The starting point, the largest cost, and often the pain point of international travel planning is the flight. Looking for options can be overwhelming, and many times it has made a trip completely undoable– but sometimes it’s the one thing that actually ends up working out. And when that’s booked, you usually have no choice but to save up and go! Haha! (More on this mentality later)
These tools and tricks have been the reason I’ve been able to see so many places I never thought I’d see:
1. Book during shoulder season/off-season for your destination
Shoulder season is the 1-2 months that overlap between off-season and peak season. The gamble here is that you could have the disadvantages of off-season (weather, closed businesses, etc.), but oftentimes you’ll experience the advantages of peak season without the crowds. Off-season is a bit riskier, but most destinations have enough redeeming qualities to warrant a little rain or cold.
2. Fly into a nearby country with a larger airport
This works especially well in Europe/Southeast Asia where travel is common among the region. If Marrakesh, Morocco is your dream (as it is mine), but the $1,100 price tag is a bit steep for your budget, start your trip exploring in Spain and hop on a cheaper flight over. This is what we did to see Bali, Indonesia- my dream destination that I thought was completely out of my league.
3. Befriend Google Flights
My absolute savior. Stalking flights early and often is somewhat common-sense, I know, but it’s the best way to feel confident about your purchase. Plug in places or dates and scan for those green numbers that indicate a lower price than usual. They have a calendar view if you’re flexible on dates, and it’s super easy to navigate.
4. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights & Pomelo Travel
These services send out daily flight deals from major US airports. Scott’s Cheap Flights were the reason I got such a cheap ticket to Paris- an awesome surprise as we were looking at both Asia and Europe for that month. The only downside is having to pull out your wallet right away– the flight deals don’t last long and it’s recommended to book within a few hours of seeing the price, sometimes even on the spot.
5. Utilize Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option
Skyscanner, a service similar to Google Flights, will accept “Everywhere” as an option. Just plug in your dates and see what’s available.
6. Set up flight alerts
I’m not big on flight alerts, but it’s great for super busy people. Alert services like Hopper or Google Flights will do the work for you and send you statuses on how much your flight is and when you should book.
7. Know what’s included
Don’t go for a budget or big name airlines if you have to pay another $100 for a carry-on. Many smaller airlines still offer free baggage in their prices, so make sure you check before booking with whatever’s “cheapest.”
8. Use airlines with free stopovers
A stopover is exactly what it sounds like– the airline will stop in a destination free of charge on the way to/home from your destination. This is a great way for countries to get tourism and for us travelers to essentially get a bonus destination in their trip. We use Iceland Air’s program last January and it definitely won’t be my last timing taking advantage of it. Read a full list of airlines to keep an eye out for.
And as always, there’s things I know nothing about, like credit card rewards and frequent flyer points. When I’m more of an adult I’ll be sure to update. For travel inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards. I promise it’ll never run dry.