Fly Away This Winter! Creative Ways to Save Money on Airfare

by Nora Dunn

I hate booking airfare. Really. Behind every search, every payment screen and every procrastinated purchase is a sneaking suspicion that there’s a better deal to be found—and that I’m paying too much to fly.

Here are five creative strategies to aid you in your search for the best value on airfare, to get deep discounts and, in some cases, to fly for (almost) free.

Choose the Right Search Engines

Many popular flight search engines omit budget airlines from their results. Using the right search engine (and crafting your search to be flexible in terms of searching nearby airports and different dates) will reveal your best options. Skyscanner is one such popular search engine; I also like Kayak and Yapta because they find “hacker” fares: return flights that make use of discounted one-way tickets from different airlines.

Fly—in Style—for (Almost) Free

As a full-time traveller, most of my long-haul flights are in business class and for significantly less than the price of an economy ticket. I do this with the creative accumulation and redemption of frequent flyer miles. Although many of the mega mile deals (like credit card bonuses) pertain to U.S. citizens, Canadians have access to some lucrative deals too; with the help of services such as the Travel Hacking Cartel, you can ensure you never miss out on a good bonus deal.

Use Ninja Search Skills

Airfares can change, depending on the day (or even time of day) that you perform your search. Although it’s tempting (dare I say necessary) to perform multiple searches, there’s a rumour that some airlines install cookies in your browser that increase the price of the airfare with the number of times you search that flight. Clear your cookies and history between searches to ensure you fight their sneaky tactics with your ninja skills.

Here are some tips and tricks to get the best results from flight searches.

Track Fares, Before and After You Buy

Another way to track the price of your desired flight without constantly manually searching it is to automate the process.

Websites like Yapta allow you to track flights for price fluctuations; this is useful even after you make your purchase, because in some cases you can get a refund for the difference in price—after you buy.

Be a Mystery Shopper

Mystery shopping isn’t just for restaurants and department stores. If your destination matches a current mystery shopping offer, you can be reimbursed approximately 50 percent (sometimes more) of the cost of your flight and/or accommodation by submitting a survey about your travel experience. Here is some more information on finding the right travel-centric mystery shopping opportunity.