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How to Hack Buying Your Flight to Get the Best Price, According to an Expert

Airports + Flying
by Katie Scott Aiton Apr 25, 2018

Gone are the days of rock-bottom flight deals, but there are still ways we can cheat the system and save a few bucks. In an attempt to understand the current market, we reached out to renowned price hacking ninja, Jack Sheldon from Jack’s Flight Club. Taking a break from uncovering cheap flights and updating subscribers about deals, Jack shared with us some of his top insider hacks to get an epic steal on international flights.

1. Take your holiday to destinations that aren’t on holiday.

If you’re flying from Europe or North America to South America over Christmas time, flights will always be incredibly expensive. That’s because they’re likely to have the same summer and winter holidays as you. Look for holiday destinations that celebrate different events. For example, flights to China are particularly pricey during Chinese New Year, but you can often score an amazing deal during Christmas as it’s not widely celebrated in East Asia.

2. Don’t just search your closest airport.

Check all airports surrounding both your departure and destination. You can often save as much as 50 percent off by simply flying into, or out of, an airport a couple of hours away. For example, Boston is often cheaper to fly into than other East Coast cities, and the savings you make are often worth the extra time and train ticket, compared to flying into New York City — leaving you with more money to spend when you’re finally at your destination.

3. Check for hidden city fares.

Direct flights from major airport hubs are often much more expensive than single-stop flights traveling via those hubs. One way to take advantage of this is to look for hidden city flights traveling through your preferred airport. While you’ll have to travel to the departure city on the outbound journey, you can hop off mid-route on the return flight rather than completing the route. The only caveat here is that you cannot check a bag on your return journey, so you’ll need to travel light!

For example, if you’re flying from the US and trying to get to London, it may be cheaper to buy a flight to Dublin or another European city that uses London as a connecting airport. Simply leave the airport at London instead of using it as a layover, and skip the connecting flight to your final destination on the ticket. Fair warning though, some airlines are sticklers against this practice. And of course, make sure you have the proper visas.

4. Grab a last-minute flight with a charter airline.

Most airlines will increase their fares on last-minute flights in hope to take advantage of less price-sensitive business travelers who often buy tickets at short notice. However, some charter airlines will often do the opposite — dropping their last-minute fares to make sure every seat is filled.

For example, TUI and Condor are particularly famous for this and you can easily find a steal on their last-minute fares. We’ve previously seen flights from the UK to Cuba for $320 US and Germany to Mexico at $342 US for a direct return.

5. Book two holidays for less than the price of one.

It’s not uncommon for airlines to price flights cheaper to fly into one city and out of another. Turn your vacation into a 2-in-1 trip by flying into one city and out of another nearby destination you’d like to visit.

For example, if you live in London and want to visit San Francisco, it may be cheaper to buy a one-way budget flight to Stockholm, then get a flight from Sweden to San Francisco. Doing that could save you roughly 40 percent on the transatlantic journey, versus a simple round-trip ticket between London and San Francisco. Add in the budget flight to Sweden and you’ve still saved roughly 25 percent in total; and if you chose to stick around to explore your layover city for a day or two, you’ve also had the opportunity to visit two destinations for less than the fare of one single return ticket!

6. Track your dates.

Flight prices fluctuate wildly on most routes. It’s not uncommon to see certain routes increase by 50 percent in a day and then proceed to decrease a few days later. Apart from constantly checking your route, it can be difficult to tell if the price you’re seeing is a good fare price for the route you’re hoping to book. Google Flights, however, allows you to set trackers on the flights you’re hoping to take and will notify you within a few hours if the fare has changed. They even help you out with a clever line chart to see how the price has changed since you started tracking it. After a few weeks, you’ll know what a good price is and will be able to book your flight at best price that suits you.

7. Use OTAs Aggregators.

Search for mistake fares on Online Travel Agency aggregators. Mistake fares are often caused by glitches in the various pricing systems operated by airlines and OTAs all over the world. While they are tough to find and typically only last a few hours, catching and booking a mistake fare can save you as much as 70 to 80 percent off a standard fare. The best way to look out for these is to scour websites like Skyscanner and Momondo. They operate as OTA aggregators by showing the ones offering the lowest fares on each route.

8. Sign up to cheap flight alert mailing lists.

If you want to passively become aware of when cheap flights come up, sign up for a mailing list like Jack’s Flight Club to receive notifications when flights departing your local airport go really cheap. Then just wait for the right deal to drop into your inbox, leaving them to do the hard work for you, helping you save on your next trip.

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