Find Cheap Flights


Finding Cheap Flights

When we travel, finding cheap flights, or the best flight for our travel plans is a chore. Sure, we have a few favourite sites we start with, but being the best isn’t always consistent, so we spend time checking out several to see what fares are available. After all, I would rather spend money at my destination than on basic transportation.

Start at the Beginning

Bicycles are part of the landscape in Amsterdam
Bicycles are part of the landscape in Amsterdam

If we’re planning a trip to Amsterdam and London, for instance, we’ll often check with home carriers KLM or BA (or Air Canada since we live in Canada and they have the largest roster of international routes) to get an idea of their fares for the dates we plan to leave and return. Sometimes they will have sales and if you’re flexible on your dates, it’s a good way to go. And if price is your most important consideration, look at the charter companies like Air Transat, as you’ll see in our example below.

Here’s an example. We want to fly from Calgary to Amsterdam June 13 (mid-week, usually the best prices) and return a week later on June 20. On Air Canada, the price is $1,362 per person. It’s high season, so I expect a higher price. On KLM, the flight is $1,324, and on BA it’s $1,382 (direct to LHR, connecting to AMS. The return takes me to Dallas, then to Calgary, so not my first choice).

If earning loyalty points is important, using a flag carrier will also earn you their points or miles, while using a third-party service may not always give you that.

Speaking of points, if you have a bunch built up, take a look at how many points you will need to use and what the routing will be. We have a pile of points on Aeroplan but the routings we get when booking them are usually less than desirable, so we end up paying cash.

Now that you have a good idea of what flights will cost on the big boys, it’s time to try a couple of third-party sites to see if you can get the flights a little cheaper.

Third-Party Travel Resources

We haven’t tried them all, but we usually tend towards CheapOAirExpediaOrbitz or OneTravel. Let’s use the same Calgary-Amsterdam example above.

The best price on CheapOair was $1,292,  Expedia was $1,358. On Orbitz, the same flight was $1,063, and on OneTravel, $1,068. Quite a big difference between booking sites and when compared to the flag carrier flights. And if I want to take Air Transat, I can book on Orbitz for only $569 return. CheapOair was $757. On OneTravel, the AT flight was 603. I’m not a fan of flying in cramped quarters, but if I can save more than half the price, I’m going to consider it. After all, $700 more in my pocket will buy a lot of vacation once I get to Europe.

Flights + Hotels

View of Bay of Banderas at Puerto Vallarta
View of Bay of Banderas at Puerto Vallarta

While we’ve only talked about flights, there is another option that we use frequently when going to Mexico or the Caribbean, and that’s packages.

We’ve used both Air Canada Vacations (ACV) and WestJet Vacations (WJV) out of Calgary. We always check with ACV first since we have a lot of points with them, and while we’ve found the occasional deal with them (Cuba and Cancun come to mind), most of our package travel has been with WJV. We really like the idea that everything is included, such as free bags (usually) and ground transport. The service, both going and arriving, is great, and the prices are usually a bit cheaper.

Here’s a tip we’ve found useful, and our experience is backed up by others as well. Most if not all of the online travel sites use cookies to track you. So if you go on one site, get a price, then go back to it later, the price will be different – usually higher. What we do when we’re checking prices is use an incognito or private searching function. Each time you go back to a site, you should be getting a “real” price quote rather than one that was based on a previous search.

Leave a comment below and tell us what flight services you find to be the best.

A Word About Our Partners

To help you on your way, we’ve partnered with several top travel companies, which you can find listed along the right side of the page. We’re big fans of Uber, so if you would like to try them out on your next trip, use my code under the logo on the right side. You’ll get a discount for your first trip, and we’ll get a small credit we can use for our next trip with them.