How to Get the Cheapest Flights Online — the Ultimate 2020 GuideLast Updated by Julia Olech on October 12, 2020
While there are many basic saving tips like avoiding peak travel season or booking tickets a few months in advance, they don’t always guarantee big discounts.
After testing dozens of popular methods, I compiled a list of 9 tricks that actually helped me find multiple cheap fares for my next holiday. If you want a quick answer: connecting to a VPN server is the most reliable way for guaranteed lower priced plane tickets. NordVPN is my top recommendation as it offers great browsing speeds that helped me find and buy the cheapest flight deals in record time! You can even try it for free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee.
Quick Guide: How to Get the Cheapest Flights Online
- Change Your Local Flight Deals With a VPN
- Delete Cookies and Browse in Incognito Mode
- Compare Travel Fares on Flight Comparison Sites
- Be Flexible With Your Arrival and Departure Dates
- Take Advantage of Airline Error Fares as Soon as They Appear
- Book Flights in Advance (but Not Too Far in Advance)
- Skip Unnecessary Flights With Hidden City Ticketing
- Book Tickets Directly With Budget Carriers
- Search for Individual Seats, Not Family Tickets
1. Change Your Local Flight Deals With a VPN
Airlines and travel companies personalize the deals and prices on their websites according to what country you’re connecting from. This usually means that booking flights from higher income countries like the US or Australia will cost more than from Ukraine or India. Luckily, you don’t have to travel anywhere to get cheaper flights — instead you can change your virtual location by using a VPN.
A VPN takes your internet traffic on a journey through a connecting town by rerouting all of your online data through a server in a different city or country. Using a connecting server hides the final destination of the traffic and tricks travel sites into thinking you’re in a completely different location. That’s because each server connection provides your device with a brand new IP address and complete traffic encryption that no one can break through. You can take advantage of lower fares just by switching to a different country server.
These server connections are extremely easy to set up. All you need to do is choose and download a reliable VPN client onto your device. Once you’re logged in, simply select a country that you’d like to connect to and begin searching for your next holiday!
Even though many VPNs require a subscription, you don’t have to commit to a long-term contract to get a better deal on flights. NordVPN offers its new customers a chance to put its features to the test for free for the first 30 days. It’s a completely risk-free opportunity that will help you save money to go toward your next trip.
2. Delete Cookies and Browse in Incognito Mode
Airlines and travel sites regularly monitor your browser cookies to check how often you visit their platforms and what flights you’re interested in. The more you search for a certain connection, the higher the fare is going to be. This is because your browser alerts all sites you visit that you’re looking to buy a ticket. As a result, the fares increase every time you check for prices — sometimes you only need to refresh the page to notice the price change!
Luckily, you can avoid this unfair treatment by clearing your cookies before you begin your hunt for cheap deals. It takes less than a minute to delete them from your browser’s settings and it’ll immediately provide you with a clean slate to find much lower fares.
Additionally, I highly recommend using Incognito mode after you clear your cookies as an additional form of anonymity. Since some sources claim this setting saves some cookies within your browser, it may not always help you land the best deals by itself. However, if you regularly remove cookies before you search, the travel fares you get are less likely to fluctuate.
3. Compare Travel Fares on Flight Comparison Sites
Flight comparison sites are a great option if you want to save money and time spent looking for deals yourself through different travel companies. The comparison platforms search for you by automatically sifting through airfares on dozens of airline sites to offer you the best deals possible. As a result, you can browse through available cheap fare prices on just one website instead of spending hours searching the web yourself. Some of the best comparison sites I regularly use include Kayak, Skyscanner, and Momondo.
Unfortunately, I found that no two flight comparison sites offered the same deal. During my search, I stumbled upon Cheap Flight Finder, a comparison platform that compares deals offered by other comparison sites. It works similarly as its regular competitors and requires you to input your desired arrival and departure details. The search engine then shows you a side-by-side list of the same route offered on different comparison sites rather than directly from airlines. This made it clear that even though some comparison platforms claimed to show me the best deal available, I could save further $20-$30 if I used another booking site.
4. Be Flexible With Your Arrival and Departure Dates
Flexibility with your travel dates makes a huge difference in finding the cheapest fares. Flying on weekends and in high-peak seasons during the summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays raises the price significantly. In other words — to save on your flights, you need to choose a time when not many people want to travel. Selecting a less popular traveling season, like October or March, will sometimes allow you to even pay half of the route’s regular price. That’s because all airlines want to fill up their planes during these low seasons and entice customers with extremely attractive fares.
Though you may have an idea of what type of holiday you’re looking for, you’ll save even more money by being flexible with your destination. Backward searching allows you to first check airlines or comparison sites for the cheapest season deals available and then you can decide where you’d want to go. This is possible due to varieties in peak seasons in different parts of the world. It may not be always a reasonable option for those who travel for specific family or work purposes, but it’s definitely worth considering if you’re not set on where you want to fly to.
5. Take Advantage of Airline Error Fares as Soon as They Appear
Error fares are simply extremely cheap plane tickets that appear on the airline site as a mistake. They can appear out of nowhere and depend on human error, technical glitches, or even wrong currency conversion. You can find a significant and unusual price drop compared to the usual rate, allowing you to book a too-good-to-be-true deal.
You can find information about the latest error fares online as they are shared by other travelers through social media and forums. However, the more people learn about it and utilize it, the more likely the airline will be alerted to fix within a few hours. If you stumble across one, don’t hesitate to book!
If you snatch an unbelievable deal through an airline error, be aware that the airline can choose to cancel and refund your booking. It isn’t extremely common as most carriers accept their mistakes and honor the error fares, but you should still wait at least 2 weeks after booking before making any further travel arrangements.
6. Book Flights in Advance (but Not Too Far in Advance)
To make finding low-priced fares even more difficult, airline companies often discount their tickets for only a certain period before they’re due for takeoff. That’s why booking extremely far in advance can cost you just as much as securing your seat last-minute. As a general rule, book your tickets 2-3 weeks prior to your departure on domestic flights (within your country’s borders). For long-distance international travel, you’re more likely to get better deals if you pay for your flights 5-6 months earlier.
Despite these time frames, there really isn’t a rule that will guarantee cheap deals before your travel day. Remember that the prices fluctuate regularly — so if you notice a good deal at any point, you should definitely go for it.
7. Skip Unnecessary Flights With Hidden City Ticketing
Hidden city ticketing means to get off at your layover location instead of the final point of the journey. Even though longer flights should be more expensive due to fuel costs and management, its total price can actually be a lot lower than booking a shorter direct flight to your destination. That’s because the fare costs depend more on the current demand and popularity of each route. For example, a flight from Los Angeles to Santorini with a connecting stop in London may cost $500, but a direct flight from Los Angeles to London may run at $800. You could utilize hidden city ticketing by booking the LA-Santorini route, but finish your journey when you get to England. Doing so would save you $300 that you could put towards your next holiday instead.
Although an incomplete journey goes against most airlines’ policies, it’s unlikely you’d ever get in trouble for missing your second flight. After all, many passengers regularly miss their flights due to various reasons, making it almost impossible for anyone to prove you intentionally skipped it.
8. Book Tickets Directly With Budget Carriers
You can get significantly cheaper plane tickets with low-fare airlines than with their pricier counterparts to offer various long-haul flights for a really competitive price. The most popular low-fare airlines that fly to almost all continents include Ryanair, EasyJet, Norwegian, WestJet, AirAsia, and IndiGo.
Budget carriers are also widely popular for their seasonal price drops and sales. Some even drop their prices to $5 per ticket! The latest deals and alerts about upcoming sales are usually sent out through emails and social media, so you should consider signing up to receive regular notifications.
Keep in mind that the ticket prices offered by budget carriers don’t include any extras — it’s simply a fare for your seat and a small carry-on bag. You’ll have an option to include additional check-in luggage, priority boarding, and insurance, but you may end up paying a lot more than the base fare. Many cheap airlines also charge you a hefty fee if you’d like to select a specific seat on a plane. This means that you may not be able to sit next to your travel companions unless you’re willing to pay extra.
9. Search For Individual Seats, Not Family Tickets
Airlines tend to mark up their prices if they detect you’re booking tickets for multiple people. That’s because group bookings trigger the airline’s AI code to find multiple seats next to each other and then base the final price on the most expensive seat. If you want to book 4 tickets and 3 of them cost $300, but the remaining one costs $400, the airline will multiply the highest price by the number of total tickets instead of adding them separately. These small extras quickly add up, meaning you end up spending a lot more money for group bookings than paying for multiple trips for yourself.
This can be avoided by buying each ticket separately, especially when you’re traveling with a big group of people. Even if you want all to sit together, you can book specific seats while going through the checkout — it’ll still work out cheaper than letting the AI pick your seats. It’s a more time consuming practice as you’ll have to go through the booking process multiple times, but it could save you even hundreds of dollars depending on a flight.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to book separate tickets for your children or those travelers who need additional assistance. As they need extra attention on board, you’ll have to book your own ticket at the same time as a proof they’re not traveling alone.
4 Best VPNs for Finding the Cheapest Flight Deals in 2020
- 5,000+ servers in 50+ countries to find savings on domestic and international flights from anywhere
- Extremely good encryption features to stop travel sites and airlines from finding out your actual location
- Connect to different servers on up to 6 devices at the same time to see which location offers the cheapest deals
- 24/7 online support available
- 30-day money-back guarantee
NordVPN is my top choice when it comes to looking for cheap travel fares as it allowed me to snatch amazingly low flight deals in less than 5 minutes. Even though connecting to a VPN server tends to slow down my connection by around 5Mbps, NordVPN managed to boost my base speed even by +6Mbps. My download speeds also remained extremely similar regardless of which location I connected to — even if the server was thousands of miles away from me! This was extremely useful as I didn’t have to deal with slower connections while browsing flight offers from India, Mexico, and Turkey. As it took less than 5 seconds to establish my server connections, I easily secured a return plane journey for me and my travel buddy for $40 less in almost no time at all.
Due to NordVPN’s user-friendly app interface, I found it extremely easy to switch between different locations. Its fully interactive map allows you to connect to a certain country by clicking on a blue pin attached to it. Alternatively, I could search for specific servers using the search bar or scrolling through a list of available locations. Even better: NordVPN allowed me to save my favorite servers to enable a much faster connection for each time I logged in. That way, I’m able to connect to the locations that offer the cheapest flights in under a minute without trying to remember where I snatched the best deals last time.
To check NordVPN’s security features, I connected to over 100 different servers and ran several IP and DNS leak tests. Each test showed location details of the server I was connected to, meaning my traffic was fully encrypted every single time. This prevented travel companies from knowing my actual location, tricking them into giving me a better deal as if I was in Vietnam instead of the UK.
Considering the large network of servers and reliable encryption features, NordVPN is very reasonably priced. However, you can still organize cheap flights without committing to a long-term contract. Try NordVPN’s services completely for free for the first 30 days and receive a refund if you decide it’s not for you. I tested its refund policy myself and asked to cancel my subscription after 25 days of trialing its features. After briefly explaining that I simply didn’t need the VPN anymore, the NordVPN live chat agent swiftly processed my request without a problem. The money arrived in my bank account after only 5 days.
NordVPN works on: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, routers, and more.
2. ExpressVPN — Best-in-Class Traffic Encryption to Protect Your Payment Details on All Travel Websites
- 3,000+ servers in 90+ countries to uncover low fares and save extra travel money
- Most advanced encryption technologies to successfully hide your IP and protect your online payment details
- Compare flight prices on up to 5 devices simultaneously
- 24/7 customer helpdesk available
- 30-day money-back guarantee
With its incredibly tough encryption features that are impossible to break through, ExpressVPN lands as my second favorite VPN. As hackers use various different methods to intercept your traffic and gather any private data, I was relieved to learn that ExpressVPN can fully protect my online purchases. My traffic was encrypted from its departure from my laptop to arrival at the airline websites, preventing anyone from seeing my online activity and credit card details. I tested over 60 different servers on their encryption capabilities and data leaks and all of them, reassuring me that ExpressVPN could guarantee total online anonymity.
Additionally, ExpressVPN quickly stopped my internet traffic whenever it detected a connection drop as I was switching servers. The kill switch worked to protect all information I sent online from being exposed to malicious actors by disabling any communication until I was safely reconnected to a VPN server. This also meant that airline companies wouldn’t automatically detect where I was connecting from by using the weak connection spots to collect cookies and change offered fares.
I was also really happy to see that ExpressVPN is very convenient to use on my Windows laptop as it allowed me to create specific shortcuts within its app. Also available on iOS, Mac, and Android, the shortcut feature meant I could link my favorite flight comparison sites (like SkyScanner and Kayak) directly with the VPN. That way, I could open them by clicking on the shortcut as soon as I set up my connection. It was extremely helpful particularly when I was switching between connections as I didn’t have to go back and forth between the app and my browser.
Even though ExpressVPN comes with a higher price tag, you can try its jet-setting services completely free of charge for 30 days. Unlike most other providers, ExpressVPN has a “no questions asked” policy, which means an agent won’t try to persuade you to stay when you ask for a refund. Skeptical at first, I connected to a representative on live chat after 29 days of using the provider. As soon as I said I wasn’t interested in continuing my subscription, the agent immediately processed my request. I received my refund 3 days later without an issue.
ExpressVPN works on: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, and more.
October 2020 Update: ExpressVPN has dropped prices so you can save up to 49%! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more deal information here.
- 1,700+ servers in 60+ countries to uncover all hidden deals and low travel fares
- Advanced encryption and double-server protection to keep your connection a secret
- Search for cheap flight deals on unlimited devices at the same time
- 24/7 live chat support available
- 7-day free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee
Surfshark’s MultiHop feature allowed me to reroute my traffic through not one, but 2 different VPN servers which provided double encryption to my server connections. This gave me an additional layer of anonymity, making it impossible for any travel site to detect my actual location in the UK. I tested it by connecting to servers in India through Singapore, then checking the IP addresses assigned. All tests showed that my traffic was in India, meaning the MultipHop feature worked seamlessly. This extra protection is also extremely useful when you’re booking flights online, as it makes it impossible for any of your payment details to be intercepted.
Though inconsistent, all Surfshark servers provided me with perfectly usable download speeds. While many servers in Asia were slower than others as they’re further away from me, I never struggled with finding cheap deals using connections from Vietnam or Thailand. The only difference I noticed was longer loading speeds as many sites took about 10 seconds to open. I didn’t find it an issue though because I knew it was a minor drawback to saving even a couple hundred dollars on my next escapade.
Unlike other vendors, Surfshark allowed me to connect as many devices as I wanted. After setting up different server connections on 3 Windows laptops, 2 Android phones, and 2 iPads, I was surprised to see my traffic speeds didn’t actually slow down. This meant I could share my Surfshark account with all of my travel companions without affecting my own browsing experience. All of us managed to get extremely cheap flights on our next getaway in under 10 minutes!
Surfshark is the only provider on my list that lets you try its services for free with a 7-day trial on Google Play or the App Store. If you prefer more time to browse flight deals, you can also try for free for 4 weeks by utilizing its 30-day money-back policy. I asked for a refund myself after using the vendor for 29 days — an advisor processed my request within a couple of minutes without any problems. The money was back in my bank account 7 days later, which meant I could save more toward my next travel fund.
Surfshark works on: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Firefox, and more.
- 6,400+ servers in 80+ countries to find the cheapest bookings possible
- Top-tier encryption and leak protection to avoid detection even on the most advanced travel sites
- Browse through low fares on up to 7 devices at the same time
- 24/7 online customer support available
- 45-day money-back guarantee
CyberGhost has the largest network of servers, making it a great choice for booking plane tickets at reduced prices. As it’s available in over 80 countries, it allowed me to choose servers in all locations that usually have the lowest airfares, like India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mexico, and more. This gave me a lot more options to choose from as other VPN providers often offer much more limited locations that significantly lowers your chances of finding a better deal.
Unfortunately, CyberGhost’s download speeds tend to be slower than its competitors. Servers in the US or Europe provided me with an average speed of 25Mbps, which meant I could still peacefully browse flights without much lag. However, any server outside those regions slowed down my traffic a lot more. This made it really frustrating as each site took a couple of minutes to load and lagged quite a lot. I still managed to find really cheap deals using servers in Vietnam and India, but I had to be a lot more patient with the slower speeds compared to other VPNs I tested.
You can make the most of the CyberGhost’s server network for free for 45 days with its money-back policy. I took advantage of this generous offer myself to test how much money the provider can help me save on travel. When the guarantee was almost over, I simply asked for a refund through live chat. After answering a few questions about why I wanted to cancel (I said I didn’t need it anymore), my request was processed within a couple of minutes and the money was back in my bank account after 7 days.
CyberGhost works on: Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Linux, Chrome, and more.
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FAQs on VPNs, Flights, and More
🤑 Can I use a free VPN to get a cheaper flight?
Theoretically speaking yes, you can use a free VPN — but I found that they generally didn’t work when I tried to book plane tickets. Even though there are some free VPNs that are worth considering, most of them didn’t really make a difference when I was looking for cheap flights.
This is mostly due to the fact that many free providers don’t have necessary resources to mask your IP address. During my tests, a majority of free VPNs actually leaked my traffic details, which alerted the airlines where I was actually connecting from. As a result, every site I visited could easily collect my cookies and location data and store it for the future to offer even higher fares the next time I checked.
When I finally found a VPN that successfully managed to hide my location, I was presented with a limited number of servers to choose from. As many free providers place their servers in highly demanded countries, like the US, the UK, or Australia, I couldn’t connect to many low-income countries. This highly impacted on how much I had to pay for my tickets and I had barely any options to get discounts. I also had to deal with incredibly slow connections as the available servers got overcrowded within less than 30 minutes. This made me so frustrated that I had to give up my search altogether as each website took over 6 minutes to load flight results.
Free VPNs also come with extreme security and privacy issues that are unacceptable especially when you use it while making payments. As a way of earning money, free providers not only collect all of your personal information you share, but also sell it for profit to third-parties, like advertisers and hackers. This puts you at great risk of becoming a victim to identity theft, money laundering, and other cyber attacks.
For guaranteed savings on your next flight, I definitely recommend using a premium VPN. If you aren’t willing to add another subscription to your bank account, you can make the most of flight savings by taking advantage of a money-back guarantee. NordVPN offers a zero-risk refund policy that lets you use its services for free for 30 days. This means that you’ll be able to browse and book as many cheap tickets as possible — and if you’re not fully satisfied, just ask for a refund!
😅 How do travel and flight companies always know my exact location?
Apart from regularly collecting and checking your cookies, airlines and travel companies gather details about your location from your:
- IP address — This is assigned to your router by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that handles your online traffic. It also allows your ISP and other third-parties, like websites and the government, to read your device’s location in real-time.
- WiFi permissions — Many travel websites automatically ask for this when you first visit them. It’s an optional choice, so be sure to reject it. This will prevent the sites from tracking your location using your WiFi connection.
- GPS-enabled devices — Various apps and sites can automatically read where you’re connecting from, even without your actual permission.
- HTML5 code — This is a specific geolocation coding that enables a website to find your location when using your personal device.
As many online websites now use a combination of different tracking methods, deleting your cookies may not always work in reducing unreasonably high ticket prices. Always use a combination of different methods alongside it to increase your chances at landing the best deal possible.
😇 Is using a VPN to get a cheaper flight deal legal?
Yes, booking cheap flights with a VPN is a fully legal practice that can help you save an extra bit of pocket money. All airlines and travel companies try to increase their profit margins by charging you based on the economy of your location. A VPN connection allows you to benefit from these price differences. The travel companies are still going to make money from your booking to cover all essential flight costs, whether you’re searching from San Francisco or Ljubljana.
🤓 How do I find the best servers for the lowest flight prices?
As a general rule, connecting to servers in low-income countries helped me find much cheaper plane tickets. It may sound too-good-to-be-true, but I tested this phenomenon myself to see how much I could save if I was booking from locations with varying economic status. I chose a couple of popular routes (Miami to Tokyo and New York to London Gatwick) and checked their prices for the same departure and arrival dates — 4th January and 10th January, respectively (typically prices are less expensive after the holidays). Then I used the currency conversion rate from today to change the displayed currencies into USD for appropriate comparison.
As I currently live in the UK, I connected to a server in London to see what my regular booking price would be on a flight from Miami to Tokyo. My Kayak search results showed that the lowest fare I could pay was about $777. If I didn’t know about dynamic flight prices and airline marketing strategies, I would have accepted this fare as my cheapest option. However, I rerouted my traffic through a server in Thailand and found out that the exact same route would cost me $684, meaning an almost $100 price drop.
In some cases, connecting to a server in the airline’s country also resulted in much cheaper flights. For example, to book a flight from New York to London Gatwick with Norwegian airlines, I connected to a server in Norway. Then the carrier allowed me to secure my seat for 8,300 Norwegian Krones, which converts to about $873. That same route would cost me $940 if I wanted to book my ticket through a server in Poland and about $1156 through a UK server. It’s an extremely noticeable difference that could determine if you even can afford to go on your dream holiday!
Unfortunately, using an IP address that was local to the airline didn’t always work as Ryanair showed me exactly the same price regardless of which country I connected to. It’s definitely a trial and error method that you’ll need to play around with before you learn which airlines offer the best deals.
🤩 Are the savings from using a VPN to book flights consistent?
As flight prices depend on the country you’re connecting from, different server locations will present you with various levels of savings.
Connecting to multiple low-income countries meant I could save money on fares, but the savings ranged from $10 to $200 on the same flights. It shows that no two locations can provide you with the same fares. I was able to save the most when I connected to Vietnam, Poland, India, Greece, Singapore, and Italy.
My research also showed that there are definitely some connections that could increase your flight tickets. You should always stay away from servers in Brazil, Switzerland, Malaysia, Portugal, Germany, and Australia. Using Brazillian connections to book a Miami-Tokyo flight provided me with the most expensive fares, increasing my base price by over $300!
Remember that flight prices fluctuate on a daily basis. This means that even if one connection helped you save $100 on your tickets in January, next time the same route may be only $50 cheaper. The price you see depends on the national economic average and income rates, but also fuel prices and lack of competition within the airline industry. While connecting to a VPN most certainly can help you pay less for your travels, it’s worth checking various servers before you make your final decision.
Don’t Overpay for Your Flight Tickets — Get the Best Deals Today!
Looking for cheap flight deals takes a lot of time and requires some creativity, but you can secure unbelievably low fares with enough perseverance. All 9 methods can help you save on your next travel, but only a VPN connection can unblock the lowest flight prices possible. It’ll also provide an extra layer of protection to keep your passport and payment details fully confidential and away from prying eyes.
Getting a VPN to access cheap deals doesn’t have to cost you anything either. By subscribing to NordVPN, you can take advantage of its 30-day money-back policy. This will help you book your dream destinations at much more affordable price, but without adding the pressures of a long-term contract. Don’t hesitate — your next big adventure is just a few clicks away!