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How to Find Cheap Flights

This year, my grandfather is turning 100 years old!  To celebrate, my family is getting together in India over the Christmas holidays for a family reunion.  It sounds amazing but the thought of a trip around the world at peak flight prices gave me a little heartburn. 

When I started looking, I was seeing prices like $2000/ticket for roundtrip flights from New York to New Delhi over Christmas.  This was way more than I wanted to pay.  So, I price shopped and waited.  I finally found tickets for $950 each!  That’s an amazing deal.  

Since we had budgeted a little more and wanted to break up the travel a bit, we decided to make a stop on an island in the Mediterranean on the way back.  Fares to Malta happened to be on sale at the same time.  So, we got NYC-> Delhi -> Malta -> NYC for $1370 each!   We redeemed some Chase Points to essentially get one ticket free.  So, for the four of us for an around the world trip at peak travel times, the total out of pocket was right at $4200!  Frugal win!  Without frugal hacking, we would have payed upwards of $8000 (and that’s without the stop in Malta).   

Beautiful Malta

Saving on airline tickets is a question that often comes up in The Frugal Physicians Facebook group.  

And for good reason.

We all know airline ticket prices are very arbitrary and can fluctuate by the week.  Sometimes there are route sales.  Sometimes there are error fares.  One time, I happened to book an error fare on a cross-country flight where the first class fare was cheaper than the coach (they had jacked up coach prices for the holidays but forgot to do the same with the first class price).  We got some confused looks from staff when we presented our First Class ticket for a toddler.  But, I’m not going to lie, it felt like a sweet frugal victory.  

Who wouldn’t want to save money on flights?  There is no added value to paying double the price than the person next to you paid in Coach.  Both passengers get the same transportation with the same service.  I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be the person who paid half.  So, I spend a good amount of time and energy making sure I’m getting the bests priced tickets I can find, before booking a trip.    

Frugal Airfare

So, here are some of my favorite ways to find frugal airfare:

I like this app because it can “Watch” a route for you.  For example, I put in New York to Delhi as a trip to watch.  Initially, it told me to wait because prices would likely get better.  When prices fell, it sent me a notification to go ahead and book now because prices had reached a nadir.  Hopper is a super convenient way to book travel if you have a set location you want to go to like I did.  It will also suggest more frugal airports to fly to or cheaper dates for travel, if your trip is flexible.

This is a more sophisticated version of the google flight search.  On Google ITA, you can see all the flights going out of and to a specific destination.  You can also put in multiple stops.  It’s a more manual way of searching for airfare.  

This is a more generic listserve that sends out notifications about routes that are on sale.  For example, I just got an email that routes to Hong Kong are on sale from the US for $500-600 dollars right now.  That’s pretty amazing.  I havn’t used it yet, but plan to when I don’t have a specific destination in mind and am more open to go to whatever is on sale. 

This is a paid email notification program sends you an email anytime it spots sale fares around you.  The advantage to this one is that you can customize the notifications for the airports closest to you and it will send you only the fares that are relevant to you.

I havn’t used this site as much but I also hear great things about skyscanner.  Like hopper, you can set price alerts and suggestions for ways to save money.  There is a very cool interactive map to check out if you’re looking for a good deal.  Here is a good review.

To travel, of course, you’ll need some play room in your budget.  But your budget shouldn’t keep you from traveling.  If travel is important to you, I would recommend putting money aside every month into a travel fund so that you are ready to jump on a deal when you see one!  These resources will help you find the best prices to get to your next adventure.

Happy Travels, TFP tribe!

Much love, Dr. D

Do you have a favorite travel search tool?  Share your tip below.

Standard Disclaimer:  Not meant as individualized financial advice.  Photos from Unsplash.             

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