Budget Family Travel

How to Find and Book Cheap Flights

We see you here, falling into the same trap that we did years ago; how to find and book cheap flights. “No way!”, we used to say, when it came to someone sharing how they went to Europe for $300 roundtrip. Well we can vouch just how believable it actually is!

We are here to share with you how to find and book cheap flights! It’s easier than you think!

Yes, Cheap Flights Exist

There are different ways to find and book cheap flights. We are going to show you how we do it for our family of three. Transparency is key for us, so we want to share what works for us. There are many paths to cheap flights, but not all are worth it for us. For example, we will not fly with Spirit or Frontier Airlines. These are a couple of the more affordable carriers, but they do not meet our travel style. Keep this in mind and read reviews before booking with an airline unknown to you!

An example of finding cheap flights from Portland, Or.

Where to Find Cheap Flights

These are the tools we use to find cheap flights.

Google Flights

The Google Flights Explore feature helps us locate where the cheapest point of entry may be for a country. Customize your search by selecting a range of dates, and then Google will show you the cost of flights to a variety of destinations based on your date criteria. How awesome is that? If you have determined how much you want to spend on flights alone, this is a valuable tool in determining where your next trip will land you. Swipe across the map to the parts of the world that you want to visit and see how much it will actually cost!

We recommend using the date range versus specific dates to find the best deals on flights.

PRO TIP: Southwest Airlines does not show up in the Google Flight search engine, so be sure to check them separately!

Sign Up for a Subscription Service

This is the top way we budget for travel. As long as the airfare is cheap, we plan on going there. This usually means picking destinations that have an excellent airfare deal. We have traveled to some must-see places at a fraction of the cost by utilizing these types of tools. Changing the way you plan can open up your world, literally!

Depending on your tier of membership (they have free options too), you will receive email notifications letting you know of cheap flights from airports you would be willing to fly out of. We are willing to fly out from any major airport on the west coast. We typically will save on spending the additional airfare for repositioning by using points for award fares or waiting for a cheap flight deal from Alaska Airlines.

A couple of services we use today:

Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)

This is one service we have benefitted from multiple times. Here are a couple of examples we have been able to book as a result of their notifications.

Seattle to London
Los Angeles to London

Dollar Flight Club

We recently scored our first excellent deal to the Maldives. Tickets normally range from $800-$1200 (R/T) but can be upwards of $1900 round trip from PDX. See below!

San Francisco to Male

Using Points for Award Flights

Another way to score cheaper flights is to use points redemptions. We are partial to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, using our Chase Sapphire Preferred card. However, there are other great transfer options if you do the research. We also enjoy using our Capital One Venture card for redemption taken off the statement, as well as transferring to some excellent partners.

A valuable resource that helped us get on this part of our journey was The Points Guy. This website has a number of blog posts and recommendations to help you get on your next trip, for cheaper.

Cheap flights often come with layovers. Leaving Miami after a layover.

Booking Cheap Flights

We usually recommend booking directly with the airline so that you have more flexibility when it comes to cancellations. Booking through a third party can come with hassles since you have to go through them for changes or cancellations.

But if the deal outweighs the risk of booking with a third party, then we would say book it! For example, we booked flights to Bali through a third party during the pandemic because the deal was just that good. It ended up being canceled by the airline (yes, we were crying inside, but understood the state of the world.) and we received a full refund from the third party.

Another thing to consider when booking with points is to weigh out if it is a better use of points to book the airfare or to find cheap flights and save the points for a higher value redemption. In our minds, if the flight is significantly cheaper from where you are located, use cash and save the points.

Pro Tip: If you see a great deal or mistake fare that you’re interested don’t take much time waiting around, as it could change at any moment. Book it! There have been times when the airline will cancel it, but better to try than miss out!

Benefits of Booking Cheap Flights

Simply put, the biggest benefit is that you’ll have more money to explore! As our family grew, we knew that we didn’t want to give up travel. So that required us to get creative in our travel planning. Typically flights are one of the larger expenses of traveling. The ability to score a cheap flight allows for money towards accommodations, tours, all the food, etc. Booking cheap flights also allows the budget traveler to adventure to more destinations!

Points to Consider

Comfort Level

Depending on your comfort level, a cheap flight may not suit you on a long-haul flight. Putting it on the list of considerations as many cheap flights are economy class.

Carriers and Reviews

Be sure to check airline reviews prior to booking. There are some budget airlines out there that may not be worth the cheap flight! Of course, if you are only interested in getting from point A to point B, no matter the flight experience, then you have the ultimate flexibility!

Enjoy Your Next Trip

We would love to hear how this post inspires you to book your next flight! Plan ahead and discover all things to do at your next destination. We find this is one of the best ways to enjoy our travels.

Share with us where you’re off to next below in the comments!

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How to Find and Book Cheap Flights