How to Save Money on Flights: Essential Tools

One of the most frequently asked questions from travelers has to be “How can I save money on airfare?” Fortunately, there is a wealth of great tools that can help you find the cheapest flights. If you want to learn how to save money on flights, check out these amazing tools. *Pssst! Most of them are free.* 

Just a point of clarification: this post does not cover what is known as “travel hacking.” All of the tools, services and apps described in this post are for those paying cash for their flights. It’s not about using a rewards credit card or booking free flights using travel rewards credit card points or frequent flyer miles. 

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Key takeaways

  • Use tools like Google Flights to track prices and explore for great deals.
  • Consider subscription services like Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) for amazing flight deals.
  • Sign up for free alerts from Secret Flying for international and domestic flight deals.
  • Use the Hopper app to predict and track airfare prices when you have fixed travel dates.
  • Consider using The Flight Deal for daily digest emails with available deals from American airports.
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Can I do anything to make it more likely I can fly cheaper? 

Yes, definitely…though for many people the first two will be likely out of your control. The biggest factors in determining how easy it will be for you to score cheap plane tickets are: 

  1. Your proximity to a major hub airport (think LAX, JFK, ATL, ORD, etc.)
  2. How flexible your travel dates are
  3. Whether you’re using the best available tools and services to get your hands on those deals 

Those living closest to major airports and who can be the most flexible with their travel dates are the most likely to find the most awesome deals to a popular destination. They will also find good deals coming their way pretty regularly. 

But using one or (even better) more of the apps and services I’ve outlined below will increase your chances of getting the best deal on plane tickets even if you don’t live near a major city like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. 

Living near “next tier” hubs for major airlines can also get you some discount tickets. I live not too far from Charlotte, North Carolina, which is an American Airlines hub. 

I once received an alert from Scott’s Cheap Flights (now Going) that American was offering nonstop flights from Charlotte to Honolulu for only $197. The dates were quite limited, but still. That’s an amazing deal. 

But don’t despair, I’ve seen many amazing deals from smaller regional airports. They’re just not as common as those for the larger airports. What about Greenville, South Carolina, to Lima, Peru, for only $346? I’d say that’s pretty good since that fare would normally be nearly three times that on average.

Ready to start planning your trip? Check out my full list of the best travel planning resources.  

Want to know how to fly for less? Use these tools 

If you want to learn how to fly cheaply, start with these tools, apps, and services. Savvy travelers will cast the widest net possible (e.g., looking at nearby airports) to give them the best chance to find the cheapest airfares. 

Google Flights  

My go-to site when I start my trip planning is Google Flights. Trolling Google Flights one day randomly is how hubby and I stumbled upon cheap fares for our week in Paris. Within just a few hours the cheapest price was gone, but fortunately, I had placed a 24-hour hold on the fare. 

I fully acknowledge that we got lucky that day. But you don’t have to wait for lightening to strike. Google Flights offers some great features to help you track down cheap flight tickets to your dream destination. 

Use the “Explore” option to browse for great deals from your chosen departure airport. This is perfect for when you don’t have a particular destination in mind, but know you just want to go somewhere. You’ll get the best results if your travel dates are flexible.  

For more detailed instructions, read my full post on how to use Google Flights to save money on airfare.

Screenshot of Google Flights showing where to find the explore feature
Use Google Flights Explore to help you fly for less.

If you’re looking for fares to a particular destination, you can track flight prices. Simply enable the “track prices” feature. Google Flights will monitor prices for you and send you email notifications. 

Screenshot of Google Flights showing where to enable the track prices feature
Use “track prices” on Google Flights to so you don’t miss out when prices drop.

How to find cheap flights when you’re travel dates are flexible 

Save money on airfare with Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) 

Even if your travel dates are only moderately flexible, you need to check out Going (which used to be Scott’s Cheap Flights). Setting up a bunch of Google Flights price tracking alerts will only get you so far. 

If you’re serious about scoring a great deal on airfare (the kind that will make all your friends jealous), I highly recommend you try a subscription to Going

You’ll get amazing flight deals (including error fares) sent straight to your inbox with instructions on how to book directly with the airlines (no budget airlines or ultra-low-cost airlines like Frontier).  

Why go looking for a good deal when you could just kick back and wait for it to come to you? 

Read my full Going (Scott’s Cheap Flights) review.

Screenshot of Scott's Cheap Flights website

A premium subscription to Going can pay for itself many times over with the great prices you’ll have access to even if you just book one of the deals each year.

You can try Going Premium for free, and if your socks aren’t blown off you can try the free Limited membership instead. 

Going Limited (free plan) is just what it sounds like. With a Limited subscription you’ll get domestic (U.S.) economy deals they find. A Premium subscription includes unlimited deals on international flights, weekend getaways, domestic (U.S.) deals, and mistake fares. 

Secret Flying will help you save money on flights 

Screenshot of the Secret Flying app homepage

If you are dead set on not spending money for premium flight deal alerts, then I recommend you sign up for free alerts from Secret Flying.  

Please note you might get A LOT of notifications. You’ll even see the occasional error fare. Secret Flying is also my top recommendation for my readers who will be departing from airports outside the United States. 

While I have found that I don’t see quite as many deals for airports near my home in upstate South Carolina as with Going, Secret Flying is totally free. Secret Flying also offers a daily email digest that lists their deals for the day.

Be advised that a cheap airfare can disappear quickly. If you want real-time alerts, you will need to download and register on the free app. 

The Flight Deal 

Screenshot of a daily email from The Flight Deal

Much like Secret Flying, The Flight Deal offers a free daily digest email with all their available deals. But unlike Secret Flying, The Flight Deal only notifies of fares from American airports. 

The Flight Deal offers two paid subscription options:

  • The Flight Deal Realtime is a paid annual subscription that sends real-time alerts on flight deals. Currently, the service is only available from 17 cities in the U.S. The price (as of February 2024) is $20 per year, just pennies per day. 
  • The Flight Deal Premium offers flight deal alerts for first, business, and premium economy classes for $80 per year or about $0.25 per day. Subscribers will be directed to select a region in the U.S. (e.g., Midwest or Pacific) when signing up. 

Travelers who live near New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, or Washington D.C. will likely benefit most from using The Flight Deal. 

Read More → How to Survive Long Flights in Economy Class

How to fly cheaper when you have fixed travel dates 

Hopper 

Another tool in my trip-planning arsenal is the Hopper app. Hopper predicts prices up to a year in advance to help you decide whether you should book now or wait for a better deal to come along. Hopper claims their airfare forecasts are 95% accurate. 

I like to use Hopper when my travel dates aren’t flexible, but I have time or wiggle room to wait for the best prices (or at least for prices to improve) before I book. 

Like with Google Flights track prices feature, you can use Hopper to keep an eye on fares. Set up “Flight Watches” easily from the homepage of the app. They’ve also added “Hotel Watches” pretty recently. 

Though Hopper used to be only useful for predicting when airfare prices would drop, you can now use the app to book your flights. 

Disclaimer: I have never booked a flight through Hopper. I only use it for its ticket lowest price predictions and price tracking features. 

Screenshot from Hopper app
Screenshot in Hopper app showing airfare prediction timeline

With all of these great tools and services at your disposal, you’ll find it easier to fly cheap than you thought possible. So, get cracking and find yourself a great travel deal to your dream destination.  

What’s your favorite tool to save money on airfare? 

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Airplane flying over an island with a text overlay about how to fly for less
Airplane flying over an island with a text overlay about how to fly for less

2 Comments

  1. Last Minute Flight says:

    This post is very good info and thank you for sharing .

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      You’re welcome and thanks for reading!

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