Saving Money on Flights - The Future Proof Approach

Whether you are traveling for interviews or vacation, everyone wants to snag a bargain when booking airfare.  You may have heard of a myriad of tips to booking a cheap flight.  For example, booking on Tuesdays 50-100 days before travel.  Let me share with you the Future Proof approach to saving money on airfares.  This post is intended for new ticket purchases only.  Checkout the gurus at Flyertalk.com if you are looking for ways to get the best value for your miles/points. 

1.  Destination Fixed + Dates Fixed - "I've got to go to this interview in New York City on 11/6."  - Unfortunately you're in the worst possible category when it comes to airfare deals.  I recommend either following the recommendation given here or here.   The general rule is that flight prices rise sharply within 14 days of departure date so try to book before that.  Stick to your favorite airline if you have one.  I prefer Southwest airlines because of their no change/cancellation fee policy.  If I end up finding a cheaper fare later, I can cancel/rebook without penalty.  If you don't have a favorite airline and just need the lowest fare, go through your online travel booking site of choice (Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire, Skiplagged etc.), my favorite is Kayak.com.

2.  Destination Fixed + Dates Flexible - "I wanna go to Seattle sometime, just need to figure out when" - Possibly the best category to be in as a deal hunter, I frequent 2 free services when I know my destination.

  • If you haven't already, check out Hopper, available as an app for both Android and iOS.  To use the company's own words: "Hopper analyzes billions of flights to help you find the best deals and the best times to fly and buy. Start your flight research with Hopper to save time and money."  I honestly cannot describe it any better.  Try out a sample flight report here.
Sample Hopper Report (MCO-ATL)

Sample Hopper Report (MCO-ATL)

  • Airfarewatchdog is one of my all-time favorite online travel research sites.  In fact, I love it so much that if they ever decided to charge, I would gladly pay for their services.  Essentially Airfarewatchdog constantly tries to book flights between cities to find the best deals for you.  Only deals that fall below a certain threshold are listed.  Unlike other online travel booking sites, Airfarewatchdog also include Southwest deals.   2 very useful features are the FARES FROM A CITY and the FARES TO A CITY listings.  But the best way to use Airfarewatchdog is set up fare alerts City-to-City, by Departure city and/or by Arrival city.
Sample Airfarewatchdog Deal (MCO-ATL)

Sample Airfarewatchdog Deal (MCO-ATL)

3.  Destination Flexible + Dates Fixed - "I've got vacation over the Fourth of July, where should I go?" - Intermediate category when it comes to airfare deals.  For example, if you are traveling around a holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas etc.), be prepared to shell out big for a ticket  no matter where you are going.  That said, there is another free service you can add to your armory of deal-hunting tools - Travelzoo.com.  Much like a Groupon for travel deals, Travelzoo collects and posts the best travel deals available.  Some of their weekly Top 20® deals are simply surreal.  

Travelzoo North American flight deals

Travelzoo North American flight deals

This is my approach to buying a cheap flight ticket.  Hope this is helpful to everyone.  Happy Travels!


Future Proof, MD

Dr. Bo Liu is an aspiring radiologist-in-training and the founder and editor of the White Coat Money Blog.  He has an interest in interventional radiology and helping his medical colleagues get ahead in this mad world of medicine and money.  When he's not crushing the list at the PACS station or typing up your next favorite blog post, you can usually find him at the local badminton club, movie theater or the most recently opened restaurant.