How to find cheap flights in 3 easy steps

If you’ve ever searched for cheap flights, you know it can take time. At Clark.com, we strive to streamline the ways you can save, including finding the best deals on airfare.

In this article, I’ll show you a step-by-step process for finding cheap flights based on travel advice from money expert Clark Howard.

Clark, a self-proclaimed travel junkie, has years of experience finding cheap plane tickets and travel deals. He even had his own travel agency!

How to find cheap flights to anywhere

Clark saves a lot of time (and money) by following his #1 travel rule:

“The key rule when you want to save money is that you find an offer and then figure out why you want to goinstead of picking a date and destination and saying, “What’s the cheapest fare there?” »

Clark has been following this rule for several years now and it has taken him to every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota.

Learn more about Clark’s Travel Rule #1.

Now let’s talk about some of the ways Clark finds these great deals. Here is his process.

Step 1: Receive cheap rate alerts

Some travel sites offer rate alerts that send offers via email. Subscribing to Fare Alerts is like having your own little travel agent right in your inbox.

The two sites listed below both operate on “freemium” models, meaning they have both free and paid plans.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott's Cheap Flights
Screenshot via Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott’s Cheap Flights sends you cheap fares based on three plans to choose from: Limited, Elite and Premium.

Here is a breakdown of each plan:

  • Limited (Free): You get the best fares from five airports of your choice.
  • Premium ($49 per year): Get the best economy class deals and mispriced fares from up to 10 airports.
  • Elite ($199 per year): Get the best deals from unlimited airports, including cheap Business Class and First Class fares.

Dollar Flight Club

Dollar Flight Club
Screenshot via Dollar Flight Club

Dollar Flight Club is another site that sends cheap rates to your inbox. The site has three levels of membership:

  • Free: Get offers from a departure airport.
  • Premium ($69 per year): Choose up to four departure airports from which you want to get deals.
  • Premium Plus ($99 per year: Choose up to five airports plus deals on Business Class and First Class flights.

Now that you’re getting offers by email, let’s move on to step two of finding cheap rates.

Step 2: Visit Kayak Explore

Kayak.com’s Explore page shows you a rate map of any city you select.

For example, Clark went to Kayak.com/explore and listed Chicago as the departure city. It showed a map of the United States with particular routes for sale. “You can see all the cheapest fares in Chicago,” he says.

It doesn’t stop there: If you move the map east, you can also see the cheapest fares to Europe from your departure city. Keep moving the map to see cheap fares around the world. All prices you will see are for round trip fares.

Cheap rates for Punta Cana via Kayak.com
Screenshot via Kayak.com

Let’s say we identify a good deal: Punta Cana for $201 (see image). Click on the rate to access the specific dates when the rate is available.

In our case, it’s May 7-12, 2022. Now you have a timeline in mind.

“With travel, I start here [with Kayak] but when you want to focus on flights, you have to go to one specific place: Google Flights,” says Clark.

Step 3: Check Google Flights

Go to Google.com/flights and indicate the specific dates you are interested in. In our example, we looked at the period from May 7 to May 12. When we entered this information, we found that Google Flights actually beat Kayak’s fare!

Cheap fares to Punta Cana via Google Flights
Screenshot via Google Flights

Don’t like the airline? Do you prefer only non-stop flights or different days? Carefree. You can further optimize your flight by taking advantage of certain filters such as:

  • Price chart: a graph that shows you the weeks when prices will generally increase or decrease and by how much.
  • Date grid: Take a look at a calendar that shows when prices might be cheaper.
  • Price tracking: Receive an email when the fare price changes.

“Google has the most sophisticated airline ticket search engine available in the world,” Clark says.

Find out how to save with Google Flights.

Final Thoughts

By following Clark’s travel planning tips using a three-pronged approach, you can find cheap flights in no time.

Remember, find cheap flights in three easy steps:

  • Sign up to receive rate alerts in your inbox.
  • Go to Kayak/Explore.
  • Go to Google Flights.

Clark says the latter two sites are great fare comparison tools that make it easier to travel on the cheap.

“If you use this one-two combination — Kayak Explore and Google Flights — I’m going to save you money. Or in fact, they will,” Clark says.

Want more ways to save? Here’s how Clark plans a trip.

More travel resources on Clark.com:

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