How To Find Cheap Flights In The US

How To Find Cheap Flights | US Flight Deals | Cheap Flights | US Travel | Travel Deals | Save On Flights | Budget Travel | Click through to learn how to find cheap flights in the US!

Having lived abroad now for a few years, coming back to the US has been a challenge. It’s weird that people are so friendly in restaurants, I’m not used to tipping and I once got really angry at the man at CVS when my item rang up as more than the price tag, forgetting that tax isn’t included here. However, the biggest adjustment has been the flight prices. Coming from Europe, land of the affordable airlines, it was hard to stomach some of the flight prices.

Of course there are reasons for some of these prices. A flight from New York to LA probably won’t be very cheap, but it’s also much further than a quick hop from London to Berlin. Nonetheless, trying to find cheap flights in the US can be hard, but not impossible. My biggest mission on this blog is to encourage people to travel. Travel anywhere, travel often and get good deals. Since finding cheap flights in the US can be a bit of a challenge, I’d like to share some of my top tips.

Tips On How To Find Cheap Flights In The US

Trying to find cheap flights in the US is a burden a lot of people don’t want to take on so they just don’t do it. They either pay the price they find or they avoid flying altogether and this makes me sad. The whole flying experience can be fun and much quicker, so having the ability to find cheap flights is critical.

Be Flexible

I absolutely cannot stress this point enough. Usually, the reason people can’t find cheap flights is because they want to fly out or into one specific airport on a particular day at a particular time. If you have these restrictions, you’re just going to have to pay what the price is. Being able to find cheap flights in the US doesn’t make me a wizard. Finding cheap flights isn’t magic, you have to work at it and you have to want it.

So rather than saying I must fly out of this airport because it’s more convenient, try looking at the one a bit further away, or be more flexible with your time of day and consider whether you can move the dates around. If you can do this, you’ll be well on your way to finding some great flight deals.

Use Credit Cards

I know some people don’t like credit cards and that’s ok, but it’s important to consider them because they can offer you some great benefits. I’ve written about airline credit cards and hotel and cashback credit cards before so if you don’t know where to start, those posts may help you.

So how can credit cards help you find cheap flights in the US? Well, a couple of ways. For starters, you get points through these credit cards that you can redeem on various airlines. On some airlines, like Delta, you can even pay with miles, meaning you can redeem the miles you have for a discount rather than requiring the full amount of miles for a full award flight.

With the Alaska Airlines credit card, you get a companion fare, which is essentially two for one and this is great for traveling couples. If you sign up now, there’s an offer to only pay the taxes and fees on the companion fare versus the regular $99. Don’t be afraid to explore how credit cards can help you find cheap flights in the US.

Use The Right Tools

Sites like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Skyscanner and the like are all great and can help you find some great deals, but a lot of finding cheap flights is about using the right tools. Personally, I love Google Flights and the ITA Matrix Airfare Search.

Google Flights is great for searching when you want to go somewhere but don’t care where. Put in your departure airport, set a price limit and view the map to see where you can go. Most times I don’t have a particular destination in mind, I just want to travel somewhere so using Google Flights is the perfect way to see all my options without needing to constantly change the destination.

The Matrix is another fantastic site that’s great for finding cheap flights because of the flexibility aspect. What I love most about this is you can look at whole calendars and see the prices for the flights you’re interested in and can easily see in one image what days are cheaper over others. It’s so much easier than searching each day individually.

Check Individual Airline Websites

Another way to make sure you’re not missing out on cheap flights is to check the airline’s actual website rather than search through a search engine. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, there will be some great prices on the site that weren’t showing up in the search engines. This is especially true for budget airlines like Southwest or Jet Blue.

On this note, Momondo is a good flight search engine because it does include the budget airlines, whereas many of the traditional flight search engines do not.

Don’t Forget About The Other Budget Airlines

There are other budget airlines out there other than Southwest and Jet Blue so don’t neglect them. This includes Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country and even Virgin America.

Don’t Be Afraid To Connect

Sure, connecting can be a bit of a hassle, but sometimes it can save you a lot of money rather than flying direct. Just like it’s helpful to be flexible with your destination, days and times, it’s also really helpful to be flexible with your route. Sometimes the cheapest fare is going to be the one with the connections.

You will all have your own limit on what you’re willing to do for a cheap flight. Michael and I have connected four times, hopping continents to get to our destination if we have to and we enjoy that, but others may think of nothing worse and would rather pay the premium to avoid it. That’s ok! Cheap flights are subjective and it’s all about what you view as worth it.

Piece Together Itineraries On Multiple Airlines

Some of the best ways to save money are to piece together cheap flight to cheap flight to get where you want to go. However, I say this with caution because when you’re not on the same ticket you’re liable for any missed flights or mishaps. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but if you’re not comfortable with it, don’t do it because you’ll only spend the whole journey a nervous wreck.

What do I mean by piecing together your itineraries? Say you want to fly from Boston to Chicago. Your flight directly from Boston to Chicago may cost you $240, but maybe you can get to New York for $50 and then the New York to Chicago flight is only $130. That means you’d save $60 on your trip. These are obviously example fares and you may save less and there’s the possibility to save much more. Just remember this is always an option to find cheap flights in the US and can ultimately save you a lot of money.

The following is an example of how you may save money by splitting your itinerary.

In this instance, splitting your itinerary from DC to Chicago via Cincinnati on Southwest and Delta would cost you approximately $118, whereas a nonstop flight from the ideal airport would cost you nearly $170.

**This was just a quick one way search to demonstrate my point, I’m not guaranteeing this is the best deal out there and of course these prices are subject to change since I wrote this post. 

