Travel Hacks: How to Find Cheap Flights

Curious to know how nomads seem to effortlessly travel across the world? Here’s our top tips and travel hacks to find cheap flights!

If you’re a digital nomad or budget-savvy traveler, listen up because these tips will change how you travel.

Being a digital nomad is awesome, but this lifestyle can become costly if you’re not strategic with booking accommodation and transport. 

I spent nearly a decade chasing cheap flights and booking my next trip based largely upon what I could get for free (or cheap!). 

Can you believe I paid $0 dollars (yes, Z-E-R-O), on international flights for six years, leveraging credit card points and the travel hacks below? While I may have gotten a little lax with using credit card points, I always use a few nifty tricks when booking my flights. 

If you’re a digital nomad with a flexible schedule and open-mind towards your next destination, you’ll greatly benefit from our suggestions below, finding short-leg flights for under $100 USD as you ping pong around the world. 

Here’s everything I’ve learned and every you should know before booking your next flight, including my personal checklist of how I begin my flight search.

Here's My Travel Hacks for How to Find Cheap Flights

These are my top tips and money-saving strategies to help digital nomads like you save on your next flight.

1. Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates

The easiest way to find cheap flights is by following #1, #2 and #3 on this list.

If you’re flexible with your dates, the possibilities of scoring a cheap flight increase exponentially. Many search engines such as Skyscanner or Google Flights have the ability to search with a flexible date range, including any month and cheapest month. If I have a specific location in mind, this is the method I use first.

I combine this with other methods such as understanding pricing strategy, using a VPN, clearing my cache, booking on a certain day of the week, and more.

We’ll get into all of these below!

Travel Hacks How to Find Cheap Flights_ - Skyscanner Flexible Dates
Skyscanner's Flexible Date Option

2. Be Open Minded About Your Destination

If you’re open minded about your destination, you’re guaranteed to find a cheap flight! This is how I’ve travelled affordably for so long and also how we recently left Bali.

Whether you’re keen to visit a variety of destinations (#3), quickly capitalize on a hacker fare (#13), or have a handful of locations that you’re looking to manually compare, having an open mind as to the destination and available deals is a game changer for finding cheap flights.

My personal favorite way of doing this is the ‘Everywhere’ function (#3) below.

3. Use the 'Everywhere' Function

This is my favorite way to find affordable flights!

The Skyscanner ‘Everywhere’ and Google Flights ‘Anywhere’ features allow you to search all global destination options as well as flexible dates. Then, the cheapest countries are shown and you can click into them to find the cheapest city. 

This is how we booked our flight to Vietnam in early 2024. We searched for flights from Bali to ‘Everywhere’ in the upcoming few months and found the cheapest locations to be Indonesia (as expected), Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. We clicked into Vietnam and saw Hanoi was cheaper than Ho Chi Minh, so we booked the flight from Bali to Hanoi.

You can see the steps below.

Also note: There’s a filter for a variety of elements such as direct flights, duration, departure time, and more. If you’re close to other airports, you can select ‘Add Nearby Airports’ to add those as departing options.

Travel Hacks How To Find Cheap Flights - Step 1
1 - Explore Everywhere
Travel Hacks How to Find Cheap Flights - Step 2
2 - Cheapest Countries
Travel Hacks How to Find Cheap Flights - Step 3
3 - Cheapest Cities
Travel Hacks How To Find Cheap Flights - Step 4
4 - Cheapest Date
Travel Hacks How To Find Cheap Flights - Step 5
5 - Cheapest Flight

4. Understand Pricing Strategy

Airlines use a pricing strategy called dynamic pricing, and this is key to learning how to find cheap international flights.

Dynamic pricing means that the price of a flight ticket can change multiple times in a day based on demand, the day of the week, the time of the year, and other factors.

Understanding this can help to identify when it might be best to book a flight. Typically, flight prices are lower on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and higher on weekends.

5. Use a VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) is technology that disguises the location of your computer’s IP.

This is helpful if you’re in America but looking for flights in SE Asia. It may be more advantageous to appear like you’re already abroad and in a ‘cheaper’ country, as airlines sometimes offer different prices based on where you’re searching from.

I personally use NordVPN because of its insane two year pricing and discount, but check out all top choices for VPNs on our travel planning resources page so you can decide which you think is the best.

Bonus: VPNs help keep your computer secure including passwords, banking details, and more.  They also provide access to banned or restricted sites such as Netflix and Vimeo.

6. Clear your Cache, Cookies, and Search History

Yes, there’s another reason to clear your browsing history… 😜

Whenever you perform a search for flights or hotels on any website that drops a cookie on your computer… it will adjust the price because it knows you’ve returned to take another look. In other words, you’re a ready-to-buy customer in their eyes, and they can risk a price increase.

Its wise to clear your cache, cookies, and search history. 

A quick Google search for how to do this for your browser (i.e, Google Chrome, Safari, etc) will show you the exact steps. It’s simple and takes less than one minute to give you a ‘fresh start’ when searching online. 

