Flight Hacking: Affordable Flying When You Don’t Have Points or Miles

You may have heard of “travel hacking,” a concept that emphasizes turning earned miles into free flights. However, booking award travel isn’t an option for everyone; few people have war chests of miles at their disposal. (If you’re wondering how many you might have, check your balances using Point Tracker in TripIt Pro!)

That’s why learning to hack a flight without miles is a great skill for booking trips cheaply. “Flight hacking” allows anyone to save money and never pay full fare for a flight. Keep reading for tips to help you hack flights and afford a great trip – no matter how many (or few) frequent-flyer points you’ve accrued.

Flexible Dates
Being flexible on travel dates is one of the best ways to save money when booking a flight. If you’re planning a weeklong vacation, flying Saturday to Saturday is generally quite costly, while flying Tuesday to Tuesday can save you hundreds on the same route.  The biggest drawback here is those extra weekdays can sometimes mean using paid time off simply to save on airfare. When possible, search forward and backward a couple of days to see how much the fare varies and determine if flexible dates might work for you.

Fly Into Alternate Airports
Though you can search “nearby” airports on most online booking sites, try taking it a step further. If you’re looking to fly into Amsterdam from New York, search surrounding cities that may be a short train ride or budget flight away. There may be a flight into Brussels that is hundreds of dollars less, and it’s very close (and affordable) by train. Another scenario: You might be able to find a cheap flight to Dublin rather than Amsterdam, so you could book that round-trip ticket. From Dublin, book the budget flight to your final destination. Booking the connections yourself could save you a lot.

Create Fare Alerts
Search engines such Hipmunk and Airfarewatchdog allow anyone to sign up for fare alerts, which monitor the price of airfare between your origin and destination. Creating these alerts makes it easy to track the rise and fall of your flight’s price. When the fare dips to an all-time low, that’s your time to book. (Tip: Create fare alerts as far in advance as possible for best results!)

Check Multiple Sites
Don’t live by the “check one and done” motto. Fares will vary across many online travel sites. Be sure to check multiple sites before booking a flight. The difference may be small, but it is always smart to check the actual site of the airline for the flight you found along with a few of the top booking sites.

Flight Hacking Keys
Simple tactics such as flexible dates, alternative airports, and fare monitoring can save you a lot of money on flights. Never settle, and put in the time to find the best flights available. Hacking a flight without miles is possible, and will save you money that you can put towards other travel expenses to achieve your perfect trip.