preloadA woman with her suitcase in a travelator at an airport.

With constantly changing prices and hundreds of travel platforms promising the best deals, knowing how to find cheap flights is an art form. To cut through the noise, we’ve put together this guide on the best way to find flights for less. In it, we skip the myths and show you the real tools and tricks avid travelers use to fly cheaply. The airfare is often the most expensive part of a trip, but it doesn’t have to be the difference between going and staying.

Here are 12 tools and tips to help you find cheap flights to the destinations of your dreams.

  1. Book your flights in advance – but not too early
  2. Save time searching for cheap flights with KAYAK Price Alerts
  3. Book with confidence using KAYAK Price Forecast
  4. Be flexible with your travel dates and times
  5. Embrace the unknown with KAYAK Flexible Price Alerts
  6. Plan your trip as an entire package
  7. Choose another airport to fly in and out of
  8. Get cheap flights to anywhere with KAYAK Explore
  9. Fly cheap or free with rewards Points and Miles
  10. Make stopovers – and mix and match airlines
  11. Use KAYAK Search to find the cheapest flights
  12. Don’t waste your time on travel myths

Why is it so complicated to find cheap flights?

Lots of factors affect the prices of flight tickets, not least the laws of supply and demand. This means prices can change often and by significant amounts, making it frustratingly hard to find the many amazing deals that are out there. Seasonal changes dramatically affect prices. Traveling in high season is always more expensive than in low. School holidays see a bump in prices, and special events or holidays can create a price spike in specific destinations, like Carnival in Rio.

Other external factors such as inflation and the price of jet fuel can make a big difference too. A renewed demand for post-pandemic travel has increased prices significantly in the last two years.

When you’re willing to fly can also have an effect. Flights are typically cheaper if you fly early in the day or land late. More contested are claims that the time of day, and even what day you book your flight, are important – but more on myths later.


1. Book your flights in advance – but not too early

When you book your flights has perhaps the biggest impact on the price you’ll pay. Typically, flights go on sale around a year before their departure date. Booking the moment they’re released is not the best time to buy, though.

There’s no hard and fast data-based science to say exactly when you’ll get the cheapest prices for any particular flight. But there are some guidelines to follow.

Rule one: The closer to your travel date you are, the more expensive your flight will be. For that we can thank business travelers who tend to book late, be less flexible and have pockets deep enough to pay higher prices. There’s a generally accepted window when flights are at their cheapest, which changes depending on the season. In my experience, if you’re flying domestically in peak season you should be looking to book around four to six months ahead of time. If it’s off season, one to three months in advance is ideal.

For international flights you can extend that a little. Four to eight months ahead in peak season, two to six in off season. They’re big windows I know, but there are tools to help take the legwork out of tracking prices.

2. Save time searching for cheap flights with KAYAK Price Alerts

Just such a tool is the KAYAK Price Alert. If you’ve got a fixed destination and date range for flying, you can set a price alert that lets you know when the airfare gets cheaper to save you repeatedly searching.

Once the route is available, you can set your price alert from different areas in KAYAK. Go to ‘Notifications’ in your profile to create a price alert or look for the ‘Track prices’ toggle under ‘Our Advice’ on the left of the search results page. Once set, you’ll get an email whenever there’s a price drop on that route with a link to book the flight.

Flight result page setting up a price alert on KAYAK mobile app.

3. Book with confidence using KAYAK Price Forecast

So you’re all set to buy your ticket, but there’s that nagging fear – what if the price suddenly drops tomorrow? Should you wait? But then, what if the fare goes up? Lucky for you, there’s KAYAK Price Forecast. This tool can help you make educated decisions on when to book and give you more ways to save.

Price forecast tool KAYAK

Price Forecast gives you a recommendation about whether or not the flight price will go up or down in the next seven days based on our data.

  • For desktop users: Whenever you make a flight search be sure to check the top left corner once the results have loaded. You’ll see a graph plus a message saying BUY or WATCH. If it’s a good time to buy, grab your tickets while they’re hot. If not, cool your jets and wait for the price to go down (and create a Price Alert to know when they do)
  • For app users: The Price Forecast tool will appear just above your search results once they’ve fully loaded – from there, you can click on the bar that says “Our advice” which will reveal our data. This page will give you the reasoning behind our advice, our estimated price graph and an option to start a Price Alert if now isn’t the time to buy.

4. Be flexible with your travel dates and times

Yes it’s easier said than done, but having a little flexibility on the days and times you fly will open up a world of cheaper fare options. Starting your search well in advance of a trip usually gives you a little more flexibility. If you’re flying to New York for New Year’s or Paris for fashion week, you’re going to pay more than for a low season ticket, of course. But small changes can also make a big difference.

