How to Find Cheap International Airfares

  • 01 of 10

    Work for Flexibility

    Aerial view of airplane
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    As you attempt to find cheap international airfares, the first question of importance is this: how flexible is your schedule?

    If you don't have to leave on a specific day, check a variety of days and even weeks. There can be large swings in fares from one day to the next, especially near the end of a travel season.

    Keep in mind that airfares make very little sense. Market forces drive them in sometimes peculiar directions. Make flexibility a goal as you shop.

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  • 02 of 10

    Recognize Current Budget Travel Trends

    Are you willing to give up your luggage allotment to fly as an air courier?
    ••• (c)Mark Kahler, under an arrangement with About.com

    Have friends told you about air courier flights? They once were an interesting way to fly overseas at greatly reduced airfares. You surrendered your baggage allotment to the company for which you provided courier service. In return, your airfare was reduced.

    Notice the previous paragraph is written in past tense.  That's because air courier flights today are rare. The need for such arrangements has decreased as package delivery efficiencies have strengthened.

    Courier flights had their disadvantages anyway: rarely could you travel with a companion, and your travel dates were dictated rather than offered.

    Consolidator fares are another alternative that has dwindled in recent years. Many people had bad experiences with these travel brokers.

    Bottom line: use caution when trying to find an unusual path to lower airfares.

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  • 03 of 10

    Do a Baseline Fare Search

    Search for baseline airfares on the Internet.
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    The first step toward finding cheap international airfares is to establish a baseline price. This is what a standard ticket will cost at the time of your trip. Airfare searches on sites such as Kayak will provide this needed information. Punch in a variety of dates, and record the lowest fares.

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  • 04 of 10

    Consider Bidding for a Fare

    Use Priceline and other bidding services with caution.
    ••• Courtesy Priceline

    Subtract 20-30 percent from the lowest baseline airfare found and consider making that amount your bid for tickets in a travel auction like Priceline. Build in a cushion of time if you must be in a certain location by a certain date: remember that your bid will cover the entire 24 hours of a given day. Understand the Priceline rules before you bid, or you are bound to fall victim to common mistakes that cost money.

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  • 05 of 10

    Consider Nearby Destination Cities

    Consider alternate airports when you're trying to book low airfares.
    ••• (c)Mark Kahler, under an arrangement with About.com

    Look at airfares to and from nearby cities, especially if flying to the United States or Europe. Sometimes the savings will more than cover ground transportation to your desired city.

    Remember the observation that airfares can take peculiar turns? This is one of the best views of that peculiarity. At a nearby airport, you might see airfares that are less than half what is required at your home terminal. It doesn't make much sense, but it's well worth exploring.

    When you find a bargain fare at a nearby airport, be sure to book it as soon as possible. These favorable conditions have a way of disappearing quickly.

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  • 06 of 10

    Track Fares on Your Desired Route

    It's possible to track airfares for your desired route through services such as Yapta.com
    ••• (c)Mark Kahler, under an arrangement with About.com

    Not quite ready to buy? It's possible to track airfares through online services such as Yapta.com. This service notifies you by email when prices change on your chosen route.

    Some travelers track fares after they've made a purchase. There are cases in which you can ask the airline to refund the difference between a recent purchase and a new sale fare. Yapta will help you draft the request. It isn't always successful, but the request is worth making.

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  • 07 of 10

    Look for Discounts Early in the Process

    Always check for senior discounts.
    ••• Eddie Gerald/Contributor/Getty Images

    Ask for discounts before booking.

    There has been a decline in senior airfare discounts in recent years, but it still might be worth asking the question. 

    Students can get reduced rates on some routes, but the discounts aren't always mentioned to customers. It never hurts to ask. Just realize that these fares, like courier flight options, have been in decline for years.

     

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  • 08 of 10

    Always Check Round Trip Fares

    Always double check airfares for international flights.
    ••• Wendy Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images

    Yet another quirk of airfares is the round-trip bargain. Let's say you only need a one-way ticket. There are circumstances in the marketplace in which you will pay more for that trip than a round-trip itinerary.

    Confused? You need not understand the reasons for that quirk. But it is good to be aware it exists. Take advantage of a lower fare if possible.

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  • 09 of 10

    Streamline Your Carrier Choice

    It often pays to book your trip segments with the same airline.
    ••• Mark Kahler, licensed to About.com

    There are times when it might be cheaper to use a different airline for each segment of your trip. But the minimal savings can be offset by inconvenience and potentially some missed connections.

    Whenever possible, stick with one airline or its affiliate.

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  • 10 of 10

    Avoid Holidays Whenever Possible

    Sean Gallup/Getty Images
    ••• Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Holiday travel can be exasperating. Airports are filled with inexperienced travelers who slow down the security lines. Flight cancellations can lead to big trouble and bigger lines for new flights.

    Many of these folks are on the way to holiday reunions with families. They must travel at this time. 

    If you can avoid holiday travel, it could wind up saving you money. Once the holidays are concluded, very nice airfare sales and vacation package offerings sometimes develop. 

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