Planning a trip and finding the right flight can be challenging and time-consuming so I often get asked how I actually do it. While you probably want to find a good price you also don't want to be waiting around at stop-over destinations for over three hours.

Then it will get even more complex if your doing a multi-destination trip.

But let's start at the start.

Here are my usual steps to finding and booking affordable flights worldwide:

1. Find airline connections with Skyscanner or Kayak

Instead of checking on all the airlines website directly I normally use flight search engines as a start. This is also helpful if you do not know which airlines actually operate on the route you are wanting to take.

Skyscanner because you can exactly determine:

  • the number of stops from direct flights to 2+ stops
  • a time span for your departure, say you want to depart between 8am and 2pm
  • the journey duration as well as your preferred airline(s)
  • the final destination can be set to “Everywhere” in order to find the cheapest flight destinations

Pro tip #1: If you are on a budget choose the price first then the destination.

In the example below I have searched for a little getaway from Frankfurt in January 2015, finding that I can already fly from €18 to Italy – awesome! In the next step I would click on the price to see which airports in Italy I can reach with this price – like Milan or Pisa and only then I would determine the date which gives me the best price.

Pro tip #2: Be flexible and spontaneous with dates and times.

In another example I searched for flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Bangkok, Thailand in February 2015 as I haven't set a date yet, I just want to find the cheapest. I can clearly see the cheapest flights would be on either a Monday or Thursday whereas the weekends are pricier.

Generally: try to fly when nobody else wants to fly. This is usually early in the morning (red-eyes) or on days like Christmas day where everyone wants to stay home.

skyscanner With Kayak you have additional features as you can search for multi-city trips if you are planning to visit a few places in a row.

Sometimes big cities have one major international airport and then another budget airport you may not know the name of. With Kayak you can tick the option “choose nearby” and those airports will be listed in the search results as well.

Pro tip #3: Don't forget about smaller and less known airlines as they might have cheaper fares than the big ones.

There is also an option to sort after layover airports and aircraft type!

kayak flight search

Additionally, you can check out the Kayak Explore Option as it has some good options to play around with like:

  • choosing the weather of the destination from cold to hot
  • choosing possible activities at the destination like beach, ski or golf

With Kayak Explore you can even go in quarters – say if you know you want to go on a trip in Spring or Autumn, you can actually put that in too and then get a result over 3 months instead of having to look at every single month alone.

Kayak Explore

2. Always cross-check with other flight search engines

I use Momondo to cross-check prices, dates and times as I get good results and I like the design. With Momondo you also have the option to search for trips to multiple destinations as well as including nearby airports. The results are listed in segments as “cheapest”, “quickest” and “best”.

Here are some other flight search engines to check out as well:

Airfare Watchdog – Additionally lists the top 50 airfares which are frequently updated.

Adioso – Just like a Google search the site uses natural-language style so you can simply type “Bangkok to Phuket in 3 weeks”.

Hipmunk – Cool, as flights can be sorted by “agony”, meaning a combination of price, number of stops and duration.

Orbitz – Only searches within certain price ranges which you can determine though.

Travelocity – Free cancellation of bookings within 24hrs when you find a cheaper deal in the meantime.

Google Flights – Good to get a quick overview, however Google only compares the flights listed on the airlines direct pages and then list them to you. Once you want to book you will be redirected to the airlines website and you will have to book directly with the airline which may not give you the cheapest price every time.


Pro tip #4: Choose two different airlines for both ways.

Even though it is generally said to be cheaper to book a return ticket with one airline, this must not be the case every time. Maybe you find a good one-way deal with an airline but the return flight is way more expensive so you might consider booking both ways separate. This also comes in handy when you are planning to arrive at one airport and depart from a different one later.

Remember that flight search engines do no directly sell the tickets but will only provide an overview of prices and then direct you to a travel provider. Sometimes this can also mean that the price which was shown in the listing is not available anymore and to your surprise you will only find a more expensive flight.

3. Check on the airlines website directly

Now when you have found your best connection it is time to actually check directly on the airlines website. With so many flight compare pages this is often overlooked but can be your best bet. Airlines can and will reserve specials for direct booking over their own website. Sometimes specials by budget airlines are advertised within a few days and only last for 24hrs or less.

Sign up for newsletter from the airlines in your current destination so you won't miss out on those deals as it is too time-consuming checking their website on a frequent basis. Also watch the airlines social media spaces as they often push deals out there too.

Pro tip #5: Sign up for price alerts and airlines newsletter to never miss any deals.

All sites have the option to sign up for alerts and I would really recommend doing that. You will get notified via Email when the price drops and you can even set a maximum price. With Kayak you need to set up an account prior (or connect with Facebook or Google) whereas with Skyscanner you simply need to type in your Email address.

I also use Seat Guru or Skytrax to find out about the safety of the airline and the best seat on the plane as the site lists airline reviews, aircraft seat maps, etc. Make sure to check if your window isn't just a fake window! The site is also helpful for information on baggage, check-in requirements or traveling with children or pets.

Pro tip #6: Always clear your history, cookies and cache before searching for flights as many websites track the number of times you visited and change the prices accordingly.

Which websites do you use to find and book cheap flights?

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