Here are our travel hacking tips and tools to help you find cheap flights!
Travel hacking or the art of saving on travel
Being a travel hacker means trying to save money on all your travel expenses:
- accommodation ( with hotel points or travel points for airbnb)
- car rental (with points & miles)
- conversion fees for foreign currency purchases
- travel insurance via the right credit cards
- and of course, the plane tickets!
Whether you redeem loyalty program points or you are smart about how you spend your money, it’s possible to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on EVERY trip!
Discover our tips and the best tools to find cheap flights and save on airfare!
Tips for finding cheap flights
But often it will be:
- for destinations that do not interest you
- travel dates that don’t match YOUR holidays
- often too late because these deals are short-lived!
Even though in travel, whether it’s with loyalty points or by paying for your ticket, FLEXIBILITY is a must to find good deals, sometimes it’s just… not possible!
Families know this when they have to leave for spring break or the holiday season.
Before we look at the different platforms for booking airline tickets, here are some tips for finding cheap flights.
Local airports for cheap flights
The search tools have become very sophisticated and often allow you to choose several destination (and even departure) airports.
If you are willing to travel to or from the airport to get a cheap flight, this is often an opportunity to save a lot of money.
Combining 2 tickets for low cost flights
This technique is especially valid for Transatlantic flights: you find a cheap ticket to fly across the Atlantic, then you use a reliable low-cost airline like Easyjet or Ryanair to reach your final destination.
It is not uncommon to see airfare between Montreal and Paris around $500-600.
And from Paris you can fly to any city in Europe on a low cost airline.
Burlington / Plattsburgh airports for low cost flights
When travelling alone or even with two people, we do not recommend going to these American airports because of the following reasons:
- expenses (gas, parking, hotel…)
- the limitations (land customs clearance, dawn flights)
… they often outweighs the money saved.
However, when you travel with your family or a group of friends, it may be worthwhile to compare prices.
It’s up to you to calculate the profitability.
From 3-4 people, the savings can be substantial: you share the costs (car journey, hotels) but each of you saves on their ticket.
Don’t forget the opportunity to use your hotel points to save on your night in Plattsburgh or Burlington if you choose this option. Best Western points are especially useful for this purpose.
Positioning with points for low cost flights
Positioning is a travel hacking trick: you use your points to position yourself at an airport (often in the United States) that has very competitive prices compared to Canada.
Here you can use Avios miles to get to Miami because you found a cheap ticket to Sao Paulo.
The opposite is of course possible: you pay for a plane ticket to pick up a flight reward from another airport!
For example, here you will pay your airfare to Miami . And from Miami you will go to Sao Paulo, thanks to Avios miles:
And even better: you’ll use miles from one program for the first flight… and miles from another program for the rest of the trip!
In this last example, you found availability on Aeroplan for your flight to Miami and availability with Avios miles for the Miami – Sao Paulo portion.
Positioning is a great travel hacking technique to find cheap flights!
The hidden city technique for a cheap one-way flight
The airlines’ algorithms are designed in such a way thata person who wants to book a direct flight (Montreal – Vancouver) will pay more than a person booking a connecting ticket (Montreal – Vancouver – Las Vegas).
In the example below, the first flight is the same, but the passenger adding Las Vegas as a destination will get a lower fare!
So all you have to do is get off the plane in Vancouver and “miss” your connection to Las Vegas.
Obviously, this type of travel hacking technique is feared (and fought) by airlines and if you want to proceed this way, several warnings:
- Only book a one-way ticket: if you take a round trip, it will be cancelled as you will not be on your second flight
- Travel with cabin baggage only: your checked baggage is likely to end up at the original destination
- Do not enter a loyalty program number for this reservation
- Stay… discreet.
One of the major “dangers” of this technique: the change of schedule!
In the above example, if your Montreal – Vancouver flight was cancelled / delayed for any reason, the airline could impose a new itinerary which would not go through Vancouver to reach your final destination!
So you’d be in Las Vegas… not Vancouver!
Tools to find cheap flights
Now that you are familiar with the different tips to find cheap tickets, let’s take a look at the different tools at your disposal!
Low cost flights with Google Flights
Google Flights is certainly the most popular and user-friendly search tool for:
- finding low cost flights by city, country and even continent!
- tracking flight prices and be alerted of changes
Here is an example of a search for a cheap flight for a week, anytime in the next 6 months between Montreal… and anywhere in the Americas.
A really vague search… but that’s exactly the type of search that sites offering discount flights like NextDeparture or Yulair do manually/automatically.
Here, you can see for example a low cost flight between Montreal and Toronto on Air Transat at only 139$ round trip.