Typically, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Fridays, Sundays and Mondays are the realm of business travelers, so are often pricier. Flying on or after a major holiday (Christmas Day flights are notoriously cheap) does usually bring the price down. This isn’t set in stone though, so it’s always wise to focus on booking early rather than on a specific day. The next time you search on KAYAK, try changing the ‘exact’ dates to ‘+/- 1/2/3 days’ and you’ll see the difference.

Use the calendar to get a quick comparison of which days have cheaper airfares. Just search for a flight by entering your departure and destination airports and then select the date picker.

The date field will expand to show you two months of color-coded dates with price estimates for which days are cheaper.

KAYAK top tip: Beware the false economy of flying a day early or late to get a cheaper airfare. If it means staying an extra night in a hotel or eating out more times, you may spend more money than you save on your cheaper ticket.

5. Embrace the unknown with KAYAK Flexible Flight Price Alert

If you can be very flexible with your travel dates, you can save even more time and money. Similar to the KAYAK Price Alert, the Flexible Flight Price Alert monitors your chosen route and lets you know when flight prices drop across a set range of time. Just enter your departure and arrival airports and rough travel period and you can set how often you get price alerts.

Just log in to your KAYAK account from your desktop, go to Notifications, and click on Create a Price Alert. Choose the Flexible Dates tab and enter your departure and arrival airports – particularly handy if you’re flying long haul where prices can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars.

6. Plan your trip as an entire package

Working out where to find cheap flights is only one way to make savings on a trip. Another approach is to plan and make savings across the board by searching your destination.

Featuring more than 800 cities, KAYAK Travel Guides help you navigate every aspect of your trip. Tips and advice help you know where to stay, what to do and eat and how best to get around.

Each guide also provides a per-month breakdown of median hotel rates and airfares from the US to your chosen destination.

Look up your city of choice and you can see which months have the lowest estimated combined prices for flights and accommodation.

KAYAK Travel guides

7. Choose another airport to fly in and out of

This doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning your trip to London for a trip to Lisbon, just because the flights are a bit cheaper. If you’re flying from New York to London, as with many destinations around the world, you have several airports to choose from. And flights to them won’t all be the same price. This is particularly the case in Europe, where many of the low-cost (budget) airlines like Ryanair and easyJet are based in airports a bit further out of town. Not only do they come with cheaper airfares but often have cheaper car rental options too. On the downside, they can mean a longer and more expensive commute to your final destination.

It can also be the case in the US, for example on the popular route to Orlando in Florida. Most people fly into Orlando International when it’s actually better value to fly into Orlando Sanford International slightly further away.

When searching for a flight using KAYAK, add your from and to destinations and make sure to check the ‘Add nearby airports’ box. We’ll add all airports within a 70-mile radius so you can see the cheapest and most convenient flights available.

8. Get cheap flights to anywhere with KAYAK Explore

Sometimes dates and destinations aren’t the biggest thing. Sometimes you might just want to get away, anywhere, but have no idea what’s achievable within your budget. For just such occasions, we built KAYAK Explore. All you need to know is your budget. Explore will do the rest, showing you where in the world you can fly based on prices, desired dates or the type of trip you want to take.

Results will include the cheapest routes for every airline within the next six or so months including nearby airports, direct flights and stopovers. You can of course adjust all these settings based on your preferences. Dive in – the world is waiting for you!

9. Fly cheap or free with rewards Points and Miles

Before you book to travel anywhere, you should get up to speed on travel rewards. Signing up to airline rewards programs will save you money on flights and get you some amazing travel perks, no matter how much you fly. Upgrades, cheap hotel stays and car rental, access to airport lounges and partner discounts are all par for the course.

You might hear the practice of gathering miles and points from multiple sources referred to as “travel hacking”. This is the art of collecting everything from frequent flier points and airline miles to rewards for hotel stays and using certain credit cards. Redeeming them should pay back much more than the cost of earning them in the first place.

Among my travel writing colleagues, travel hacking is the number one way to get cheap and free flights, and all of us do it. Play the game well and you can earn enough points and miles to pay for entire flights, both domestic and international. It does, however, take some dedication and work to get it right.

10. Make stopovers – and mix and match airlines


If you’re willing to sacrifice a little haste, making a stopover on your journey is one of the best ways to find flights for less. Play it right with a long enough stopover and it can even feel like extending your trip to include another destination. While you’re at it, try mixing and matching airlines, as booking individual flights for each with different carriers will often save you money. If you’re not stopping for a proper visit, make sure you leave at least three hours between flights to cater for delays. You’re booking separate flights rather than connections, so carriers won’t wait for you!

