Nothing about 2020 has been normal, but some things never change: namely, wondering how to find the cheapest flights possible if you need to travel somewhere. COVID-19 has changed a LOT about the travel industry, so while some ways to find cheap student flights are tried and true, there are some new things to do in 2020 that might help you find a cheaper flight. If you’re heading back to school for in-person classes this fall, here’s nine essential tips for finding cheap student flights. 

1. Don’t be afraid to wait until the last minute.

Typically, you want to buy your tickets 3-6 weeks in advance for domestic travel, but we’ve been seeing more and more cheap deals right up until the last minute—which is good news for the uncertainty of making plans during Covid! Don’t be afraid to wait until a week or two before you need your flights to commit. You may be able to get some super cheap student flights at the last minute and you’ll save yourself the trouble of having to change the dates if your plans (or your school’s reopening plan) changes. 

2. Book a one-way ticket. 

cheap student flights

This has always been a good piece of advice, but it’s even more relevant now. Not only are two one-way tickets often cheaper than a roundtrip ticket, a one-way ticket affords you way more flexibility. Buying a one-way ticket to school now means that if you have to come back home early, decide to stay on-campus later than planned, or whatever things may change between now and the end of the semester, you have flexibility. You won’t have to worry about the other half of a roundtrip ticket you booked two months prior that doesn’t work for you anymore—just adjust plans as needed, book the ticket you do need at that time, and go. 

3. Be flexible. 

how to find cheap flights

The #1 way to save money on flights? Be flexible! And while that may be difficult to do with school schedules and other travel plans, whatever flexibility you have can definitely be used to your advantage. Can you leave a day or two earlier or later than planned? Can you take a red-eye flight or leave super early in the morning? Check different airlines, too! On our site, you can use the flexible search feature and instantly see the cheapest prices from nearby dates and airports to help you quickly find the cheapest option.

4. Check nearby airports. 

This goes along with being flexible, but it’s a great travel hack! If you’re flying into a bigger city, odds are there’s more than one airport. Sometimes the biggest airport in town will have more options (thus giving you cheaper flights), but sometimes a smaller, more local airport will have really great deals. It never hurts to check! 

5. Watch for a sale. 

Lots of airlines and online travel agencies run sales around the end of summer, knowing that people are squeezing in last-minute summer vacations and traveling back to school. Use that to your advantage and keep your eyes peeled for any sales and discount fares that might be on offer this time of year. This is another good reason not to buy your back-to-school tickets too soon—they may go on sale as it gets a bit closer to your departure date. 

6. Get a student discount. 

student discounts on flights

Fun fact: college students can get discounts on flights, hotels and all kinds of travel! At StudentUniverse, we offer student discounts for flights, hotels, car rentals and more. All you need to do is sign up with your student email address (ending in .edu) to get access to all of our best deals and cheap student flights. And yes, it’s free! Taking advantage of our student discounts can save you up to 30% off of your tickets.

7. Use a flight credit. 

Did you have a flight that got cancelled due to Covid last spring? If you still have a flight credit available, you can try to use your credit toward a back to school flight, as long as you fly the same airline. Many airlines are allowing you to use your credit for a flight with a different destination or origin (although not all, so be sure to check the policies of your credit). Keep in mind that it has to be the same fare class to use the credit, so you might not be eligible to use your credit for every flight or fare you see online. For help finding a flight you can use your credit for, give us a call at 1-800-272-9676. 

8. Review airline policies. 

This is an essential for all flights in 2020 and beyond: check the airline’s policies before buying to make sure you understand the flexibility and restrictions of your ticket. Many Basic Economy tickets are not flexible, so you can’t change them or get a refund, even if you cancel early or are willing to pay for a change. Some airlines are offering free changes on any tickets that are purchased during a certain period due to the uncertainty brought by Covid. Some airlines are also increasing their cleaning and social distancing protocol to keep travelers healthy: blocking off middle seats, deep-cleaning planes more frequently, requiring (and enforcing) mask-wearing in-flight, and so on. However, each airline has its own policies and procedures, so it’s important to check both the policies of your ticket and the in-flight procedures and experience to make sure you’re comfortable with both. 

9. Need a backup plan? Consider driving! 

road trip ideas

A one-way car rental may be a cheap option—and a fun road trip!—if you’re not traveling too far and if you’d rather avoid flying during Covid. Although airlines and airports have done a lot to help everyone stay healthy when traveling during this time, if you’re not comfortable flying and still need to get somewhere, a rental car is another great option. We have rental cars for students, and you can even schedule a one-way trip to pick your car up in one place and drop it off in another. Plus, rental cars have great flexibility: you can usually cancel for free anytime up to 48 hours before your trip. 

Need a flight back to school? Check out our last-minute flight deals and cheap back to school flights!