So this is the kind of research you can take the time to do yourself on Google Flights… by fine tuning YOUR criteria:
- Duration of the trip
- Departure / return dates
- Departure / return times
- Destination: airport (MIA), region (Florida), country (USA), continent (North America)
- Maximum rate
- Travel cabin (economy, premium economy, business, premier)
- Airline company
- Airline alliance (Star Alliance, Oneworld, Skyteam)
The Google Flights interface has recently been revised and is fully customizable: sky is the limit!
We particularly appreciate the real time update of the results according to the movement of the map.
Please note the important differences for a same day flight to different airports in the Los Angeles area:
Low cost flights with Kiwi
Kiwi.com works under the same principle as Google Flights, but will also offer, for some destinations, bus and train trips in addition to the plane via the NOMAD tool.
For example, here is a search for 3 to 5 nights in each of these 3 destinations: Paris, Nice and Athens.
NOMAD will offer me the best options by combining different carriers and especially the ideal itinerary!
You can ask Kiwi.com to set up completely crazy itineraries with the NOMAD option!
Here, I asked Kiwi.com to go through 3 regions: Southern Europe, South Africa and Brazil. The tool found me a nice combination of tickets.
You can use our dedicated page to search on Kiwi.com to find low cost flights that match YOUR desires!
Low cost flights with Escape
What makes it special? You put in your departure airport, your return dates, and it takes care of displaying all the flights on a map… so that you can choose your low cost flight on dates that match YOUR availability!
In addition, the tool allows you to filter further according to:
- your budget
- direct or indirect flight
- whether or not a visa is required
- the popularity of the destination
- the climate
For those who like “Big Data“, the site is really nice visually and clearly displays all the available airlines in your price range.
And once you click on the search Magnifying Glass, like I did on the price of Morocco at $695, Escape focuses on that destination and offers you other information like “specialties” of that destination.
Finally, by clicking on the city – here Tangier / Morocco – the search starts with all flights.
We can see that the main engines used are those of Kiwi.com and Skyscanner, the two market leaders. Escape also shows you weather information, and Tripadvisor data.
So Escape is an impressive site where we could spend hours “playing” to find cheap flights!
Low cost flights with Skiplagged
Skiplagged is a real Travel Hacking tool…. and it tells you right on its home page:
This tool will allow you to find cheap flights via the hidden city technique.
You can search with a specific date but without a destination to find cheap flights.
Like this example for a low cost flight from Montreal on 10/09:
Let’s look at the case of the flight to Washington posted at CA$157 instead of CA$193:
Here, you book a flight from Montreal to Boston… but you will stop in Washington to benefit from the CA$ 157 fare!
If you book a “hidden city” ticket, Skiplagged reminds you of the usual precautions:
Programs to apply points on low cost flights
After the tips and tools to find cheap flights, let’s take a look at the loyalty programs that allow you to apply points to your airfare purchases!
Booking a ticket with the right credit card can save you a lot of money. Just redeem your points to pay for the expense!
American Express Membership Rewards
The American Express Membership Rewards program is arguably the most flexible rewards program in Canada.
Membership Rewards can be used in a variety of ways:
- Convert Membership Rewards to hotel loyalty programs (Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors)
- Convert Membership Rewards to airline loyalty programs (Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, Delta Skymiles…) – except for the Cobalt card
- Use Membership Rewards as a travel credit (10,000 points = $100)
- Use Membership Rewards for everyday purchases (10,000 points = $70, except for small business cards, which earn 10,000 points = $100).
So you can use any American Express Membership Rewards card to book your low-cost flight… and apply your Membership Rewards to the purchase of your airline ticket:
- American Express Platinum Card
- American Express Business Platinum Card
- American Express Gold Rewards Card
- American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card
- American Express Cobalt™ Card
See, for example, this purchase of an airline ticket on Air Transat with the American Express Cobaltᵐᶜ Card:
You can use as few as 1,000 points to reduce the bill by $10.
Scotiabank’s Bonus Points program is based on the same principle.
The difference: you will have to use a minimum of 5,000 Scotia Bonus Points or $50 worth of purchases.
All Scotia Rewards cards allow you to apply your points to travel expenses charged on the cards:
- Scotiabank Visa Infinite Passport
- Scotia Gold Passport
- Scotiabank Platinum American Express® Card
- Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
- American Express by Scotiabank
We hope that you now have everything you need to find cheap flights.
These tips are especially useful when the use of miles of air programs is not optimal!
On a related topic, find out how it’s possible to save with points for apartment rentals on airbnb!