My last tip here is to take only carry-on luggage for such trips, as having to collect your bags for each leg can be a royal pain in the… Planning stopovers can be tedious and time consuming to research, but there is a more fun way to approach it using a dedicated tool. Just add where you’re going, pick any other places you want to visit on your route and then use KAYAK Trip Builder to find the cheapest flights between them. It even shuffles the order of your destinations to create the most efficient and cheapest itinerary!

11. Use KAYAK Flight Search to find the cheapest flights

Not all search engines are created equal, so spending hours trawling different sites to get discount flights is time wasted. KAYAK is a dedicated travel search engine that compares hundreds of airlines across hundreds of travel sites to help you find cheap flights. Choice is the keyword here. When you search for flights on KAYAK you get access to a range of smart tools to tailor your trip and find cheap flights at the same time.

Tools like the Fee Assistant show you how flight costs change according to baggage and credit card fees, meaning no hidden extra costs or surprises when it comes to paying. Filter options allow you to select everything from cheaper red-eye flights to take-off and landing times based on the best price. These tools live on the left hand side of every KAYAK search results page.

12. Don’t waste your time on travel myths

Despite what many travel websites and blogs claim, there isn’t any one magic hack that will guarantee you a cheap flight. Heard that you should only book your flight on a Tuesday? Wrong! A legacy of when airlines would make their fares available at predetermined times, today it makes no difference what day you book.

Search across lots of devices using incognito mode to find cheap flights? Waste of time! Prices are set by complex algorithms, not by the device or browser you’re using. Check out the video below to learn more.

The simple moral of this story is that you can’t control the prices you see. All you can do is take the smart approach: follow the tips and use the KAYAK tools I’ve laid out in this article. That way you’ll travel safe in the knowledge you got a cheap price with minimum hassle. Bon voyage!

How was this guide created?

A person stands by a glass window, smiling as they gaze outward.

Cheap flights are our raison d’être. Our global team is made up of researchers, data scientists, coders, engineers and designers whose sole aim in life is to build the best travel engine to help you find cheap flights. The fact that we’re all dedicated travelers only helps with our motivation because we want the same thing you do: cheap, convenient and fast flights that open up the world to explore.

Inspired to travel somewhere new? Read our guide to trending travel destinations in 2023. Love a travel bargain? Then you’ll also love our guide to cheap last-minute flights and tips on how to find deals on business class tickets.

Some of our favorite cheap flight routes

This post is part of our Flight guide. Want to make sure you get the most out of your trip? Find everything you need to know about flying in our guide.

FAQ about cheap flights

With lots of tools and filters to customize your search and take the legwork out, KAYAK is your place to find cheap flights. Of course, we would say that – but the simple fact is, it’s true. KAYAK trawls hundreds of airlines across hundreds of travel engines to find the best airfares for your needs.

The big thing to consider when flying internationally is what season your destination is in. If you’re flying long haul, it could be high season to your low season and that will bump prices. It’s always better where possible to travel in the off or shoulder season.

Try our new Best Time to Travel tool that uses your origin, destination and length of trip to determine when you should travel and when to book for a great price.

The best way to get a cheap domestic flight is to plan your trip several months in advance, choose your route and then set up a price alert that will send you an email every time your ticket price drops. You can set it to specific travel dates or, if you’re flexible on when you fly, to let you know price drops over a longer period – which will likely save you even more!

Setting up a price alert on KAYAK so you always know when the cost of a flight price goes down is quick and easy. It can also save you hundreds of dollars in ticket prices if you set it up early and use it properly.

If you know where you’re flying from and to, and have set dates or a travel window in mind, setting up a KAYAK price alert is as simple as flicking a switch. For a step-by-step guide on how to set up a price alert in the KAYAK app or online, read our article on how KAYAK Price Alerts get you the best travel deals.

Among the many perks of being a student, discounts on flights is a great one. Student travel programs and rates can give you big discounts on flights if you know where to look. For the full lowdown on how to save, read our article on student travel programs.

About the author

Duncan MaddenDuncan is a freelance travel writer, copywriter and book author in constant search of travel stories and the perpetual sensation of being on holiday. He’s never happier than when on a dusty trail in search of empty waves or ducking under the piste tape in search of snowbound solitude. British born, living in Germany, but happiest heading for the horizon. His first book, Found in Translation, explores the etymologies and stories of country names around the world and is out now.

Explore more articles