Okay, to be perfectly fair, I'm by no means a travel agent or master flight booker - but I have bought my fair share of flights and I've learned a few things along the way.
Booking flights really comes down to your price range and flexibility. There are lots of apps like Hitlist that, if you're able to get up and go whenever, are great for finding you deals. For me and most normal humans, these apps are tricky since the dates are usually difficult to work with a Monday-Friday work week and the flights are not very direct. When I book flights, I pretty much go through the same motions every time -
Grab your globe & calendar
Generally, I have a week or so that I know I can easily take off from work or falls on a holiday. I give myself flex dates of a few days before and after that week to give myself the best chance for good flights. Then I start thinking about where I want to go and what's going to be affordable for that time of year. It might seem obvious, but if the weather isn't going to be great in the place you want to go, it's naturally going to be cheaper to fly there. Winter flights to Northern or Eastern Europe can be a steal. Hurricane season in Southeast Asia can be totally affordable. October or April seems to be mild weather across the world which works out great for flights everywhere. And despite the promise of "bad weather," I'm speaking from experience when I say you can take your chances and still have a great time. Brainstorm a few places that you can play around with and aim to book about 3 months before you want to go. Hopper is a great app to track the prices for your specific timeframe.
I always always always try and book flights on Expedia. Of course, you can and should check competitor sites, but I've found that Expedia is often the same price if not less. Plus, sticking with one site helps you earn rewards points and status for future trips. I've personally had nothing but a great experience with Expedia too - their customer service is great, they offer comprehensive trip protection, and their flight/hotel bundles are usually great if you're looking to book a hotel too. I also try and stick with Delta or JetBlue (or their partners) for the same reasons - I've had great experiences with them and I'm racking up the rewards by always flying them. I use their credit cards almost exclusively so I'm earning even more points (not an #ad I promise, I really do fly home every year for the holidays on points alone!)
Keep it real with yourself
This totally depends on your personality and priorities, but for me, budget airlines are hardly ever worth it. Airlines like Ryanair or Spirit end up charging you extra for everything aside from your physical seat and air. Unless it's a super short flight, the additional fees end up racking up and you end up so uncomfortable that you'll find yourself banging your head against the seat in front of you wondering why you didn't just spend the extra $75 to get a nicer flight. On the same note, flights with extensive layovers or multiple connections are usually just not worth it - your time is money! If you spend the first day and a half of your vacation just getting to your destination, you have less time to be on vacation. I try and go as non-stop as possible unless I can make the layover work in my favor - I've pulled off long layover day trips to Copenhagen and Bangok coming back from other trips.
Make it your priority
People are always asking me how I afford to travel as much as I do and my answer is always the same - I've made it a priority to travel. If there's a country I really want to see, I'm constantly looking at the most affordable time to visit and the best flights to get there. I give myself a realistic budget for the trip and play around with timeframes until I make it work. Usually, if the flight stars align for me, I can figure out accommodations one way or another. And if it ends up being a little more expensive than I want, then maybe I'm not eating out so much that month :) but regardless, I want to be traveling so it's always top of mind as to how I can make it a reality.
It definitely takes some research and commitment to find great flights, but it's totally doable! If you're thinking about your next trip, take a deep breath, don't get overwhelmed, and try and tackle it the way I do - you still might end up a little stressed, but if you walk away with an exciting and affordable trip booked, then it'll all be worth it.
Have any great flight booking tips? I wanna hear them - comment below!