Unconventional Travel Hack for Cheaper Flights
Inflation is everywhere these days, travel included. Everything is more expensive so if I can find a way to get a deal, I’ll go for it. Even if it sounds a bit out there.
I collect travel points. I’ll be flexible on travel dates and times of day. I travel during the shoulder season. I’ll sometimes even book long-haul flights as separate segments. For example, last June, to get from St. John’s to Lisbon I booked a round-trip flight to Toronto on points and then booked a flight from Toronto to Lisbon on TAP, which was cheaper than Air Canada (my only option if I’d booked the whole thign from St. John’s). I’ve also done this when going to Europe, booking a flight to London and then using a European discount airline to get to my final destination. Whatever gets me a better price.
I’ve got a bit of a different hack for you today when it comes to getting the best price possible on flights.
Contrary to popular belief, prices of things don’t always go up…sometimes things like flights go down. Prices are known to fluctuate and it’s hard to know exactly when you should book to get the best deal.
This hack won’t work for everyone or every ticket but if you get lucky, you could save hundreds.
Here’s how it works: be willing to cancel flights you’ve already booked and rebook when the price drops.
Look for an airline that has no or low change fees
I know what you’re thinking – “But flights aren’t refundable!” When I say cancel and rebook I really mean, make an itinerary change. Sounds scary but hear me out.
Back in 2020, United Airlines permanently got rid of change fees on domestic flights and to Mexico and the Carribbean. Delta has also gotten rid of change fees for flights originating from the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. American Airlines has no change fees for travel beginning in North or South America. Those are just the big three but if you search I bet you can find more. Canadian airlines aren’t so generous with the changes but it’s worth it to keep reading.
Previously, if you wanted to change your flight after you booked it, you could be looking at a cost of $100 or more plus the difference in the fare. Getting rid of the change fee is a bit of a game changer for those looking to hack the system.
Book a flight
Be sure to read the fine print of your ticket. Most airlines now have basic fare options that are quite restrictive and don’t allow any changes at all. That’s not what you want for this hack. Learn the rules of your airline and fare types and then learn how to make it work to your advantage.
I always use Google Flights to search for flight itineraries and prices. I like the interface and user experience to search various combinations of dates and airlines. I will always book my flight directly with the airline but Google can save me time going from airline to airline to compare.
Whatever tool you use, find a flight you’re happy with and go ahead and book it. Being content with your choice is key because there’s no guarantee that the price will drop.
Set up flight notifications for prices
One feature of Google Flights that I love is price alerts. You can set up a notification for your itinerary and have it track flight prices, then you’ll get an email if the lowest price available changes.
Google Flights is my favourite tool for finding flights, but you can also set up alerts on Skyscanner, Hopper, Going, Kayak, Airfarewatchdog, etc.
If the price drops, change your flight
If you’ve booked on an airline with no change fees and you get an alert that your flight has dropped in price, go ahead and change that flight. You won’t get a refund but you’ll get the difference in fare back in travel credit you can use for a future flight.
Important note: here’s where you’re going to need to know the rules of your airline. Do they allow cancellations or just changes? If it’s only itinerary changes then you’re only going to want to monitor the prices of the airline you booked your original ticket with. If they allow cancellations, like Delta, then go ahead and monitor them all, just be aware that you’ll have some money tied up in flight credit if you find a cheaper flight with a different airline.
Even if you’ve booked a flight on an airline that doesn’t allow free changes, keep an eye on those alerts, if there’s a big drop it still might be worth paying the fee and making the switch, especially if it’s an airline you fly with often so you know you’ll use the credit.
So to recap, know the rules, set up your alerts, and then be ready to act. Would you try this travel hack?