Five Ways to Save Money on Flights

On your next flight, you could sit next to someone who is paying hundreds of dollars less than you to go to the same place. These tools even the playing field when it comes to finding the best prices for travel.

For fun, I put most of these into a quick video.

Hopper: Travel Shopping App to Find the Best Time to Fly

This travel app caused me all kinds of hassle… not because it’s not helpful but because it is TOO helpful! Hopper lets you plug in details for a trip you want to take, and it will make predictions about the price and tell you when it’s best to buy. You’ll find yourself shopping for flights for January, and all of a sudden you’ll be putting in alerts for the best prices to visit all your Facebook friends.

Skiplagged: Flight Search Engine for a Sneaky Discount

Let’s say I need to fly from Nashville to Newark in two weeks. United’s non-stop flight at 6 am will get me there for $172. But if I book a flight to Syracuse that just happens to go through Newark, I can get on the same non-stop flight and get off in Newark and pay just $105.

Skiplagged helps you find these “hidden-city” loopholes where you book a longer trip but get off during a layover. You can save hundreds on flights if you’re willing to travel without checked luggage and with a little bit of chutzpah. The workaround is not illegal, but it is controversial.

Airline companies hate this practice. On very rare occasions they have punished or sued skiplagging passengers for the money they should have spent on the shorter flights. That’s why Skiplagged has several do’s and don’ts before you book a hidden-city flight through the site:

  • Do bring just a backpack just in case they want to check your carry-on.
  • Don’t add your frequent flyer account because airlines may punish you if they find out.
  • Don’t rule out the chance bad weather will cause re-routing.
  • Don’t do this often because airlines may catch on.
  • If the airline requires you to have proof of a return ticket, buy a return ticket and then cancel it within 24 hours (or buy a refundable ticket).

By the way, I will probably never try this. Because I have so many giveaways and materials for every speaking engagement, I almost always travel with about 100 pounds of luggage.

Google Flights: Google’s Travel Tool with Price Alerts

This is yet another step in Google’s plan to take over our lives. Google Flights lets you search for flights on most major airlines to compare fares, schedules, stops and more. Search results show you cost-saving tips like “Save $32 if you leave the day before and depart the day after.” Google also gives you the option to track the trip to receive price alerts.

This year Google experimented with a price guarantee. For a couple of months, if you booked through their site and the price decreased on a ticket that Google was very confident about, Google would give you the difference back.

AirHelp: Service that Pursues Your Compensation for Flight Delays

In 2005 a European Union regulation established compensation allowances for flight delays, cancellations and denied boarding for flights in and out of the European Union countries. A delay of 3 or more hours to your dream vacation in Paris could entitle you to up to 600 euros. But getting the airlines to pay up can be a daunting task. AirHelp and a few competitors will review your trip to see if you qualify. If you do, they’ll file your claim for free and even move to litigation if they’re sure you’re entitled to the money. If the airline pays up, AirHelp takes a fee and gives you the rest.

If your airline troubles don’t fall under AirHelp’s services, you can still learn a lot from the resources on their site. They explain in clear language what you can do about lost luggage, overbooking, airline strikes and more.

Matrix Airfare Search: Google’s Super-Duper Airfare Search Engine

You can’t buy tickets through the Matrix Airfare Search, but you can dig deep, deep into options, preferences and more complicated routes for real-time, real honest pricing and options.

Bonus: TripIt

I’ve been telling people to use TripIt for years, mainly for the way it organizes all your reservations automatically into one easy-to-read itinerary for every trip. But if you upgrade to TripIt Pro for about $50 a year, you’ll also receive pricing updates and information to get money back if the price of your tickets drop. It’ll even take into account change fees.

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