• Meghan Bartok

Traveling Affordably: finding great flight deals

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Probably one of the biggest questions I get asked is how I can afford to travel as often as I do. I’m probably going to write a couple of shorter posts on this rather than one big post, so I’ll start with the main point: finding cheap flights abroad.

Most people think that flights to Europe are super expensive, and they certainly can be. Those of us who live close to major airports such as LAX, JFK, Boston, and Atlanta often have a much easier time finding international plane ticket deals. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. However, I’ve learned a couple of tricks to avoid paying outrageous prices for plane tickets.

1. Stay flexible

This is definitely the most important part of being able to find affordable plane tickets. I know flexibility is a lot harder for students – we have set breaks and often are only able to travel during this time. However, even just changing your travel dates by a day or two can save you a lot of money. Many booking sites give you an option for flexible dates, which will give you prices for three days before and after the dates you specified. This can help show you the cheapest time to travel – e.g. flying out on a Saturday instead of a Friday could save you $100 or more. Google Flights is another great tool if you have a budget and dates you want to travel, but are open as to where you want to go! They will give you a whole map of places you could travel to within your price range. Skyscanner is another website that lets you search for tickets to anywhere from a specified departure airport.

2. Switch up the departure airport…

This has helped me save A LOT of money. I don’t live near a major international airport, so I almost always chose to fly out of Toronto. For example, when I looked for my flight to go to England for my study abroad program, flights from Buffalo (my closest airport) to London were $1,100. By changing the departure airport to Toronto, I only ended up paying $650 for my round trip ticket. If you live near several airports, looking at tickets out of each of them can help you improve your results.

3. OR switch your arrival airport!

I have recently been looking into flying to Italy in November to visit one of my current roommates. She’ll be working in Florence, which is a wonderful city with great food, beautiful architecture… and a small airport. Flights from Toronto to Florence were about $850. By looking into flights into Rome, which is about 2 hours from Florence on the train; I found tickets for around $400. This is just one specific example of how flexibility can help save you money! Having to take the train to my final destination is only a small price to pay for a savings of $450. This is especially easy to do when flying to Europe, as cities are generally closer together, and the train systems are very extensive.

4. Take advantage of your student/youth status

My favorite place to score cheap flight deals is through two great student travel agencies, STA Travel and Student Universe. These sites offer discounted plane tickets and tours for students, youth under 26, and teachers. I have booked most of my flights to Europe through one of these companies and would recommend either of them. I have also had to deal with the customer service of both companies (for no fault of their own) and they have been super friendly and helpful!

5. Consider open-jaw flights

These are great if you’re planning on visiting multiple cities, as it saves you the time and money you would need to get back to the airport you started at. Most sites will give you an option to search for multi-city flights, and these tickets are often less than regular round trip flights! This can also help if you’re planning a more extensive trip – for example, you could book a multi-city ticket from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand; then from Auckland to Sydney; then from Sydney back to LA, and it would cost you much less than booking separate one-way tickets for each of these legs.

These tips have helped me find the best deals for all of my flights to Europe – despite the preconception that these flights are super expensive, I personally have never paid more than $700 for a ticket to Europe, and if you find the right airline and the right dates, you can pay as little as $350 round trip!


What are your favorite tips for scoring flight deals? Let me know in the comments!