I’ve been travel hacking for a couple of years now. I’m not an expert. I’m not on the level of some of these people who do card churning. I don’t think I’ll ever, willingly, go to that level. I like to consider myself a high-end intermediate. A travel cost mitigator. I enjoy finding ways to make travel less expensive or even fly for free. A big part of this is tracking the price of flights to find cheap airfare.
The two tools I use the most are Skyscanner and Google Flights. Today, I’ll focus on Google. (There are others I use, too, like the app Hopper, but that, also, is for another day.)
I just got back from a trip with my family to St. Thomas for the Christmas holiday. I wrote about it before how I was able to get 4 tickets on United for absolutely free. The way I found the tickets were through Google Flights and then used my reward miles from my Capital One Venture card.
You can find great prices for flights if you are patient and flexible. It is much cheaper to fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, as opposed to flying on a Friday, for instance. You can easily save a couple of hundred dollars per ticket doing this.
If you’re like me, you have an extensive bucket list. What I like to do is start looking at different places I want to go to and the times of the year that I want to travel. In 2018 I was looking to do a trip for my sons’ spring break. We went to Mexico because I found the best flight prices during that time and used our United MileagePlus rewards for our tickets.
At various times, I’ve looked at different places for travel at different times during the year. My starting point is to find flight information. That brings us to Google Flights. If you’ve never used it before, it has a pretty simple interface. Basically, it works like any other flight search engine. You put in your home location and destination and dates and you get back flights.
At this point, we don’t know exactly where we want to go. That’s where the map comes in.
Just click on the map and it will give you prices of flights from your home airport to anywhere in the world. All of the features are there to do a thorough search. Features like selecting your class seating from economy to first class. You can even find hotels and search for vacation packages. But, this is about finding the cheapest flight possible.
Looking at the map, you can see the prices for cities all over the world. You can then pick your dates for travel. It is best to experiment and try different dates.
It’s really as simple as that. Once you have found dates and location you are interested in, you can have Google track the price of those flights and send you an email updating you every time the price changes.
Prices of flights change all of the time. I don’t know why. I don’t get it. I don’t understand the logic to it, but, I know they change. The trick here is to try to catch the flights at one of its lowest points. Kinda like the stock market; buy low. Here are the graphs of some of the flights I have tracked. As you can see, the price does not remain steady, but, the one thing for certain, the closer you get to the date, the price tends to be higher.
Here are two different dates I tracked for St. Thomas since this is a place I’ve always wanted to go I looked at different times of the year. I really liked the price of the week before Christmas because I was looking at the prices for four people. I was able to find a great basic price, plus upgrade to Premium Economy without paying anything. Panama was the other great price I found around Christmas but I chose St. Thomas, this time. (We will be going to Panama in 2020 with Funky Good Time Travel Club.)
At this point, you can choose your flight and Google will take you to the airline’s website to finalize everything. I wanted to use my Venture Reward Miles, so I went to Capital One’s booking engine and searched for the same flight.
If you have the time to do these searches and your travel schedule has some flexibility, flight tracking is a good way to find the cheapest flights to check off items on your bucket list. Using this technique, I was able to get four round trip tickets to St. Thomas, upgrade to Premium Economy and get priority boarding for 215K miles.
The following are other flight prices I tracked. I think it’s interesting just how much the prices change over time. If we can get good at catching these prices at their lowest price, we can travel more often.