The Art of the Deal: Find Cheap Airfares So You Can Travel More

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Written by Katie Coakley on

Katie Coakley is a Colorado-based freelance writer who writes about travel, craft beer, and outdoor adventures. The Coronavirus may have kept her state-side but she’s still traveling safely. See more of her work on her website or follow her on Instagram @katie_on_the_map.

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Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling. Here are some ways to find cheap and discounted airfares to make your dreams of travel a reality.

It’s no secret: Everyone wishes they could travel more. But traveling takes cash and taking a trip is often dependent on finding the best deal. But having an (almost) empty wallet is no reason to hang up your passport. There are good deals to be had, especially on airfare. Here’s are some of our favorite tips, tricks, and secrets for finding cheap airfare that will make both quick trips and more extensive journeys a reality.

Emails are Your Friend

There’s a point in every day that I open up a few emails and play, “where could I go today”? This daily round-the-world roulette is thanks to email subscriptions that share airfare deals from various departure cities to locales both near and far. My go-to’s are The Flight Deal Daily Deals Letter, Fare Deal Alert and Scott’s Cheap Flights. There are others out there, but these are my tried-and-true favorites. Though the format is slightly different on each, the daily emails will share various routes that are on sale from airports across the U.S.

For example, today I saw a deal from New York to Athens, Greece on Delta for $538 (Regular Economy) and $398 (Basic Economy). Deals to Greece aren’t common, so this fare is a pretty good deal from the east coast, especially if you’re willing to forgo a seat assignment and a checked bag with Basic Economy.

No, I don’t book every deal that I see, but perusing these emails have allowed me to score deals to Portugal, Finland, and South Africa, to name a few.

Tip : Basic Economy fares and budget airlines offer the opportunity to travel for cheaper if you can go light. Using a bag that fits in the overhead bin (or even only traveling with an under-seat bag only) saves on checked-bag fees (which, let’s face it, have gotten crazy expensive) and saves you time waiting at the luggage carousel, too.

Be Flexible

If you’re looking at those emails and thinking, “But I don’t live in New York or Chicago or Houston,” don’t worry—there are still deals to be found. I live in Denver and trust me—the cheap fares direct from DEN are few and far between. However, bigger hubs like Los Angeles or Chicago aren’t that far from Denver and, depending on the fare, it’s often worth it to fly to the deal city and take the deal. If you’re flexible on your departure city, you’ll have access to more reduced fares.

This flexibility extends to other aspects of the deal, too. Often airfare deals are tied to a range of dates (some run longer than others). Using the calendar tool (which pops up a monthly calendar to show the rate differences between days) when searching can save you $$ when determining trip dates. This also applies to booking flights in general—fares differ from day to day and moving a trip up a day or returning a day later can be helpful to your wallet.

Tip : Expand your horizons. If you have a fixed window for vacation, take a look at the deals to see where you can travel for cheap. Though you may have had your heart set on Hawaii, there might be a deal to another tropical locale like Panama . You might discover your new favorite vacation spot by branching out.

Get to the Points

I’m not recommending you rack up credit card debt, but if you’re not averse to credit cards, there are deals to be had. There are tons of ways to use credit cards to travel (just scan The Points Guy website if you don’t believe me) but there’s no need to open 20 cards to reap the benefits. Cards like the Chase Sapphire (which I have) offer points sign-up bonuses which can be redeemed for flights and travel; the Sapphire card also allows points to be transferred to partners like United and Southwest, giving you additional options for redeeming those points. If you tend to fly one airline, loyalty cards can help you rack up points when you’re buying groceries, gas or packing cubes, getting you to a free flight more quickly.

Tip : While it takes a bit longer, being loyal to one airline can have its benefits. You’ll accrue miles when you fly, leading to opportunities for free flights; fly enough and you’ll earn “status,” which can lead to seat upgrades and other perks.

There are many ways to score travel deals, whether it’s learning the art of packing in a carry-on (to save on luggage fees) or going even lighter with a backpack that fits under your seat (great for those budget airlines), don’t let a budget stop your wanderlust.

How do you save money on travel?

While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Travel Hacking 101: How to Use Airline Credit Cards to Travel for Free

Budget Airlines Survival Guide: 4 Things to Know Before You Fly

Video: How to Pack for Two Weeks in a Carry-on