Affordable flights are possible: Our favorite tools

Flying from Richmond VA

The one big thing that kept us from traveling earlier in our relationship (aside from worry over leaving our oil-and-water cats) was money. Once my parents offered to catsit their grumpy grandkittens, Luke and I started hammering out exactly how to get our wanderlusty butts on the road.

Now, I rarely shop for regular-price clothes, shoes, or electronics, so what are the odds I was going to be happy booking the first flights I saw? If you said slim to none, you’re correct.

So, before we even began to seriously look at destinations, I started researching deal-finding tools. Below you’ll find the resulting list of resources I rely on when I start to make our destination dreams a reality.

The tools

Scott’s Cheap Flights (email)

  • What it is: A cheap flight email list/membership with an extremely dedicated cult following.
  • Things we love:
    • Even the free membership will yield some fantastic deals. I think I just saw roundtrip flights from several major US airports to Germany for $400-$500 RT. Yeah. Also, their turnaround on communicating mistake fares and newly-emerging deals is amazing – at least one airline had a stupid-low mistake fair to Thailand a few weeks back, and several hours before Gawker Media outlets and others started reporting it, I had an email in my inbox from Scott’s Cheap Flights, urging me to book NOW NOW NOW.
  • Things we love a little less:
    • Right now, we have a free membership and nearly every email loudly propositions you to upgrade by telling you all the amazing stuff you missed because you’re a free subscriber. I certainly can’t fault the guy for marketing his services aggressively, and I’ll probably get worn down eventually. So, I guess it’s doing its job…
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Next Vacay (email)

  • What it is: I stumbled upon one of their affiliates, clicked through, and got immediately hooked by this husband/wife and their team of dedicated flight researchers. You never know when you’ll check your inbox and find a message from Next Vacay telling you they have a deal for you.
  • Things we love:
    • At $25 a year, this membership will EASILY pay for itself in the course of one trip. The deals are well-researched, and you’re not redirected to some spammy, scammy website to purchase.
  • Things we love a little less:
    • If I’m being nitpicky, I don’t love that there’s not a regular cadence to the emails. That said, I don’t think that’s something any service like this should be able to guarantee, given that they’re trying to find high quality deals, not just EVERY deal. So, what we’re really talking about here is my impatience, not a problem with Next Vacay!

SkyScanner (web and iOS/Android app)

  • What it is: If you have flexible dates, SkyScanner can help you plan your most cost-effective trip. If you have your travel dates locked in, you can monitor flight prices for your destination and receive notifications when prices have changed or are expected to change.
  • Things we love:
    • I’m a really anal-retentive trip planner, and when I start planning, I want to have everything locked in ASAP. It’s nice to get push notifications whenever changes have happened or are about to happen, because I feel like it echoes my sense of urgency.
  • Things we love a little less:
    • I’ve heard more than one story about folks seeing great prices, clicking through, and being directed to a site that looks less-than-reputable to purchase. So, beware.
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Hopper (iOS/Android app)

  • What it is: A flight tracker, not unlike SkyScanner, that helps ensure you get the best possible deal on your upcoming flights.
  • Things we love:
    • You can filter by length of layover, number of stops, etc. which is very helpful – after all, what’s the point of viewing the cheapest flights when they’re going to end up costing you more time than you wanted to spend?
  • Things we love a little less:
    • They don’t always have a great selection of destinations to monitor. I’ve been trying to find flights from Puerto Rico to Cuba (which I happen to know exist, thank you Google), and Hopper continues to tell me there are none.

Google Flight Alerts (web and email)

  • What it is: Google Flights is a great way to shop for airfares. If you’re still shopping around, set an alert here to get notifications in your inbox when appropriate flights in your date range change price.
  • Things we love:
    • It’s through Google, and you go straight to Google to purchase. Simple!
  • Things we don’t love:
    • Resetting alerts is inconvenient as can be, since you don’t just have an app with a button.

What are your favorite travel deals tools? Let us know in the comments!

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