Wondering how to find the best cheap flights? We get it. With the ever-changing flight prices, choosing between different airlines, knowing which airports to fly into and deciding when to book, it can get confusing (and overwhelming) pretty fast.
Lucky for you, that’s where we come in. We’ll let you in on our best secrets for finding the best flight deals as a student. Looking for the best place to find cheap airfare? Wondering when the best time to travel is? How far in advance should you buy your tickets to get the best deal? We’re here to answer all your questions about how to find cheap plane tickets!
We really can’t stress this one enough. Maybe you already know that you really want to go to Paris, for example, or you have to travel during certain dates over Thanksgiving break. If you’re going back to school, maybe you can arrive a few days early to save money for a cheaper flight. Whatever flexibility you do have, use it to your advantage. Flexibility can be more than just dates and destinations! (Although if you do have any flexibility with your dates, use the flexible search feature—toggle the search to “flexible” instead of “exact” and your search will show results for nearby dates that might be cheaper.) Also think about what flexibility you might have in terms of:
- your departure airport (are there other nearby airports that might have cheaper flights?)
- your arrival airport
- when you travel (travel during shoulder season for the best rates!)
- which day of the week you leave on (some routes are more expensive on certain days of the week)
- where you go
- which airline you fly (some budget airlines offer major deals!)
- when you book your tickets (booking tickets in advance or during a sale can pay off big-time)
Location, location, location.
Many major cities have several airports—a large international airport and smaller, regional ones (London, for example, has four!). When you’re looking for tickets, check into any airports in the area. Sometimes smaller airports have cheaper flights. On the other hand, if you live near a small airport, sometimes larger airports (i.e. flying out of LAX instead of San Diego) can have cheaper fares. This is especially true for international flights, since bigger airports tend to have more routes.
Timing is everything.
It can be hard to predict when to buy your flights. Generally, the further distance you’re traveling, the further in advance you’ll want to buy your tickets. If you’re traveling from the US to Asia or the South Pacific, plan to purchase several months (at least 60-90 days) in advance. Otherwise, about 6-8 weeks in advance is a good rule of thumb for international flights. For domestic flights (in the US), 3-6 weeks in advance is typically a great time to score a good deal.
Try to fly out mid-week if you can—leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday is usually cheaper than leaving on a weekend. Booking red-eye flights (overnight flights) are often cheaper than booking flights during more “desirable” travel times during the day. Start looking early so you can jump on it when you find cheap flights. If you happen to have procrastinated a biiiit too long on buying your tickets, no worries. We often have the best deals around on last-minute tickets.
Do your research.
Buying plane tickets is like buying textbooks or a new phone: before you commit to purchasing, you should check different websites to see what the general going rate is. Double-check the details: do you need to pay extra for baggage? Is there enough time for your layover? Does the flight allow you to make changes or cancellations if your plans change? Start looking for your tickets before you need to purchase so you have enough time to watch for a good deal. Keep your eyes peeled for promo codes or sales, too—it can save you a ton of cash!
Watch for a sale.
Speaking of sales, StudentUniverse has sales year-round on top of already discounted tickets. Watch for sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday (some of our cheapest flights ever were found on these days), around the start of the semester, before holidays and flash sales throughout the year. Some of our promo codes are limited to a specific route or destination, while others are good for any ticket on our website. Of course, joining our email list is a great way to get notified of deals, sales and special offers! Keep an eye on our promo code page too. While you can find student discounts on flights any time of year on our website, we also have sales year-round for extra savings.
Know the baggage and cancellation policies.
Different airlines and tickets have different policies. Sometimes you can find really cheap flights on a budget airline, but you have to pay to check bags. If you don’t have any bags to check, it’s a great option! If you do though, factor those fees into your plans. Same rule applies to cancellation policies: if you know you won’t need to change your ticket, save money and buy a non-refundable ticket. If you’re not sure though, double-check the policies. Some tickets are not eligible for a refund if they are cancelled. Some tickets are eligible for a credit only. Some have fees if you need to change, some don’t. If you need flexibility, make sure you know the terms of your ticket in advance!
Use airline miles.
It definitely helps to join frequent flier programs with your favorite airlines—you’ll earn free miles every time you fly! Even when you book your flights through StudentUniverse, you can still earn points with the airlines. (How? Once you buy your ticket at a discount with StudentUniverse, log onto the airline’s website with your reservation code and add your frequent flier number to your reservation to earn miles.) While it might take some time to earn enough points to get a free flight (especially if you don’t travel on the same airline frequently), on some airlines you can often use your points for other travel-related expenses too. For example, you might be able to upgrade your seat or pay for snacks on the plane using miles.
Follow travel brands on social media.
Following your favorite airlines (and StudentUniverse, of course!) on social media is a great way to keep an eye on cheap flights deals and flash sales. We post about our best deals, flash sales, promo codes and more on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Plus, we usually host contests and giveaways on social media, too. That means cheap flights can easily turn into free flights. Start following so you won’t miss out on a sale that could save you a ton on your tickets!
Consider booking two one-way tickets instead of roundtrip.
It’s counter-intuitive but true: sometimes two one-way tickets can be cheaper than a single roundtrip ticket. This is especially true if you’ll be visiting multiple destinations. Buying two one-way tickets can also eliminate the hassle of trying to get back to your original destination again just to fly home. Using the “Multi-City” option is also a great way to search for tickets when your trip has several destinations. If you’re flying to school, definitely book a one-way ticket at the beginning of the semester instead of booking a roundtrip ticket. End-of-semester dates and schedules are liable to change, and it’s easier to book one-way flights than have to deal with flight changes later in the year.
Know that sometimes the rules don’t apply.
In the process of finding a cheap airline ticket, “rules” are really more like guidelines. They’re what usually holds true. However, is it also true that sometimes you can score amazing deals at the last-minute, even on international ticket? Yup. Usually it’s cheapest to leave mid-week, but sometimes leaving on a Friday night is the cheapest option. Sometimes larger airports have the best deals and sometimes it’s the smaller ones. All that to say: take this advice as how things typically work. But if you see an amazing deal, snag it!