7. Search in Incognito Mode

Similarly, once you’ve cleared you cache, cookies, and history, it’s smart to search in an incognito or private browser so your history isn’t tracked

If you do not know what this means, a quick Google search on how to use a private browser (unique to the internet provider you’re using) will tell you the exact steps to open a new private tab.

Again, this is super simple and takes ten seconds to do.

8. Compare Various Search Engines (but not too often)

There are so many ways to look for flights.

While my personal favorites are Skyscanner and Google Flights, it may be smart to check others as well as directly with the airline too, as sometimes this is even cheaper than the search engine rates. Other popular search engines are Kayak, MomondoKiwi, CheapoAir, and Hopper.

>> Here’s a list of our favorite flight search engines and how we use each one. <<

9. Limit Multiple Searches for the Same Flight

If you’re like me and constantly check if prices have dropped or there are new flight options, try your best to refrain from this!

While enticing, re-searching for the same flight makes the airline believe there’s an increase in demand and therefore they increase the price – not quite the outcome you were hoping for!

This happened to us when we were booking Vietnam.

I got so excited looking for alternative dates, cities, and departure times, that the prices kept increasing every time I went back to look. In the end, our flights were nearly double the original cost. And yes, I had to bite the bullet and book them.

Do yourself a favor and be patient.

Check once using these techniques, understand average prices, and only check again if and when you’re ready to book at that rate. 

10. Search on a Tuesday

I’m still not sure if this is an old wives tale, but it’s worked out for me so far, so I do it anyway….

It’s said that searching on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the day rather than the evening or at weekends offers more attractive rates, as that’s when the least people are searching for flights and driving up the demand.

Give it a go if you like.

11. Book Early or Super Last-Minute

Flight prices usually increase as the departure date approaches.

Book your flight six to eight weeks in advance or about three months if traveling during the peak season.

If you’re super last minute, you might find an epic deal, but this is only for the die hard traveler willing to risk it. 

12. Utilize Cheap Flight Newsletters

Websites like Going, Secret Flying, and The Flight Deal send out email newsletters listing loads of cheap international flights. I love that they are delivered directly to your inbox too – no hunting!

With Going, select your home airport for tailored flight deals and discounts.

Secret Flying has a variety deals that are 50% to 90% off the standard prices set by the airline.

And The Flight Deal gives hacker fares and glitches that are usually extremely reduced but only available for 24-48 hours

Whether you’re on the hunt for a specific city or open to any deal, it’s always helpful to have these sent directly to your inbox. 

13. Leverage Credit Card Hacking (using miles & points)

While this would require an entire article (or website) to explain, if you have any curiosity about cheap or free flights using credit card points or airline miles, credit card churning or travel hacking should be the next thing you Google.

The Points Guy does an excellent job explaining this topic on his website.

Many credit cards in America have sign up bonuses when you spend a certain amount within the first few months, which can usually pay for a free flight!

Also, points can be earned in a lucrative way through strategic spending and credited for travel through a redemption portal.

Whether you earn credit card points or airline points (through travel or an airline-branded credit card), each of these can be used for free or reduced flights, and free upgrades

Consider opening a travel rewards credit card or registering for a frequent flyer program with a particular airline or airline alliance. We’ve listed some of our favorites here.

How to Find Cheap International Flights
The view is even better when the flight is free

14. Book One-Way Flights

Most travelers opt for return flights to go ‘home’, but digital nomads have the luxury of booking one-way.

While it’s not usually advantageous if you need a return flight (as the two legs are usually cheaper when booked together), it’s a great hack when you’re open-minded with your dates or destination, as one-way flights can be discounted for certain places. 

Remember to check the visa requirements of the country you are traveling to, as some countries require proof of onward travel.

15. Consider Nearby Airports

Usually listed as an option on search engines, checking the ‘Add Nearby Airports’ option may result in cheaper fares.

Obviously only do this if the airport is actually nearby. If you need to pay for an expensive taxi to get you to another airport, it will most likely negate the savings.

16. Book Connecting Flights Separately

When you purchase a long haul flight with multiple legs, it may help to book each leg separately.

While I don’t love doing this, I will if and when I’m committed to the route but not interested in the flights that are presented when booked together. 

However, be aware that if one flight is delayed or canceled, it will impact the rest of your travels and the airline will not help. The same applies for transferring your bags.

Note: If you book separate connecting flights, double check that you do not need to change airports. Some countries have an international airport and local airport about 30 minutes from each other and book through them interchangeably. 

17. Embrace Layovers

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card like I do, then layovers are a dream come true with free lounge access. Imagine free food, drinks, showers, and sometimes even a sofa or bed!

If you don’t mind the extra travel time, choose a flight with a layover to save money while getting the opportunity to explore a new city.

Websites like cleverlayover or Airwander can help to strategically plan layovers as part of your trip.

18. Don't Fear Budget Airlines (but know the hidden costs)

Ooph, budget airlines can be rough but the savings can be huge!

