Find the Cheapest Flight Possible
I travel a lot, and when I travel, I usually fly very, very, cheaply. I’m very good at what I do. What’s the secret to find the cheapest flight possible? It’s nothing difficult – in fact on the contrary, it’s incredibly easy to replicate. I have my personal preference for flight search engines, but the real power? Following the most important travel principle – being flexible.
(If you’re looking for a flight and DON’T have flexibility with your plans, read this guide instead.)
Typically on NomadsNation, I like to give you play by play, detailed blueprints that are easily replicated for your personal travels. Although this page is certainly concise, it will serve less as a script, and more as a general tactic for finding cheap and awesome flights… of course this is assuming that you are willing to be flexible within your travels.
I want you to read through the guide, and apply what you can, but moreover be inspired by the mind frame I use when searching for a flight. I am aggressive, I am thorough, and I leave no stone unturned. If you apply the same mechanics, with the general ideals I am implementing, you too will succeed.
The first thing you’ll want to do is go stealth – put your computer on ‘private browsing’ or ‘incognito’. (This is something I learned from NomadicMatt and ThriftyNomads.) Then we begin.
Best Search Engines
What if you don’t need to travel on specific dates? What if you’re open to varying travel itineraries and are completely flexible? Nomad – meet Google Matrix.
For this particular example we are looking for a one way flight from Portland to Cambodia (but all of these tips are also completely transferable to round trip flights). If we wish to fly directly from Portland, directly to Phnom Penh, these are our results.
$632. While there have been worse airfares in the history of airfares, we can probably do much better. But before we discard this flight, let’s look at the details. There are much more to flights than just the price.
Sanity > $
Honestly, I am not a fan of this flight at all. If you want to find the cheapest flight possible, I don’t recommend doing it at the sacrifice of your sanity. There’s a fine line. Although I can have patience with a sh**ty itinerary, this one is absolutely not worth the hefty price tag.
My flight travel limit usually times out around 30 hour mark. Typically 30 hours is when I begin to grow agitated, and slowly, but very surely, slip into madness.
You’re telling me you want me to travel for 32 hours with two layovers for that price? Heck no. F*#& this flight.
Let’s see if there is anything better for a higher price.
Nada. Too long of flights with too many stopovers for way too much money. Let’s expand.
By using the ‘nearby’ tab, we enable the software to search for airports within a certain distance from our departing or arriving airports, from 25 miles all the way to 2,000 miles away. It’s an incredibly effective tool. I chose 200 miles to see the surrounding Oregon airports, as well as seeing what Seattle has to offer. Seattle can have some incredible fares to Asia, and is only a 3-ish hour bus ride from our departing city…
Aha! Now we are moving. We have found a fare for $132 cheaper. Granted, the flight leaves from Seattle, not Portland, so this is where it comes down to weighing your personal pros and cons. It’s a $30-ish bus ride, and 3-ish hours on that bus. So you’ll save about $100. Me personally? I’d absolutely do it. Why? I find that saving money on travel gives me excuses to travel more. For example, if I were to catch an early bus from Portland, I could spend a day roaming and exploring the city of Seattle. My travel itinerary just diversified by adding an awesome new location to the list.
This is the process and the joy of trying to find the cheapest flight possible. Let’s look at the details of the flight.
I think that just sealed the deal. Not only are we getting to venture to Seattle, save $100, but we have a flight that is 13 hours less with one less stopover. This is a great flight and itinerary.
But, I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, and as stated before, I wish to leave no stone unturned. Let’s go further down the rabbit hole (Matrix joke).
Just for gigs, I want to see if there’s a cheaper flight I can find anywhere in South/SouthEast Asia. Sure, we want to go to Cambodia, but that doesn’t mean we only want to go to Cambodia.
Please, never forego your traveling desires for the sake of pinching a couple pennies. That defeats the entire purpose. But! If you have a very loose itinerary and are interested in traveling to a variety of places, searching for flights in this manner can be very beneficial.
Maybe you were planning on visiting Hong Kong anyway. Maybe you weren’t planning on it, but now the idea is very appealing to you.
Learning how to properly search for flights like this will make you aware of what flights are available and how to get them. The more aware you are, the greater control you possess, enabling you to effectively dominate your travels. Let’s continue.
We are now moving on to Adioso, which is actually my personal favorite site (though let it be noted that it barely beats out the Matrix). Personally, I find Adioso to be the most revolutionary of all current software as it gives the traveler with flexibility a lot of cool options. Also, it’s a nice looking site. Never underestimate the value of aesthetics.
Looking above, you can see my favorite Adioso feature, the incredibly versatile and hip “destination”option. This feature is what catapults Adioso to the top of the food chain, as you see above you can have the ability to check airfares to an entire country. Or as you can see below, where you can check airfares to an entire continent or region.
I can’t say enough how big a fan I am of this feature. It has so many options, from the entire European Union, Baltic States, the Horn of Africa, and dozens more. Frankly, it’s really cool. Let’s look at SE Asia.
Yet again, illustrating why we want to check with as many resources as possible. Adioso pulled up a few flights that the Matrix did not, and all of them are really good deals. Now we are thinking about Thailand, we are thinking about Vietnam, maybe even Singapore! Educating yourself on how to best search for flights let’s your plans evolve.
There is also an Indo-China region. Let’s check that.
$474 to Phnom Penh! We can now head back to Cambodia. The options are mounting, don’t be overwhelmed.
Now let’s go check out if we can find anything better or interesting on Momondo.
So, originally, we were looking at spending $632 to fly from Portland, Oregon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. But our search results have given us a lot of options to consider, including…
$504 Seattle to Singapore (Adioso)
$500 Seattle to Phnom Penh (Matrix)
$501 Seattle to Hanoi (Adioso)
$474 Seattle to Phnom Penh (Adioso)
$484 Seattle to Bangkok (Adioso)
$455 Seattle to Phnom Penh (Momondo)
$451 Seattle to Hong Kong (Matrix) (If you go, you have to try #3)
$450 Seattle to Bangkok (Momondo)
There are a lot of options at this point, all of which are much more desirable than the original flight. Our original idea of going directly to Cambodia has now been challenged by images of Thai and Vietnamese beaches and the skylines of Singapore and Hong Kong.
Straight up, if you possess flexibility within your travel plans, and are creative and aggressive on flight search engines, you will save a lot of money. Flexibility with dates and location is key in this game. If you cannot be flexible, it’s fine, just expect to pay higher prices.
If you can achieve some sense of flexibility, you will reap the rewards. Try not to look at flight searching as a daunting task. Personally, I find it to be very fun and challenging as I get to find cheap ways, and watch my travel plans constantly mold and evolve with different options presented to me.
1) Put you computer on ‘private browsing’ or ‘incognito’… just in case.
2) Use software that has the ability to generate search results large enough to mirror the flexibility of your travel plans. If precise locations matter not to you, use The Matrix, Momondo and Adioso simultaneously to yield the best results. Utilize the ‘nearby airports’ and ‘flexible dates’ every opportunity you have.
3) Remember never to compromise your goals and dreams just to pinch a few pennies. If you are dead set on seeing a certain place, then go. Saving 40 bucks isn’t worth a lifetime of regret.
4) Be patient and have fun with it.
So, to reiterate – If you want to find the cheapest flight possible, you gotta be flexible, use the right websites, and be aggressive and thorough in your searches. It’s quite easy, now go do it.