Travel

The Best Ways to Snag Bargain Airfares

When you’re shopping for international flights, be flexible and don’t buy too soon.

Kiplinger's interviewed Scott Keyes (pictured above), who writes an e-mail newsletter, Scott’s Cheap Flights, that sends out international airfare deals to 350,000 subscribers. Read excerpts from our interview below.

What’s your number-one rule for finding cheap airfare? Flexibility. Once you have an origin airport, a destination airport and a date that’s set in stone, about 95% of what you can do to get the price down is already out the window. Most folks look at a map and say, “I want to go to Spain.” And then they start searching. But there might not be a deal to Madrid and there could be a deal to London. Going where there’s a deal—rather than deciding where you want to go and then looking for a deal—may sound counterintuitive, but it will really help get the airfare down.

What’s the best way to build flexibility into a search? I recommend using Google Flights because you can enter five origin airports and five destination airports. Let’s say you live in New York City. You can check flights from LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, Newark, Philadelphia and Hartford. Then you can say you want to fly to London, Paris, Rome or Madrid. Instantly, it will pull up two months’ worth of the cheapest prices.

Why do you think your site has taken off? People don’t like to spend a lot of time monitoring airfares, and having someone to do it for them is a service that some people are willing to pay for. A lot of the best fares often don’t last very long. So being able to pull the trigger quickly can be pretty important when it comes to getting cheap fares.

Is there a sweet spot for buying tickets? I generally recommend buying overseas airfare about two to six months in advance. You should not expect the airlines to offer cheap fares to fill seats at the last minute. That was the model for a long time. But over the past 10 or 15 years, airlines realized that business travelers, who tend to be less price sensitive than leisure travelers, were buying those empty seats. Now, rather than cut the prices, they tend to raise prices closer to the departure date.

What constitutes a bargain fare to Europe now? The new transatlantic budget carriers, such as Norwegian Air and Wow Air, regularly offer flights to Europe for less than $400 round-trip— from all over the country, not just from New York, L.A. or Miami. So I’d say $450 to $650 is acceptable, depending on connections and how well the fare jibes with your preferred dates. Anything over $650 or $700, unless you’re buying at the last minute or for very specific dates around holidays, is too much.

 

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
11 Best Healthcare Stocks for the Rest of 2021
healthcare stocks

11 Best Healthcare Stocks for the Rest of 2021

The 2020s could be the decade of healthcare stocks. Here are 10 companies and one ETF to watch not just for the remainder of this year, but well beyon…
July 13, 2021
Warning: You May Have to Pay Back Your Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments
Tax Breaks

Warning: You May Have to Pay Back Your Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments

Unlike stimulus checks, you might have to repay your monthly child tax credit payments if you get too much money from the IRS.
July 16, 2021

Recommended

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco
Smart Buying

25 Best Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Many of warehouse club Costco's store-branded Kirkland Signature items get high marks for quality and value. Check out our picks.
July 21, 2021
What You Must Know About Tipping While Traveling
Travel

What You Must Know About Tipping While Traveling

Relax, you're on vacation. Use these six tips to establish a tipping plan that eliminates stress.
July 14, 2021
21 Best and Worst Things to Buy at Aldi
Smart Buying

21 Best and Worst Things to Buy at Aldi

The German supermarket chain is known for low prices, but not every item on Aldi's shelves is a bargain. See our list of the best and worst buys.
July 14, 2021
Tax-Free Weekends (or Weeks) for Back-to-School Shopping
Tax Breaks

Tax-Free Weekends (or Weeks) for Back-to-School Shopping

Sales tax holidays are a great way to save money on clothes, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, and other back-to-school necessities.
July 12, 2021