The things that make budget airlines ‘not so enjoyable’ are usually the added fees, no or limited meal options, no checked baggage allowance, poor entertainment, and compromised leg room. 

If you’ve to sit through a six hour flight or less, we’d encourage you to suck it up, especially if you’re traveling with only a carry-on, as the savings can be huge on budget airlines.

We flew to Vietnam for $80 USD each (and that was after the rates doubles from my excessive searching). 

Just be aware that they may charge extra fees for things like luggage, in-flight beverages, and meals, so always read the fine print before booking your flight.

19. Travel Light

Almost all airlines provide allow large carry on bags (i.e., small rolling suitcase or 46 liter backpack) and a personal item such as a backpack, laptop bag, or handbag. 

While budget airlines may require you to fit your handbag into your carry on, usually it’s more than enough room for your belongings.

I’m currently traveling the world with only a 46 liter bag, giving enough clothes (and shoes) for all the seasons. See picture below!

A top money saving hack for cheap flights is to keep your added fees at a minimum, including checked baggage fees. Traveling with only carry-on baggage can save you tons of money!

Max has been traveling with the same carry on backpack for over a decade!

Backpack 2013
Europe Trip (2013)
Backpack 2023
SE Asia (2023)

20. Be Aware of Additional Fees

As we mentioned before with budget airlines, it’s important to check what’s included (and what’s not) in your fare.

Added fees for things such as checked baggage, in-flight meals and beverages, seat selection, and more can add up quickly

21. Consider All Ticket Types

Many people don’t realize, but there are lots of different ways to book flight tickets.

Different ticket types, such as return tickets, Around the World tickets, Open Jaw tickets, and student tickets, may offer different prices. Experiment with various ticket types to find the best deal for you.

For us, it’s usually one way flights using a flexible date or destination option that perform best. 

22. Consider Flying on Holidays

If you’re away from home and don’t mind missing holiday celebrations, it may be a smart time to travel.

Flights usually do not fill up on the holiday, but rather, immediately before or after. There’s often a deep discount for flying on days such as Christmas or New Years Day.

23. Book Flights During Sale Periods

You’ll need to put these dates in your calendar ahead of time, but if you know of an upcoming trip, then these sale days are the perfect time to book (if you’re quick with your selection).

Do a bit of research beforehand using the methods above (clear cache and cookies, private browser, etc.) so you’ve already done your research and ready to book on the day of the sale. 

Airlines often have sales during certain times of the year, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or their anniversary.

Keep an eye out for these sales to get cheaper flights.

24. Use Flight Price Tracking Tools

Finally, using flight tracking tools such as Google Flights or Hopper can track flight prices and notify you when prices drop.

These are very helpful when you’re planning for a flight in the medium-to-long term and have time to wait for flight fluctuations. 

My Personal Method for Finding Cheap Flights

We’ve touched on a lot of of techniques above. For me, this is what I do to book my flights. 

  1. Clear cache, cookies, and browser history. I have Google Chrome – the instructions can be found here

  2. Open Incognito or private browsing window. Again, I have Google Chrome and the instructions can be found here

  3. Open Skyscanner and search from my destination (and nearby airports if applicable) on a one-way ticket to ‘Everywhere’. I search using the flexible month function and select the month which I think I will be traveling to see the cheapest countries and rates. Usually 1-3 countries stand out with favorable rates. 

  4. I may complete another search to ‘Everywhere’ using the previous or following month to see if rates or countries change drastically. 

  5. Mentally select which country and month stand out, and open that country/month to see the rates for each city. Assess which city is best for my travel needs and if the price is favorable compared to the other cities. Click into the city to see a monthly calendar of rates.

  6. Again, assess the rate fluctuations and dates. Determine with date(s) are best for my travel needs, and click into the date to see flight options. 

  7. If possible, select direct flights or flights with favorable layovers and connecting options using the filters on the side to adjust for flight duration, departure time, etc. 

  8. Sort flights from cheapest to most expensive. Click the flight that appeals to me (usually the cheapest!).

  9. After this, I often go onto Google Flights to crosscheck the costs and options, as they sometimes offer different rates, routes, or prices.

  10. Finally, I check the airlines website for rates as well. 

**I do not close any browsers during this search.

I often go back to Skyscanner and book through one of the third-party providers. They look sketchy and not well-rated, but they are legitimate booking sites.

I have had issues with my credit card not being approved when booking from Asia, so using a VPN set to America has been helpful.

Also, I’ve had issues getting to the checkout point and the site refreshing to new, very expensive rates. I haven’t found the workaround for this yet, so if you know it, please share it in the comments below.

This has been my experience with these sites, but I’d love to hear from other travelers and nomad legends if you have better tips or more effective practices!

So, which of these travel hacks will you use to find your next cheap flight?

We’d love to hear from you!

What works, what doesn’t, and what do you recommend? 

While we have what works for us, it takes the entire #DNGCollective to build a wealth of knowledge and that means learning from each other. Please share your tips in the comments below. 

See you out there!

Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.
Picture of Max Pankow
Max Pankow
Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.

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