Use Student Or Youth Discounts If Applicable

If you’re under 26, you may be eligible for cheaper fares. You can search these prices on STA Travel. Personally, I don’t care much for STA Travel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have decent deals. When we traveled to Australia for our working holiday, we booked one way fares through STA because they offered a better one way fare than anyone else.

Don’t Forget To Credit Your Miles

There’s nothing that pains me more than when people fly but then don’t credit the miles. While that one flight isn’t going to get you very far on its own, you don’t have to do anything to get them so you might as well. Then you might find you want to get that airline’s credit card or you fly them for a big trip and suddenly you’re only 400 miles short of a redemption that you would have had if you had just credited those earlier flights.

Also, don’t forget that airlines have partners and you can usually redeem on other airlines so do you research to make sure you’re signing up for the best possible program. For example, British Airways and American Airlines are partners, but more often than not I’ll credit my miles to BA to redeem on American because it’s better value.

Know Your Budget

So many people look for flights and want a good deal but have no budget in mind. While you need to be realistic, going into the search with absolutely no idea of how much you want to pay will make it even harder to make a decision. Knowing what you’re searching for will make the process simpler, easier and less painful.

Even better, go into it with a specific price range and once you find a price and itinerary you’re happy with, book it and be done with it.

Ultimately, being able to find cheap flights in the US will take some research. You can’t just expect to do a quick search for one thing and find the best deal. You need to be flexible and willing to put in the effort, but just remember there are no set rules and there’s not always rhyme or reason for airline pricing.

These tips and tricks will usually help you find cheap flights in the US, but sometimes you’re never going to do better than an ok deal and that’s fine! It doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong or you’ve not tried hard enough, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Don’t beat yourself up, but employing some of these tips into your regular flight searches will help you find better deals overall and save you more money in the long run.

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  • This is excellent! I always use my Southwest credit card to earn flight points, and their flexible calendar is great for planning cheaper times to fly as well. Thanks for the tips!

    • I’m glad you found it helpful, Clarissa! And it’s great you have one of the airline credit cards, they’re more useful than people think!

  • Great points. I’m a huge Google Flights fan myself and often just find myself creating fake itineraries. Being flexible is key and I miss living in NJ because I had SO many airports at my disposal.

    • I’m glad you liked it, Courtney! I do that too all the time with Google Flights haha. It must have been awesome in NJ though!! In DC we’ve got three, but they’re not nearly as conveniently located as all your airports in/near NJ!

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  • Carly Ned

    These are such great tips! I’m always trying to find ways to save a little $$$ on flights.

    • I’m glad you liked them, Carly! I hope you do save money on some flights!

  • I get that, Becky! I try to avoid it when I can, but sometimes it’s worth it and building in a huge layover when the savings are quite so much, but it’s definitely not for everyone. And I’m glad you liked it! Credit cards are by far my FAVORITE way to save money on flights and hotels!

  • Aysha

    Really great informative post. I agree that being flexible is the key, I love Google Flights and Skynscanners ‘everywhere’ options so you can check out the cheapest deals.

    • Thanks, Aysha! I totally agree, that’s my favorite feature on those sites. For me just going anywhere is what’s important and very rarely am I thinking I absolutely must go to one specific place at one specific time.

  • Aurelia Teslaru

    This is such a well documented article! All the info is really useful! I always try to get the best prices for flights!

    • I’m glad you liked it, Aurelia! Finding the best flight prices can be hard, not certainly not impossible!

  • These are some fantastic tips!! Wish we had better airline alliance cards in the UK! Momondo and Skyscanner are always my first search options and google flights is so helpful!

    • Thanks, Katie! Google Flights is totally my favorite!

  • Good suggestions, also for Europe! We always book with credit cards and try to be as flexible as we can with our trips, yet I keep on forgetting to credit our miles. That has to change like… now!

    • Oh noooooo!! That makes me so sad hahaha. I hope you do start crediting them!

  • These are such great tips! I didn’t live in Europe but was traveling around there for a while and now can’t stomach the flight prices back in the US. I think being flexible is key, and I agree that credit cards can really help! I’ve gotten several tickets for free because of them.

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

    • YES that’s exactly how I felt! But credit cards are the best, they can help save you so much money.

  • Jin Chu

    Great, straight-to-the-point article! My husband does all these things, too, as he’s the planner!

    • I’m glad! My husband helped me learn a lot about this stuff as well! 🙂

  • WanderingRedHead

    Lots of great tips here. I learned a few new things so that’s always exctiting!

  • Great tips! I love using ITA Matrix as well. I love using Kayak Explore too.

    • Yes me too! It’s just great because I really am happy to go anywhere, it’s just about going somewhere.

  • Nerissa

    Thanks for the great tips, I love the one about being flexible! And using a credit card, yes, totally agree about the benefits you get from them.

    • Credit cards are so great! They’ve honestly given me so many more travel opportunities I never would have had.

  • Tasha Jacqueline

    You’ve written some great tips for getting cheaper flights. I wish I could be more flexible with booking flights but as I’m a teacher I am a limited to school holidays where the most expensive flights are. I have never credited miles for any flights but I’ve heard about people doing this. I’ll have to look into it.

    • Ah, that makes sense, Tasha! But you should definitely look into crediting miles! It’s totally worth it because you never know when they’ll add up to become something useful for you.

  • Erin Leigh

    Awesome tips here. The hardest one for me is being flexible! I always know exactly when my vacations from work are and schedule super strictly around that. Happy to see some other awesome tips here I can utilize (I really need to get a travel credit card!)

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