Whether you're planning a semester abroad or a solo visit to another country, finding the right international flight is key.
Airfare is often the most expensive part of any trip, so it's crucial to know your way around flight options and to know how to look for a good deal. Fortunately for students, there are some tricks to finding flights abroad that won’t blow your budget before you get to your destination.
- Be flexible: There can be significant savings for fliers who aren’t tied down to specific departure dates and times. The more flexible you are, the more options you’ll have. Experiment with your travel details when searching for flights to compare price differences. Try to fly early or late in the day. Getting to the airport first thing in the morning or late at night may not always be ideal, but the day’s first and last departures can sometimes be the cheapest.
- Consider the “sweet spot”: While it’s difficult to predict how far in advance to purchase plane tickets, about six weeks prior to departure is generally thought to be the “sweet spot” for international flights. But if you see a good deal before or after that window, be ready to snag it. Traveling early to mid-week – Tuesdays and Wednesdays – tends to be cheaper than traveling other days of the week, especially Sunday which is generally the priciest day to fly. Last-minute fares can have big savings, but if you’re shopping for flights for an extended stay in another country – such as a semester abroad – it’s wise to search and book early.
- Shop around: Like other big purchases, comparison shopping for international flights can yield big savings, so check out different sources such as airline sites and deal publishers like Cheapflights.
- Set up alerts: Sign up for fare alerts and email newsletters to stay up to date on price changes and available deals. If you’re looking to track specific flights, Yapta works well and Bing’s Travel Price Predictor shows flight price change history. You can also sign up for the StudentUniverse Fare Alert that will send you a message when a flight for your ideal price was found. There's always the option to use airline miles or points if you have them. It also may help to map out your expenses with a Travel Budget Calculator.
- Consider alternative airports: Many major cities have secondary airports, and it can be cheaper to fly into a smaller, regional airport. Or, consider flying into a large hub airport first and then taking a low-cost airline, or even a train to your final destination. Make sure to include the cost of getting to and from the airport in your budget.
- Use student discounts: Find out if your school, study abroad provider or program offers student discounts. Consider student travel agencies, and check to see if your student identification card comes with any discounts. With StudentUniverse, you can find discounts on travel without needing any sort of discount card - all you have to do is provide verification for your student status. Verification can come in the form of a class schedule, student ID card, transcript, official letter or bursar bill.
- Beware of fees: Don't get stuck with extra fees and surcharges because you tried to cram all your belongings into your suitcase. Consider shipping options and take only what you'll truly need. Pack lightly and weigh your bags at home first to avoid surprise charges at the gate.
- Consider travel insurance: Trip insurance can come in handy (and save you money) if your plans change unexpectedly and you need to cancel or change a flight.
Your study abroad experience will undoubtedly enrich you in so many ways and leave you with plenty of memories. When you’re traveling on a student budget, even small savings can help. If you can save some money on your flight, you’ll still have some extra cash to spend in your temporary home abroad!
Martin Clinton does digital marketing at Cheapflights. Cities are his thing, from the electricity of so many people buzzing about their lives to the diversity of food, activities and design. Accordingly, Martin’s appetite typically helps plan where he’ll visit. Nightlife, museums and the simple day-to-day perspectives from city residents are also key factors in determining vacation spots.