Today I booked a round-trip flight to Europe for $328 RT. I booked a car for $16/day. I’m writing this post because so many people believe traveling has to be super expensive. This is just not the case. Using the principles I conveyed in this post I developed a system for traveling just about anywhere super cheap. I also do so in relative comfort. No car-camping, hitchhiking, or work-for-stays.
Flexibility is the name of the game
If you want to find insanely good deals, you have to be insanely flexible. You have to be willing to travel to any destination and have a flexible schedule. The strategy below won’t work well for business travel or holiday travel because those require specific scheduling. This strategy utilizes downtimes in flight popularity to get super good deals like $328RT to Europe. Luckily, you don’t have to constantly check Kayak or Orbitz to find the best deals. You can set up alerts to do the work for you.
The best flight alerts engine: Airfare Watchdog
I’ve searched around quite a bit for the best method to finding low fares. Sites like Kayak, Google ITA Matrix, and Travelocity are all great for research, but they fall short in finding the deepest discounts because they lack good curation. Non-curated sites rely on ordinary users to inquire about flight prices using their search functions. Then these searches are cataloged into tools like Kayak.com/explore. Curated sites are managed by flight pricing researchers who do the searching themselves. There is a free site that is curated by airline experts who will do this heavy lifting and report back with their findings on a daily basus. This is the beautiful AirFare Watchdog. On this site you input where you’re leaving from, or a specific route, and they send daily or weekly emails with the lowest fares they can find from that destination. It comes in a neatly sorted and easy to follow email. I like to have all my desired destinations (Seattle, Austin, Portland, Las Vegas, and San Francisco) constantly running alerts. This way I never miss the occasional absurdly low prices. I have a second email alerting me to all the cheapest flights departing any time from PHL (my local airport.) This includes domestic AND international flights going anywhere in the world. Daily I am constantly being educated on trends in flight pricing and can now spot deep discounts very easily. This also broadens the search so widely that low prices are easier to be found. This is how I found roundtrip tickets to Europe for $328RT. I’ve also found flights to Asia (Shanghai & Tokyo for under $700RT).
Finding the cheapest flight to Europe
I had heard low-cost carries were running extremely cheap flights to Europe starting in 2015. I decided to wait and grab the best deal I could find using the principles listed above. After a bit of tinkering with Airfare Watchdog departure cities, I came to the conclusion that JFK had the cheapest flights internationally. This makes sense. They’re a hub. I added JFK to my email alerts on AF Watchdog and quickly was excited to see a few sub-$400 flights pop up. The next cheapest carrier was offering $600 roundtrip. I then went onto the carrier’s site (Norwegian) and found their low-fare calendar search feature. I was able to find the flights Airfare Watchdog had spotted for me. (AF Watchdog does not sell flights, they only find them and tell you where to go find them online.) The flights were cheap because the flight is going to Stockholm in late February. Wikipedia tells me it will be ~25F-35F that time of year. That’s cold, but not nearly as bad as Montreal where I went to school. Plus, I can buy a really nice coat with all that savings. Stockholm is pretty far from mainland Europe, but I genuinely am excited to drive through the Swedish countryside en route to Copenhagen and beyond.
I’ve always been enamored with Scandinavia and their high quality of life and self-reported satisfaction. I very much enjoyed A Swedish Love Story, Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, and Wild Strawberries. Now I’ll finally get to roam the happy streets of Stockholm and Gothenburg. Traveling on the whims of airfare pricing is more exciting to me than picking a certain place and being a tourist. I’ll probably just wander through small towns in Scandinavia and northern-ish Europe searching for really great street food. Now all I have to do is learn how to read parking signs in Swedish. Yikes.