One of my favourite hobbies is finding cheap flights.
Seriously, I love it. Every day, I look at flight deals. Even if I can’t take advantage of them or they’re for an airport halfway around the world, I just love seeing them. It’s a cool feeling to know that someone out there is going to be able to go on their dream trip for a bargain.
My friends and family know me as the person who can always find a good flight deal. Margie, Colin’s mom, jokes whenever someone has somewhere to go, “Oh, Riana can find cheap flights for that!” Sadly, that’s not exactly how it works.
I’ve taken advantage of some amazing flight deals so far. Colin, Margie and I flew to LA roundtrip for $63 each. When I went on my first solo trip to Europe, I paid just over $400 roundtrip. We’re going to Phoenix next weekend on a flight deal ($172 roundtrip). And, most impressively, Colin and I are going to Ireland in April on a flight deal that was $340 roundtrip each.
Cheap flights are amazing. Most people think I’m just really lucky at finding these deals. And others must think I have some in with the airlines and can influence prices.
Here’s how it really works:
How to Find Cheap Flights
The first step to booking a flight deal is being able to find one. If you’re waiting for the deal to come to you from some friends who have booked it or for it to be published in a local paper, it’s already gone. The kind of flight deals I’m talking about are one-offs, not general promotions put out by an airline or tourism company. Not that those can’t be great, but they’re never going to be $340-roundtrip-to-Ireland great.
So how do I find flight deals? I let other people find them for me and alert me when they’re available.
My all time favourite flight deal website is YVR Deals. This website is Vancouver-specific, but they have versions for most major Canadian airports. I love YVR Deals! YVR Deals is responsible for most of my awesome flight deals so far. I love that it’s a Canadian site so all of the prices are in CAD and it’s exclusive to flights out of YVR Airport (though Seattle is often listed too when the deal is really good).
You can browse YVR Deals’ website, join their Facebook group and subsribe to get email alerts. Of course, I do all three.
A newer favourite of mine is Secret Flying. Secret Flying works just like YVR Deals except it isn’t specific to Vancouver. Secret Flying finds awesome cheap flights from all over the world. I love Secret Flying because I enjoy looking at deals, even if they’re for someone in Ethiopia flying to Singapore and I could never take advantage of it. Secret Flying is also awesome because it’s updated all of the time. There are easily a dozen deals every day.
Secret Flying can be a little intimidating to scroll through if you’re only looking for deals out of a specific city. If you don’t enjoy seeing worldwide flight deals like I do, I would not suggest scrolling through the Secret Flying Facebook page multiple times a day (or annoying your partner with all the cool deals you’re seeing). What you can do is subscribe to their email list and specify which country/region you’d like to see flight deals for. For example, I get an email once a day with all of their recent Canadian flight deals.
The downside with the daily email from Secret Flying is that it only comes out once a day. I know a daily email may seem like a lot, but if a deal is found at 6:00am and you don’t hear about it until 6:00pm, it’s likely already gone. It’s also not that helpful to see deals from all over Canada.
And the others
So I rely on YVR Deals for Vancouver-specific travel and use Secret Flying just to scope out things available out there. I’m also subscribed to TravelZoo, Flytrippers, and Scott’s Cheap Flights. I have also used Airfare Watchdog in the past but haven’t kept it up.
I like TravelZoo for their local deals – we snagged a good dine out option – but find their tour deals are still expensive. I like Flytrippers for their cool blog posts and Vancouver-centric news, but have found some of their flight deals aren’t reliable. And Scott’s Cheap Flights is a little disappointing because I could only specific the west coast, so often get deals leaving out of southern California. They also push their premium membership all the time which is annoying.
TL/DR: If you are obsessed with flight deals like me, subscribe to everything and scroll through Secret Flying a few times a day. If you just want to book your next trip for cheap, get email alerts from YVRDeals (or your airport of choice).
How to Book Cheap Flights
You may be thinking this is really obvious, right? Clearly, once you find the flight all you need to do is press the purchase button, right? Absolutely. I’m not here to walk you through booking a flight online. The actual process of booking is super simple. I’m talking more broadly about how you can take advantage of cheap flights and deals online.
Be ready to book
Flight deals do not last long. Some are around for mere minutes. If you are serious about booking a flight deal, you need to be able to book the second you find that deal. This isn’t the type of situation where you can wait until you’re home from work to talk it over with your friends. You need to book NOW. Sure, some flight deals do last longer than others. But the really good ones? They’re gone instantly. I’ve tried to book things where the price changes between me selecting the flight and going to the booking page.
For a while, I used to forward my parents awesome flight deals out of Toronto (especially when it was deals to come to Vancouver and visit me). But I realized it was never going to work. They just weren’t able to commit like that. It would take them about a day to respond to the email and the response was always, “Looks good. Will have to talk this over with so-and-so.”
It’s impossible to predict when and where a flight deal is going to pop up. The best way to take advantage of cheap flights is to be flexible – flexible with your destination, your dates, or better yet, both! If you are set on going to Paris in the first week of August, you’re going to have to get pretty freaking lucky to find that deal. But if you’re cool to go to Paris at any point this year or open to anywhere in Europe in August, your odds just got a lot better.
Be prepared for disappointment
This was a lesson I only recently learned. I shared in a previous post how I had booked a flight deal to New Zealand for about $450 Canadian roundtrip. Insane, right? Well, it turned out the airline felt the same way. They ended up cancelling the flight. The rule of thumb with flight deals is to never book anything else (e.g. hotels, tours) and don’t announce your trip on Facebook until at least 24 hours after your flight booking. Sadly, AirNewZealand cancelled my flight well after the 24 hour mark, so I was even more crushed. But that’s the game with flight deals! You never know if they’re going to last so approach with caution.
Flight Deal Success Story!
Here’s an example of cheap flights in action. Back in the summer of 2017, Colin and I were discussing our travel plans for 2018. We decided on Europe – we didn’t care where in Europe and we didn’t care when (being flexible). At the time, I was subscribed to YVR Deals. During a weekend in Kelowna in August, I got an email with the ridiculous prices to Ireland: $340 roundtrip. Because Colin and I had already discussed where we wanted to go and because I knew this deal was insane, I was already clicking through the booking pages by the time Colin got back from the bathroom. I informed him of the deal and barely waited for him to nod in agreement before clicking the purchase button. And in just over a month we’ll be heading to Ireland thanks to those cheap flights!
Flight deals aren’t for everyone
Obviously, everyone loves cheap flights. But flight deals don’t work for everyone. If the idea of booking something right away without being able to sleep on it scares you, you’re going to have a tough time. If your vacation days and destinations aren’t flexible, flight deals might be hard to come by. And if you don’t want to subscribe to email alerts, you might miss out. I’m not saying it’s impossible – I’m just saying it gets a lot harder to find cheap flights if you don’t follow the deal pages, can’t book right away and aren’t flexible.
Next Steps to Find Your Cheap Flights
1 – Subscribe to YVR Deals and/or Secret Flying and/or a flight deal email list of your choosing. If you want to get really into it, subscribe to a few and join some Facebook groups.
2 – Figure out what your parameters are for your flight. Do you have a general idea of destination or dates? Or are you totally flexible? What’s your budget?
3 – Gather your travel details and be ready to book! If you’re booking with a partner, friend or family, have all of their passport and personal info on hand so you don’t miss a deal because you can’t remember your sister-in-law’s birthday for the passenger info page.
That’s it! Now sit back and wait for a good deal to roll in.
What awesome flight deals have you managed to score?
Or where are you hoping to get cheap flights to next?
I’m looking out for Asia for 2019 – but I’m always flexible!