Why is airfare such a painful expense? I think it’s because it’s the cost just to GET to a destination (not even all the fun or stay). And when you are traveling as a family and everything is x4 or x5 or more, costs can add up QUICKLY. So over the years we’ve narrowed down the very best websites that have helped us find dirt cheap flights.
Because mama wants to go to Europe…and I don’t have $4k just to drop on getting there right?!
Some KEY principals that apply to all the resources below and are critical to the money saving flight game:
- Be Flexible – If you have a specific destination you want to fly to on very specific days, it will be harder to find the cheapest of cheap flights. Flexibility will serve you SO well if you’re looking to really save on airfare.
- Always Search in Incognito Mode – (Shift + ⌘ + N on a Mac) Those fancy algorithms now are absolutely tracking the flights you look at and how often you’ve looked at a specific route. This really can make a difference.
- If possible, always book directly with the airline – Using OTA’s (online travel agencies) can be great when hunting for the best deals, but not for actually purchasing tickets. If anything goes wrong with a flight (cancellation, delay etc), you are going to save yourself a big headache by booking directly with the airline. Also, you are quite literately leaving money on the table, because when booking with OTA’s there are no rewards or points.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Meet your new best friend…your really fun, dangerous best friend. Scott’s is our number one hack when it comes to getting dirt cheap flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a website that finds incredible deals on international flights. When an airline makes a mistake (error in the system, typo, etc) or offers a great sale, Scott finds it and emails you with instructions on how to book- then boom, you go on that trip you have been dreaming about for way less than you ever thought possible.
So although Scott’s is a technically a subscription service, we think it’s the number one website in the travel game helping you find the very lowest cost on airfare. Through Scott’s email notifications, we ended up getting peak summer season tickets to Europe for $490/each (More on how we spent 1 month in Italy for $1k here). Normally they are $1000-1200! Yes, three tickets for the price of what would normally be ONE ticket…unreal right?!
Scott’s Cheap Flights Tools
Simply set up your departure airport or any other airports you want to follow…and just wait for the travel savings to start flowing. Filter out the noise and only get deal alerts departing from your favorite airports. However, you might want to consider opening your departure city to more than just your hometown.
For example, if we were to see a $275 ticket from JFK to Spain like pictured above, we would jump on that immediately because we know we can find a $100-200 ticket from Dallas (our departure airport) to JFK if we watch that price for a bit. Our better yet cover that connection with our Southwest Points!
Know you want to head to Hawaii sometime next Spring? Sign up for the alerts and keep your eye peeled on your inbox for notifications to Hawaii. If you can be a bit flexible on your dates and departures I can guarantee you you will snag a killer deal that will make booking that trip no question!
More Scott’s Features!
I just love all the stats you can explore too, giving you the full confidence you are REALLY getting a good deal. See the screenshots below that show graphs from their site. They map out what the flight typically costs, Scott’s current deal they offered you to, and then the lowest cost flight for that route they’ve ever seen.
They do offer a free option that sends some deal alerts to your inbox. However, we highly recommend upgrading to the Premium Service. Premium includes 3x the deals sent, error/mistake fares, and all domestic deals. At $49 annually, or $15 every quarter, this more than makes up for itself even if you end up booking just one flight. Ever.
They also offer an Elite option, which include First Class and Business Class alerts…but although we’re self professed travel hacking experts, we’re not in that travel budget world yet.
If you walk away with nothing else from this blog post, we truly do hope you sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. It has been hands down one of the top hacks in how we actually afford for our family to travel the world.
Our second favorite weapon of choice in our dirt cheap flight arsenal. I know, I know you’ve heard of Goggle Flights. BUT have you used all their tools to their full capacity?? Obviously Google Flights is a staple in the travel game for mapping out dates, routes, carriers, and more. It’s arguably the most user friendly option out there, but we will walk you through our favorite, most helpful features for getting the cheapest flights around.
If you can be a bit flexible in your dates, the calendar feature is GOLD. Take a look at this flight to Denmark here. The green values on the calendar are showing you the lowest cost days to fly that route. You can see how just altering your departure date by ONE day can cut the cost of your ticket in half! (now to be fair this was a deal alert I just pulled from a Scott’s notification. So although, the savings might not always be this steep, the calendar feature is incredibly helpful).
The next tool I use when searching for cheap flights is the Date Grid feature…i.e. your new best friend if you are travel hacking obsessed like we are 🙂 This grid shows you the cheapest possible cost for every potential combination of dates. Those green stars are where the magic is! Again, flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to finding the cheapest possible flights to make your family travel dreams come true!
More Google Flights Tools
I then will always track the prices…not just for the specific dates I was looking at, but I click the “Flexible Dates” notification. This way I get alerts for a price drop not just for those specific days but the route in general (if I really have my eye on a particular destination). If you scroll down past the “Best Departing Flights” box, you can then see the “Prices are currently low/average/high for your trip” feature. Again, I love this type of data because it gives you the confidence to pull the trigger on a good deal or wait it out.
Lastly, the explore feature is SO helpful in finding cheap flights if you have a certain area in mind, For example, let’s say we want to go to Europe this summer (I mean when do I not want to go to Europe?!). Click the “Explore” feature in the left sidebar. Put in your departure airpot and dates you’d like to travel. Then zoom the map in on Europe. I can now see how much it would cost me to travel to EVERY city in Europe…how cool is that?!
You can also just leave the destination blank in the initial search field in Google Flights and it will show you the cheapest places to fly across the whole world for those dates! Move that price dial down to fit your budget and BOOM you’ve got attainable vacations right before your eyes.
My ONLY negative with Google Flights is they don’t track Southwest flights in their algorithm…huge bummer. BUT other than that it is absolutely one of our top tools for getting dirt cheap flights.
