This is an excerpt from How to Travel 60-90 Days a Year – Even If You Work 9-5. You can buy the book on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle).

Saving on Flights / Air Travel

I spend ~35%-40% of my travel budget on flights. Even in the low-fare times we live in, the tickets still sum up to a lot of money. While short haul routes can be incredibly cheap, long-haul flights still cost a bunch. A flight back home to Argentina from Europe never costs me less than $800–1.000. It’s big money.

The 4 Rules to Minimize Expenses on Flights

1- Only Buy Discounted Long-Haul Flights. Don’t pay full-price for a long-haul flight. If you plan a bit in advance, you can always find some kind of deal. I’ve found Copenhagen-Singapore return flights for ~$420, a Denmark-Tanzania-Maldives-Sri Lanka-Denmark loop for ~$950, and have paid just ~$350 to go to Kyrgyzstan.

It takes just a bit of research to find the right flight or date combination that slashes $100 off the first price. I can’t recommend you enough to take a bit more extra time to investigate.

 Airline Discount Websites. There are dozens of websites and social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that track airline discounts and special fares real time. I’ve found excellent deals and I include my favorites on my site.

Favorite Search Engines. I don’t use any special, secret website to book flights. I probably use the same sites you do. I’ve included the full, updated list of my favorite on my website as well, and included detailed guides with screenshots and videos.

 Get Price Evaluations & Set Alerts. Flight search engines now suggest you, based on historical prices, whether you should buy right away or wait for a better deal. If it’s better for you to wait, the same websites will offer you to sign up for alerts: they’ll email you when prices for the specific route you’re looking for go down.

The Connection Trick. In some cases, you can combine two destinations into the same ticket and get a substantial saving. For example, flying out of Panama is generally expensive—it can cost, for example, $300 each to fly to Nicaragua or Guatemala. If, on the other hand, you combine Nicaragua and Guatemala in the same ticket—meaning, you book something like: Panama-Guatemala-Nicaragua-Panama, the price is ~$300 as well.

2- Have Flexible Travel Dates. When looking for flights, search engines give you the option to broaden your search from only exact dates to the same dates plus or minus 1, 2 or 3 days. If you, for example, search a return ticket from January 1st to January 7th, you can request the site to not just give you one price (1st to 7th), but to present up to forty-nine combinations instead, as in the picture below:

This type of search will always give you insights. I’ve seen, for example, price differences of up to $1.000 only a few days apart. If you’ve the flexibility, you can score big savings.

3- Fly Budget Airlines for Short-Haul Itineraries. Ryanair might be uncomfortable, even annoying—but hey, as their CEO Michael O’Leary said, people only care about the cheapest price, and (usually) Ryanair is the cheapest. O’Leary is right. In short-haul routes it’s a no-brainer to fly Ryanair, or EasyJet, or another low-cost carrier—especially when you’re flying to well-located airports and at a good time in the day. Is it worth to pay double for a bit more legroom, a glass of soda and a small cake? It’s up to you to decide, but embracing low-cost carriers can save you a lot money in the long run.

Warning – Avoid Upsells. If you start topping up your low-cost fare, your costs will quickly pile up. Don’t check in luggage. Don’t pay extra to select a seat. Bring your own food and drinks. Don’t worry about “speedy/priority boarding”. If you need more than the bare minimum low-cost airlines are a bad deal. If you need any of the above, fly with a full-service airline.

4- Aggressively Collect Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM). Europeans might have the longer holidays, but the Americans have all the good frequent flyer deals. If there’s one thing I would love to be American for it’s for those deals. Oh. My. God. Americans have so many opportunities to get almost free flights anywhere in the world with minimal effort that it drives me crazy. From credit card deals, to (a few years ago) “hacking” the Fed, there are dozens of ways for Americans to ramp up their miles without even flying. Non-Americans have it much harder.

This is an excerpt from How to Travel 60-90 Days a Year – Even If You Work 9-5. You can buy the book on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle).