16 Common Mistakes Stopping You From Booking Cheap Flights

Want to save money on your next flight? Here are 16 mistakes people make that cause them to overpay unnecessarily. Keep them in mind and you’ll be one step closer to scoring the cheapest possible tickets.

It’s never fun to find out you overpaid. But it’s even worse when it’s something expensive, like airfare, and when that money could have gone toward something fun, like a vacation.

Unfortunately, almost everyone overpays for flights at some point – usually because they don’t realize there are discounts hiding in plain sight.

In this post, you’ll learn some of the most common mistakes people make when booking flights. Doing one or two things differently could save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip! Let’s get into it…

1. Not Booking Based on Price

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If saving money on flights is the main goal, one of the biggest “mistakes” people make is deciding their destination and trip dates first. The cheaper approach is to base everything about the trip on price.

Instead of searching for a specific destination, use tools like Skyscanner and Google Flights to see what fares are available to different parts of the world. Next, select a destination that a) you like the sound of and b) you can fly to cheaply on your available dates.

2. Searching for One Date

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Prices vary hugely from day to day, week to week, and especially month to month. That’s why you should run multiple searches for different dates when trying to find the cheapest ones.

This is where flexibility comes into play. Being flexible with when you fly means you won’t get stuck with expensive departure dates. There’s nothing worse than having to leave on a set day that’s twice as expensive as the ones before or after it!

3. Booking Time Off Work Before Flights

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For people who work, consider purchasing flights before booking time off. Why? Because doing it the other way around restricts when you can go.

Obviously, this tip is only viable if you’re certain you’ll get the time off work you need! You don’t want to book flights and then find out your boss denied the leave. If the time off isn’t guaranteed, you’ll have no choice but to book flights after it’s confirmed.

4. Flying to Your Ideal Destination Directly

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Let’s say your target destination is Italy. Be sure to search for flights to other parts of Europe, too. It could be cheaper to fly to Ireland, for example, and then catch a budget flight to Italy from there. Similarly, you might find cheaper flights to Milan than Rome, or vice versa.

Again, flexibility is key! You can save a lot by flying somewhere near where you want to go and then organizing onward transport from there. Of course, this is also a great way to visit more than one place.

5. Flying From Your Ideal Airport

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When many people book flights, they set their departure point as their hometown or the most local/convenient option. It makes sense! But be sure to check prices from other airports, too…

This can be one of the most effective ways to save money on airfare. Flights from the next city or state could be much cheaper. So, even if you have to pay for a bus to get there, it can make more financial sense to depart from a different airport.

6. Flying on Sundays and Fridays

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The day you book your flight doesn’t matter. The day you fly does. In general, the most expensive days are said to be Friday and Sunday.

This makes sense when you think about it. Prices are governed by supply and demand, right? My hunch is that everyone wants to fly on Fridays to go away for the weekend, or to maximize a weeklong vacation. Then, on Sunday, they fly home again to go to work on Monday.

7. Not Using Google Flights

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For years, I’ve used Skyscanner to book flights. It’s great. As well as comparing prices for countless airlines, it has different settings that help you find cheap tickets. For example, you can search for the “cheapest month” and look for flights to “everywhere” instead of a set location.

However, Google Flights has just crossed my radar. It’s another useful tool for finding affordable airfare, with a world map feature that provides a visual representation of where you can fly and how much it’ll cost.  

8. Taking Myths Too Seriously

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One famous flight-booking myth is that you should book in incognito mode. The idea is sites put cookies on your device when you search for flights. If you don’t book the first time around, they’ll be more expensive next time you look because the airlines know you’re interested.

I believed this for years! But apparently, there’s no evidence it’s true. Worse, by acting upon myths like these, you can ignore advice that really works and assume you’re getting the best bang for your buck. You might feel better about the price but haven’t actually saved any money.

9. Not Subscribing to Flight Search Newsletters

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One of the most effective ways to find the cheapest flights possible to your ideal destination is to subscribe to services and newsletters that track prices for you. Examples include Going.com and Jacksflightclub.com.

Services like these have teams of people scouring the web for deals. They then send you notifications with a link to book them.

10. Not Setting Price Alerts

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Booking sites like KAYAK and Skyscanner let you set alerts for price drops on flights. You tell them which routes you’re interested in, then they’ll send you notifications if/when any notable price drops occur. If you know where and when you want to go away in advance, setting an alert is a simple and effective way to find a bargain.

11. Traveling in Peak Season

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If you can help it, try not to fly at peak times of the year. Everyone goes away in summer, so you’ll pay more across the board. Shoulder seasons offer a nice balance of cheaper prices, decent weather, and smaller crowds.

Likewise, peak season might be different where you want to go! For example, winter in New York is summertime in New Zealand. So, booking a January trip will be more expensive than a June one.

12. Not Knowing About Mistake Airfares

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Mistake airfares are dramatically discounted ticket prices (compared to a route’s usual cost) usually caused by computer glitches or human error. When it happens, you can snag flights at a fraction of their usual cost.

Legally, an airline is allowed to cancel these tickets. But they often don’t, and let it slide instead – possibly to avoid the bad press. It’s another incentive to set up price drops and/or subscribe to newsletters. Just be sure to book them ASAP. Any mistake airfare you see will be corrected quickly.

13. Not Checking Southwest Airlines

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Flying domestically in the US? Don’t forget to look on the Southwest Airlines website. From what I can see, it’s one of the only airlines without a partnership with booking sites. You have no choice but to book directly.

That might sound like an inconvenience. But the fact Southwest doesn’t go through a third-party means it can pass on those savings to consumers.

14. Relying on Last-Minute Deals

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Once upon a time, waiting until the last minute to buy flights made financial sense. Eager to fill empty seats, airlines would slash prices, meaning you could snag a bargain.

This is said to be very rare nowadays, though. In fact, the opposite often happens. Airlines can increase prices before the flight because they know business travelers a) tend to make last-minute travel plans and b) can afford whatever it costs.

15. Not Trusting Budget Airlines

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Budget carriers might not be your first choice. Yet dismissing them off-hand is a mistake when trying to save money.

Not only have standards risen considerably in some of them, but the deals you find on certain routes are hard to beat. If the flight isn’t too long and you don’t mind sacrificing the creature comforts, they can be the cheapest way to get from A to B.

16. Not Knowing About the 24-Hour Rule

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Some people don’t realize they can cancel any flight to or from the US for free within 24 hours of booking. This creates a few possibilities!

For example, imagine booking a flight in the evening that drops in price the next morning. You could call up, cancel, and rebook the cheaper ticket.

Likewise, imagine seeing a dirt-cheap mistake airfare crop up. Why not book it before it disappears, even if you haven’t booked time off work? Worst-case scenario, your boss declines the request for leave and you cancel the ticket for a refund.



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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.