Hacking the Airline Industry Part 1: How to Travel More on Your Current Budget

This is my quick and dirty guide to finding insanely cheap flights to exotic far off destinations, part 1. This is the first installment of a three part series. Use this guide if you aren’t picky about where you travel or when you travel. You just want to travel more.

“How do you find cheap flights?”

I get asked this at least twice a day, every day. People walk up to me at work to ask me. I get emails from random strangers. I even got cornered by the dental hygienists at my last dentist appointment. (I hope my advice was helpful, ladies!)

A lot of people wish they could travel more. They don’t care where, and they don’t care how. They just wish they could see more of the world. But when they look up flights to Hawaii or Europe or even just the Caribbean, all they see are flights for $900 and up!

Most people don’t have an extra $900 in their budget, let alone money for hotels, ground transport, food, tips, etc.

So they defer their big dream of seeing the world until some distant point in the future when they “make more money” or “finally get on top of their finances”.

But what if that $900 flight only cost you $360? You would no longer have to defer your dream into the distant future. You could live it now.

Cheap Flights Are Everywhere. You Just Need to Know How to Find Them.

 

The trick to finding cheap flights is to realize they are not a rare occurrence AT ALL. Trust me, there is a flight taking off from your home airport to some exotic destination right now for under $400. Don’t you wish you were on it?

Dozens of cheap airfares and even mistake fares* become available in your area every single day. You’ve just been missing out on them until now.

Of course, if cheap flights are so common, you might wonder why they’re so hard to find? The problem is, while there are lots of cheap flights available in your city every day, there are even more expensive flights. Weeding through them to find the ultra cheap tickets is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I’m going to show you a few simple tools I use to find cheap air fares every month. Remember, this guide is for those travelers who are flexible with when and where they travel — who just want to travel more.

Don’t worry, I’ll address how to find cheap flights in less flexible scenarios in parts 2 and 3 of this series.

* A mistake fare is basically just like that time when Target mispriced those bath towels for $.99 and you made them honor that price at the register. It happens at airlines more often than you would think, and you save hundreds if you know how to spot them.

Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Your Next Ultra Cheap Flight

 

Here is my quick guide.

Start using the Google Flights search engine. There are dozens of other airline search engines out there. However, not all flight searches are created equal.

I prefer Google Flights for many reasons. It’s the biggest. It’s the easiest to use. And most importantly, it’s the quickest.

Other flight search tools like Momondo claim to sometimes find cheap fares that Google doesn’t find. However, their search is SLOOOOWWW and awkward to use.

Use Google Flights paired with the steps below and you’ll always have plenty of enviable travel options to choose from.

Step 1

Go to flights.google.com. In the “Where from?” field enter your home airport. If you live in a small town like me, use the closest international airport to you.

The airport in your small town will definitely have cheap flights available too, but they are much rarer and harder to find. To increase your odds of success, use the international airport within closest driving distance to you.

Step 2

Next, skip entering dates and a destination. Remember, we are flexible with when and where we travel. Instead, we are going to use a hidden tool that most people don’t know exists.

Click the menu in the upper left hand corner and select the “Explore Map” tool.

Once you access the Explore Map tool, you can view the cheapest flights to any destination in the world. Simply drag your mouse (desktop) or your finger (smartphone) across the map and view the cheapest flights around the world in real time.

Step 3

Narrow down your search. To find the best flight deal, first choose the month you want to travel. Then choose a region you’d like to travel to.

In the destination field, you don’t have to type in a specific city or airport code. You can specify a general region, like “Europe” or “Caribbean”.

Once you do, you’ll be able to spot the unusually cheap air fares available.

CASE STUDY

I recently used this exact method to find a flight to Barbados for over 50% off. I had travel plans for most of 2017, but there was a big empty gap in March. I didn’t know when or where I wanted to go. The only requirement is that it had to be cheap and it had to be in March.

So I hopped on Google Flights and switched over to the Explore Map tool. I knew that any flights to the Caribbean would be expensive this time of year (aka “Cruise Season”), but I also knew that sometimes airlines make mistakes or run unusual sales.

I zoomed into the Caribbean. Predictably flights to the Bahamas, the “Saints”, etc were all $700. But then I noticed an unusually cheap flight to Barbados (which I had always wanted to visit).

I booked my flight right then and there. Here are just a few highlights from my last-minute trip to Barbados. All thanks to the “Explore Map” feature on Google Flights.

Step 4

Rinse and repeat. Sometimes I’ll search the map and find nothing. If that happens, change the month you’re searching in and try again.

Do this once a month, and you’ll have an abundance of cheap flights to choose from all year round.

Let Someone Else Find Cheap Flights for You

About three months ago, I discovered a service that brings the cheap flights to me.

It’s called Scott’s Cheap Flights. Scott Keyes is as obsessive about finding cheap flights as I am. He and his team search for the cheapest international flights departing from your area and email/text them to you.

You can sign up for free and start getting cheap flights immediately. But if you want to get the absolute best deals, you’ll want to upgrade to premium. It’s only $49 for the entire year, and if you book even one flight it will pay for itself 10x.

Earlier today Scott emailed me with an insanely cheap flight to the Galapagos Islands — an area I almost never search for but is on my ultimate bucket list! Hmm…I can’t decide. To book or not to book?

Anyway, give it a try.

I hope you found part 1 of this guide helpful. If you did, give it a share on your favorite social media.

In parts 2 and 3 I’ll show you how I find cheap flights in tougher travel scenarios — where your dates or your destination (or both) are already locked in.

4 thoughts on “Hacking the Airline Industry Part 1: How to Travel More on Your Current Budget

  1. Wooow! Super useful! I travel the same way, but I didn’t know Google Flights! Go to galapagos, it’s one of the best places i’ve ever seen. Just keep in mind that the goal are boat sightseeings, and they are expensive. (100-170)usd per day, they totally worth it though!! Don’t book them before arriving, take the flight and wonder in Puerto Ayora for “last minute cruises” the cruises often are 4 or 5 days, include all meals and you will see a lot of fauna. I mean dolphins, giant mantarrays, hammerhead sharks, sea lions, penguins… no matter if you dive or just snorkel! and all the guides i met had a strong ecological ethic. If you ave questions just ask me, my instagram is @pirlutravel

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