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Taking time to buy plane tickets can be one of the most headache-inducing steps when organizing a trip.
There are many search engines and applications to find cheap flights. There are also many myths about booking flights. For example, it is not true that looking for flights at dawn guarantees you will find cheaper options.
For a long time, I have been perfecting my strategies in search of cheap flights; doing so has gotten me tickets to Japan, from Miami or New York, in the $200s round trip. Here are four of the best techniques I use that have worked for me over the years.
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1. Use several search engines in your search
You should always check at least three to five search engines in order to find the best deal. They all work with different algorithms, so you will be able to find different combinations and prices in each of them.
2. Check the codes when searching for flights
Use the airport codes of the cities that include the regional airports. For example, New York City has three major airports that serve it: JFK, LGA, and EWR (which, although it is in Newark, New Jersey, it’s one of the fastest and easiest to connect you to Manhattan).
Instead of using the JFK or LGA code in your search, you can use the NYC code, which covers all three airports and will allow you to see all arrival and departure options. Sometimes the price difference can exceed $100.
Other cities to which you can use codes that represent many airports are Washington DC (WAS), Chicago (CHI), Orlando (ORL), London (LON), Paris (PAR), among others.
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3. Multi-city option
Arrive at one place, return from another.
Many are unaware that there are more options when looking for an air ticket beyond the typical “one way” or “roundtrip.” We call this the multi-city option.
The multi-city option allows you to search for flights arriving at one destination and returning to another for a cost similar to “round trip” tickets. This is great if you are going on a trip where you plan to do a circuit. For example, if you go to Spain and you are going to visit several cities such as Madrid, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Barcelona. The “muli-city” option allows you to buy a flight arriving in Madrid and returning from Barcelona, generally at a similar price and even cheaper than the round-trip ticket.
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4. Use flexible calendars
Many search engines such as Google Flights, Momondo or Kayak allow you to see the cheapest dates to fly to the desired destination for the next few months. This is great if you have flexibility in the dates of your trip. For example, if you are going from Chicago to Paris and you want to fly from Saturday to Sunday, but you have flexibility.
By using the flexible calendars tool, you will be able to see all the prices by departure and arrival days and their possible combinations which will help you determine which days will be cheaper for you. It may be the case that if you change your plans to fly from Friday to Saturday, you could save on the total cost of the flight versus if you flew from Saturday to Sunday as originally planned.
You could use that money to pay for your accommodation in Europe or any destination you travel to.
If you use the correct techniques and strategies, you can save a lot of money when buying your flight.
Wilson “Wil” Santiago Burgos is the founder of Mochileando.com, one of the largest travel platforms in Puerto Rico and the Latin American market in the U.S.