Speakkinngggg of tracking Southwest Flights…
That is one of our very favorite features of Airfare Watchdog…that they actually allow you to search and track Southwest Flights, woohoo!
Southwest prohibits “any automatic device, program, or algorithm” from monitoring its fares. Lucky for us, Airfarewatchdog uses real people, not a program, to evaluate and list low fares from Southwest. They certainly don’t pay us for sending them traffic, but, as a low fare listing site, it would be a disservice to our users not to report on what Southwest offers.
Airfare Watchdog is definitely worth a look before booking any flight. We love their “Anywhere” feature to search for the cheapest flights across the world for your departure city. Also, under the “Flights” tab they really do have some cool search and compare features that other sites just don’t offer.
More Airfare Watchdog Features
They have a lot of the features of Google Flights (unfortunately not the as user-friendly nature), but we love that they offer a “Deal of the Day” or “Weekender Alerts.” These are great for if you know you have some time off but aren’t sure where to go.
Honestly, just personally the emails and marketing can get a bit spammy for me. BUT I will put up with a lot to snag a cheap flight! As with any third party site though (Including Goggle Flights), we always recommend you use those tools to find the best deal, but then book directly with the airline. This is a big NO in the travel world as one, they don’t offer any rewards (Use Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Travel portal for that). Secondly, if there are any flight interruptions, cancellations, or delays, working directly with the airline is going to have you SO much time and headaches! We used a third party site to book our tickets to Norway, and thennnn COVID happened and the trip of a lifetime was cancelled. We did finally get our flights fully refunded (see how we did that here), but it was a 4 month long mess to do so.
Skyscanner has been a tried and true source for cheap flights in the travel industry for quite some time now. I started using them when I lived in Italy 10+ years ago now, and their great deals and tools still hold up to this day. They have some really helpful features than can allow you find some incredible deals!
We love the “any” feature. So for example you live in London, instead of just typing in Heathrow for your destination airport. You can put in London(Any) and be shown the cheapest routes from allll the airports surrounding you. Catching a bus from Standstead to Luton might be cheaper than a Heathrow flight. Also, we LOVE the “Everywhere” feature. Similar to the Google Flights Explore map. You can basically search the cheapest destinations to fly anywhere in the world, categorized by area, from you home city (bargain flight shoppers rejoice!!).
Got a free weekend, but not sure where you want to go and don’t want to spend and arm and a leg? Dreaming of Europe but not sure the cheapest city to fly into? This feature is GOLD.
Just like Google Flights, there are some money-saving calendar tools. As well as, flight tracking notification tools. Skyscanner is my go-to resource if I am looking for cheap flights within Europe as well (i.e. Lisbon to Rome). Lastly, they also have a “Daily Best Deals” from and in the US they post which is really helpful. Overall, definitely a site to add to your finding dirt cheap flights arsenal!
Ok, Skiplagged will help you find hands down some of the cheapest flights on the internet. They do offer something I would say none of the other websites on this list do- which is what they call “hidden city ticketing.” Essentially, their algorithms put together the absolute cheapest itinerary for a destination, something that might take us on our own hours of leg work to find out. Usually, these itineraries are a little more complex, BUT they literally can save you hundreds of dollars.
More on Skiplagged’s Hidden City Feature
They say a “hidden-city flight” is a flight where you get off at the layover rather than the final destination. For example, a flight from LA to Salt Lake City might be $250, but a similar flight from LA to Dallas with a layover in Salt Lake City might be $130. If you’re going to Salt Lake City, they’ll show you both flights. If you choose the cheaper one, you get off the plane at the layover (Salt Lake City) rather than going to the final ticketed destination (Dallas).
Their tagline “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us…but we won” definitely speaks for itself.
Skiplagged shows you inefficiencies in airline prices, so you find deals on tickets you might not find anywhere else. They will also show you, like many others on this list, the regular cheapest rates…so you can be sure you really are getting an awesome money-saving deal.
ALSO- they have what they call “skiplagged hotels” which can save you up to 50% off stays! SO if you’re REALLY strapped on your budget and willing to have a bit of flexibility in your transit this is an amazing option. There can sometimes be not super convenient itineraries, or longer than average layovers. Because of the unique nature of the “hidden-city flights,” they also recommend just traveling with a carry-on. (So you don’t risk your bags being delivered to the final destination). But, if neither of those are a barrier, Skiplagged is a super valuable resource!
Another subscription service for flight deals, and the cheapest one of the bunch. Like others, with Next Vacay you sign up for email notifications when flights from your designated departures cities go super low. We love that you can set these preferences, so that the emails you receive are really targeted specifically to you.
Next Vacay is free for the first month and then only $25 annually after that. I mean you really can’t go wrong here.
I’d say the only negative with this option is they do have a book direct aspect of the site, where they want customers to book the flight deals directly through them. Because of this some times the deals aren’t as great as you may find with another subscription service. BUT still saving you hundreds nonetheless. Like mentioned above, when at all possible you really want to try to book directly with the airlines, for so many reasons!
Also, not to be missed, they have an awesome referral program! You can get $20 for every friend you refer! They get a free trial and you get a $20 gift card…a WIN WIN.
Three Cheers for Cheap Flights!
SO that’s it! Our go-to websites for finding the cheapest flights possible. Because there’s just some sort of high I get from knowing I got the absolute lowest price on a flight (anyone else?!). Especially when you are buying tickets x4 for a family. If you realllyyyy want to up your travel saving money game we encourage you to check out our post on travel hacking HERE and making money while you travel HERE.
Happy adventuring folks! We would love to know below the best deal you’ve ever found and how you found it, share below!