Booking a flight for the holidays? Searching for a great deal? Here are the best apps to help you along the way.
This list of my favourite flight apps is a deeply personal one. Part of my work includes being a travel writer (at TurnipseedTravel.com) and, as such, the more money I’m able to save on flights, the more money I’m able to spend on travel. And, besides, who doesn’t love a bargain no matter what it is?!
And each October, my bargain hunting instincts go into overdrive, as I’m searching for fantastic holiday flights for family. But getting Christmas bargains is easier said than done! These are exactly the apps I use every time, for every trip – and this is the exact order I use them in. Happy traveling!
Be in the know
Why hunt for bargains when the bargains can come to you? I’ve been using Airfare Watchdog longer than any other travel website and now they have an app! The site will send you email alerts when there’s a sale on certain flight routes or when prices drop below a certain threshold. I personally use it to get alerts on deals to Hawaii, London, and Dublin – and plenty to temptation comes my way!
It’s also great for people who frequently fly to the same location but have a flexible schedule for doing so, like grandparents who are always keen to find a deal to see their grandchildren. They can use the app to keep an eye out for seat sales to their regular cities.
For more spontaneous travelers, Airfare Watchdog is also a great app for finding bargain basement priced, one-off flight deals. Want to fly from Miami to New Orleans two weeks from now and you’re happy to leave at 5:00 am? It’s yours for $10!
Mark your calendar
One of the most common questions I get from readers is how far in advance they should book their flight? Should they book early and secure a good deal? Or take a risk and book at the last minute for potentially huge savings? Hopper is a great app that can help put some of your anxieties to rest. Hopper analyzes billions of flight prices to predict how prices will change, advising you to buy or wait. This is tremendously helpful for booking holiday flights when sales are rare. I also love how easy it is to use, with well-designed calendar images to help illustrate good booking periods.
Get a baseline price
With Hopper helping me with my timeline and Airfare Watchdog helping me with price alerts, I’m ready to proceed with an initial, cursory search. Expedia is my go-to app for this. It’s easy to use, quick and responsive. I’m not making any bookings at this stage – I just want to have a baseline price. Hey, every bargain hunter needs a target to beat! While Expedia is my go-to for a general search, you can use any travel app you prefer. This is just a starting point!
I then take my search a bit deeper and compare prices on Skiplagged. At first glance, this is just a standard flight search app but it includes something that very few apps think to offer. Skiplagged specializes in “Hidden City” fares.
What does this mean? It means that Skiplagged looks not only for tickets where your destination is the final stop, but also for tickets where your destination is a layover on route to another destination. Inexplicably, sometimes it’s cheaper to book a flight to Seattle and get off in Vancouver than it is to actually book a direct flight to Vancouver. How much cheaper? Up to 80%!
Of course, there’s some fine print involved with this. You have to pack carry-on only and, if you want to return, you’ll have to book a second one-way trip home. And the vast majority of flights found on Skiplagged are just regular flights – Hidden City fares aren’t that common. But it’s great that they’re included as a search option here.
Search for coupons
There’s two types of coupons that can help you score a bargain flight. The first are promo codes that you use directly on an airline's site. The other are promo codes for third party booking sites, like Expedia and Kayak. These are cash discounts offered by the sites to encourage your future loyalty, not an actual offer from the airline itself. But it doesn’t matter when both help you save!
If it’s a direct airline promo codes you are after, you can search for them on your favourite coupon app or on Retail Me Not, an online deal site. The best way to find promotional coupons from third party booking sites is to clear your “cookies” from your browser history. You want the third party sites to view your web presence as a first time visit so you receive the valuable popup offers that are traditionally reserved for new customers.
Get a little peace of mind
At the end of the day, no matter what Hopper's calendars say or how great a coupon you find, only you can judge if a price is a good deal for you. Everyone has their own comfort level for what's affordable and what's convenient. But sometimes finding that balance is agonizing. Should you book now for a pretty-good deal or should you roll the dice and gamble on a last minute deal?
If you find yourself stuck in a similar dilemma, you best booking bet might be Orbitz. As far as apps go, it's nothing special but it does offer a Price Assurance Program. If you book a flight and another Orbitz customer subsequently books the same class seat on the same flight for a lower price, Orbitz will reimburse you for the difference. The policy just applies to airfare-only purchases. So, if you book a flight along with a rental car or hotel stay, you won’t be eligible for a refund. As always, read the full conditions and terms to avoid any surprises (you can find a list here).
The skies are calling!
There are so many great reasons to travel - personal, family, business. And I'm lucky that I get to do them all! But I never take getting a good flight deal for granted and I'm so glad that there's so many fantastic apps out there to help everyone find their perfectly priced flight.
Vanessa Chiasson is the founder and senior digital strategist of Sculpt Social.