 12 money and time-saving hacks to ease the stress of traveling, whether for a domestic or international flight or searching for the ultimate destination.
Top Picks for You
Fly at Odd Times
Catching red-eye flights may sound dreadful to some travelers, but savvy travelers use the opportunity to their benefit. First, these flights are usually less crowded and great for business travelers making a beeline to a meeting or conference. Second, for those that prefer to get an early start on their day, a red-eye flight will give you enough time to drop off your luggage, grab something to eat, and tour around with little to no crowds in some circumstances. For long-haul travelers, a red-eye flight can be helpful for those traveling across many time zones—you can use the time to catch up on sleep and still have time to enjoy your day.
Don't Wait Until It’s too Late
In general, you should have at least six months of validity on your passport if you are going to travel. So, before booking your international flight(s), especially if you are applying for a visa or residency permit, renew your passport closer to 9-12 months before it expires, allowing ample time to sort out any delays in paperwork and ultimately save money on rush fees. You can find the information on your local government website if you need to expedite your renewal.
Paying in Installments Just Got Easier
Paying with a credit card is not the only option for those wishing to pay in installments. Nowadays, you can use Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options such as Klarna, PayPal, and Uplift to pay in biweekly or monthly installments. Depending on your eligibility, the amount of the ticket, and the method you choose, you can pay with zero fees or get charged up to 30% APR. BNPL could be a viable plan for someone that does not want to use or is ineligible for a credit card with travel benefits. You can also ask your travel agent if they offer installment plans.
Get Compensated for Delayed or Canceled Flights and Delayed or Lost Luggage
If you have had a delayed or canceled flight, sites like AirHelp can assist you with that inquiry. For European airlines, you are entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed for three hours or more. A second option is to book with a credit card that reimburses you for non-refundable items. Third, you can contact the airline directly and ask for your compensation. Fourth, you can negotiate the monetary value of a ticket with a reservation agent, including vouchers for food and accommodation. If you have any difficulties, keep meticulous records and file a claim with the airlines as soon as possible. In the case of lost or delayed luggage, consider placing an AirTag in each bag or case. Make sure your contact information is up to date and placed internally and externally, and take a few photos of the contents before checking into your flight.
Optimize Your Rewards—or Someone Else's
Dozens of credit cards offer travel perks, including double to ten times the miles or hotel points on certain transactions. You can also join programs like the Star Alliance and book with participating airlines. As a bonus, if you know anyone with excess miles, you can ask if they would donate or transfer miles to your mileage account. Use those rewards to upgrade your seat on long-haul flights as you continue to rack up more points on your new trip.
Go Stealth and Change Your Location
First, clear your browser history and cookies. If you are using synchronized devices, be sure to erase the history on them all. Utilizing these methods and rejecting those annoying cookies prevent websites from tracking you and increasing the price(s) as you continue your search. Next, using either a VPN or “incognito mode,” search for flights on your favorite websites. This is particularly important if you decide to purchase a ticket later. Here is an example: Skyscanner is a popular third-party search engine that allows you to change your location, preferred language, and currency. For example, you would like to travel to Croatia from the USA, first, change the location to Croatia and the currency to Croatian kuna. There’s a strong chance that you will save a few bucks.
Flexibility Is Key
When you book your flights, flexibility plays a factor in how much you will save. While conducting your search, remember the cheapest day to fly is Tuesday, and the cheapest days to book your flights are Saturday and Sunday between 6 am and noon.
Another Skyscanner hack (for the adventurous one) is to set your destination to “everywhere,” and the most affordable destinations to your current location will pop up first. You can also choose a specific or the “cheapest” month instead of specifying a date. That seems way more affordable, albeit less romantic than throwing a dart at a map or randomly showing up at an airport to purchase a ticket. And who knows? Your next great adventure could be right next door.
What to Do If You're Unsure
Just because you purchased a ticket doesn’t mean you need to keep that ticket! One way to save money is to book flights (preferably refundable or flexible tickets) and set up alerts for that flight path. If the price drops, you can cancel your current flight and rebook it for the lower price. If you are not entitled to a full refund, you may be issued a travel voucher or credit to use at a later date. An alternative to setting alerts is to take advantage of price freezing and flexible cancellation policies. One of the best websites for fare alerts is AirFareWatchDog, but you can also set alerts or freeze prices on Expedia, Google Flights, Hopper, Kayak, Kiwi.com, Momondo, and Scott’s Cheap Flights. It is also a good idea to check directly with the airline to see if they will price match or freeze a fare for a short time.
Pick the Best Seat
Discover flight deals and possibly choose a better seat on your flight using apps like SeatGuru and Flight Mate. Now, seat maps are usually available during the booking process; the aforementioned apps use a coded, interactive system to reveal the size and occupancy of the seats and essentially which ones are considered prime real estate or duds. You can use the map to choose a seat away from people or with more legroom.
Save on the Extras
First and business class passengers shouldn’t have all the fun! Use LoungeBuddy to locate available lounges to enjoy worldwide before your flight. You can use the time to drink, dine, rest, study, or work while you wait for your departure for just $25.
Roaming fees are one of the peskiest travel fees. Save money by purchasing an eSim through KnowRoaming. The contractless eSim gives you access to high-speed internet in 200+ countries and territories for as little as $3.85.
Business Tastes on an Economy Budget
Got champagne taste on a beer budget? Premium Economy solves that dilemma in the best way. With this alternative to basic economy seating, you will receive perks like a welcome kit (sometimes the same kit that business class receives), a welcome cocktail or mocktail, roomier seating, extra baggage allowances, and better meal choices. If you want to save even more money than purchasing a premium ticket, you can upgrade meals and drinks right at your economy seat. Who says you need to be a billionaire to travel in style?
Fly Into Lesser-Known Airports
Sometimes last-minute deals are the best deals. If you’re in no rush to book a flight. Another tip is to check which routes are well connected. For example, you can save big bucks by flying popular routes from Portugal to and from Boston, Newark, and New York in the USA, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Goa, Macau, and Morocco. You can also fly into nearby cities and take a different mode of transportation to your final destination if your schedule allows it. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars using this tip.
Take Advantage of Mistakes
Mistakes happen, and while that is something you may not want to associate with flying, in the case of booking your flight, shockingly affordable deals provide opportunities to save hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of dollars! For example, Secret Flying has shared error fares from New York to South Africa for less than $400 roundtrip. If you are lucky enough (and flexible with your timing) to find an error fare, do not hesitate to book it—the airlines try their best to correct these mistakes as soon as possible, and there is no way to negotiate that price once they remove it from the site.