Taking a restful vacation is a necessary endeavor in these stressful times. money expert Clark Howard wants you to know that planning a trip doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.
In this article, I’ll show you a step-by-step process to find cheap flights based on Clark’s travel tips.
Clark, a self-described travel addict, has years of experience finding cheap airfare and travel deals. He even used to own his own travel agency!
How To Find Cheap Flights To Anywhere
Clark saves a lot of time (and money) by following his #1 travel rule:
“The key rule when you want to save money is you find a deal and then figure out why you want to go there, instead of picking a date and a destination and saying, ‘What’s the cheapest fare there?’”
Clark has been following this rule for several years now and it has taken him to every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota.
Read more about Clark’s #1 travel rule.
Now let’s talk about some ways Clark finds those great deals. Here’s his process.
Step 1: Get Cheap Fare Alerts
Some travel sites offer fare alerts that send deals to your email. Subscribing to fare alerts is like having your own little travel agent right in your inbox.
The two sites listed below both operate on “freemium” models, which means they have free and paid plans.
Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)
“Far and away my favorite for finding airfares is Going,” Clark says. “Going is fantastic if you love to start your trip planning by following wherever the deal is. That’s my whole thing. I look for the deal. Then I figure out where I’m going from there.”
Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) sends you cheap fares based on three plans to choose from: Limited, Premium and Elite.
Here’s a breakdown of each plan:
- Limited (Free): You get the best cheap fares from up to five airports you select.
- Premium ($49 per year): You get the best economy class deals and mistake fares from up to 10 airports.
- Elite ($199 per year): You get the best deals from an unlimited number of airports including cheap fares in business and first class.
Dollar Flight Club
Dollar Flight Club is another site that sends cheap fares to your inbox. The site has three membership tiers:
- Free: Get deals from one departure airport.
- Premium ($69 a year): Choose up to four departure airports that you want to get deals from.
- Premium Plus ($99 a year): Choose up to five airports along with deals on business and first-class flights.
Read our Dollar Flight Club review.
Now that you’ve got deals coming to your email, let’s go over the second step in finding cheap fares.
Step 2: Visit Kayak Explore
Kayak.com’s Explore page shows you a map of fares from any city you select.
As an example, Clark went to Kayak.com/explore and entered Chicago as his departure city. It showed a map of the United States with particular routes on sale. “You can see all the cheapest fares from Chicago,” he says.
It doesn’t stop there: If you move the map to the east, you can see the cheapest fares to Europe from your departure city as well. Keep moving the map around to see cheap fares around the globe. All the prices you’ll see are for roundtrip fares.
Let’s say, we identify a great deal: Punta Cana for $201 (See image). Click on the fare to be taken to the specific dates that fare is available.
“With travel, I start here [with Kayak] but when you want to narrow in on the flights, there is a specific place you have to go: Google Flights,” Clark says.
Step 3: Check Google Flights
Go to Google.com/flights and plug in the specific dates you’re interested in. In our example, we looked at the timeframe of May 7-12. When we input that information, we saw that Google Flights actually beat Kayak’s fare!
Don’t like the airline? Prefer only nonstop flights or different days? No worries. You can optimize your flight even more by taking advantage of some filters like:
- Price graph: a graphic that shows you the weeks when fares typically will increase or decrease and by how much.
- Date grid: Take a look at a calendar that shows when prices could be cheaper.
- Price tracking: Receive an email when the price of the fare changes.
“Google has the most sophisticated airfare search engine available worldwide,” Clark says.
Read our in-depth guide on how to save with Google Flights.
Following Clark’s travel-planning advice by taking a three-pronged approach, you can find cheap flights in no time.
Remember, find cheap flights in three easy steps:
- Sign up for fare alerts delivered to your inbox from Going or Dollar Flight Club.
- Go to Kayak/Explore.
- Go to Google Flights.
Clark says the latter two sites are great fare comparison tools that make traveling for less very easy.
“If you use that one-two combination — Kayak Explore and Google Flights — I’m going to save you money. Or actually, they will,” Clark says.
Struggling with when to book? Read up on the best times to buy an airline ticket.