I’m just going to get this out there because I get asked about it a lot.
“HAY I NEED TO GO TO BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA ON AUGUST 17 AT 2PM AND RETURN ON AUGUST 24 AT 5PM SO CAN YOU HELP ME FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS?”
Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.
The key to finding cheap flights is flexibility.
If you are not flexible in when you can go somewhere, or even where you can go, then a cheap flight is probably not in the cards for you. The more flexible you are, the more likely it is that you can find a flight to Europe or Asia for under $500. I hate when people complain that they can never find travel deals, but they only want to travel to one specific place on their specific one-week holiday during peak summer travel time.
If you think to yourself “I’d like to go to Europe in September or October for 5-10 days,” you’ll probably be able to find something for cheap. There are deals to European cities all the time. Maybe you’ll end up in Amsterdam instead of Paris or Dublin instead of London, but so what? ADVENTURE!!!
Here’s another tip: If you see a mistake fare, BOOK IT. Some amazing mistake fares (like the United flights for $5 one) only stick around for an hour or two. There usually isn’t time for you to ask for days off work, call your Aunt Sally and ask if she wants to come, or to discuss it at length with your significant other. BOOK THE FLIGHT AND THINK ABOUT IT LATER. DO YOU WANT TO FLY TO HAWAII FOR $10 OR NOT? Most airlines have a 24 hour cancellation policy so you can always change your mind later. But if you wait, that mistake fare will be gone.
I’ve told people about mistake fares only to have them ask me three days later if the the fare is still available. If you’re the type of person who needs to think about something for three days, then don’t even try to get into the mistake fare game. Mistake fares are not for you. Expensive fares are for you.
There are lots of people who can help you. I am not one of them, unless we happen to be friends or you’re my mom. If you need help finding a flight deal you might want to try FlightFox. I used them once and found a cheaper flight on my own, but it’s a good option for the average traveller. For help with booking award travel, try Cranky Concierge or PointsPros.