From shopping around on comparison sites to booking a certain number of days in advance, there are a number of ways to find cheap flights.
But some methods are more successful than others.
To find the most effective ways to save money on airfare, Business Insider consulted frequent flier and points expert Gilbert Ott, whose air miles site God Save the Points offers advice on how to making flying more affordable.
Here are his top three tips:
1. Understand the value of your ticket
It may seem obvious, but most people are quick to book a flight without bothering to look up the average price for their route.
“Many times people just go for sticker price. They will do one search and they will see £700 [$908],” Ott said. “They should look at the calendar for the month or the next couple of months just to see how low it can go, so that at the very least [they] understand the value.”
Ott recommends using more intuitive tools like Google Flights, which shows users how much money they could potentially save by flying a few days before or after their preferred dates, and allow users to track prices and sign up for alerts when the fare changes.
Being flexible with travel dates is the best way to save money, according to Ott. “Even if you can’t take [more flexible options], you should know what the real price is for that route,” he said.
2. Browse deal sites
While it’s easy to search for flights with different airlines in one place, comparison sites don’t always yield the cheapest results.
As well as looking at airline websites for special offers that you can book directly, Ott suggests monitoring flight deal sites regularly to catch flash sales as they appear. In addition to his own site God Save the Points, where he often posts links to 24-hour deals, Ott recommends looking at Secret Flying and The Flight Deal.
To fully reap the benefits of cheap travel, it’s important to “plug into that kind of community,” he said.
3. Collect — and use — air miles
“If you really want a cheap ticket, don’t pay for it. Use miles. That is brutally important.”
It’s no surprise that Ott — who said that he signed up for his first frequent flier account at the age of 12 — thinks “everyone should have miles.”
While earning miles might seem like a lot of work, for Ott, it’s the most successful way to save money on flying and could even help you get upgraded to first or business class. He also says it’s easy to do, and explained the three key ways to earn miles — two of which don’t require flying.
Of course, the first way to earn miles is through flying. Though Ott admitted that this is, in fact, “the worst way to earn miles,” since “you get less than a mile [in terms of air mile value] for every mile you fly.”
The second way is to sign up for a credit card that lets you earn miles as you spend on everyday items, from household goods to a cup of coffee. “Eventually those transactions add up,” Ott said, meaning you can put them toward your next flight.
The third, “most overlooked” way to earn miles is by doing online shopping through airlines’ websites, which reward users with airline miles for the purchases they make through their shopping portals.
“I think frequent flier miles is a really bad term,” he said. “You don’t have to be a frequent flier or even a flier at all to earn the rewards that will get you free travel.”
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