6 Tricks for Finding Cheap (Long-Haul) Flights

Emirates Airbus A380

A seat on one and the same flight can cost one traveler €900 while another one will only pay €300. How’s that even possible? We will try to give you some guidelines and show you the most valuable insider tricks to get a step closer to your goal: cheap travel.


Almost all the screenshots used in this article are taken from Google Flights. It is by far the most customer friendly tool to search flights and compare prices. If you are not familiar with it, take a look at our tutorial.

1. Flexibility When Choosing Your Departure Airport

If your only option to start conquering the world is the next best small-town airport, you will most likely be stuck with high prices. Why’s that?

  1. Ordinarily small, regional airports do not offer direct flights to the destinations you want to reach
  2. Only very few airlines will connect regional airports to their hubs, and even if they do, they won’t fly very frequently.
  3. Demand for flights is definitely less than for flights from major airports

And that’s why you should be open to longer travel times to your future departure airport.

Let’s have a look at an example: You live in Santander, Spain and want to fly from Seve Ballesteros–Santander Airport to New York. Iberia has scheduled regular flights from Santander to Madrid or Barcelona, but since it’s probably the only airline that will also offer connecting flights to New York, Iberia can dictate the prices. Who will stop them, right? And that’s why its worth having a look at other airports near you.

Maybe you could buy a cheap train ticket to get to Barcelona or Madrid. Another option would be to catch a flight with low-cost carrier Ryanair to get to those cities for less money before you get on board of the long-haul flight.

SDR JFK Long Haul example
Flights to New York from Santander via Madrid
MAD JFK Cheap Long Haul example
Same route, same day. But more than €200 cheaper if you departe from Madrid

Tip: Some airlines offer discounted or even free tickets for train rides to a major airport. Emirates is known for this kind of marketing and customer service. Even if you have to pay extra, it’s usually not a significant amount, and you still save compared to what you would have paid when booking the ride yourself.

But having a look at airports nearby is just the beginning. It can be even better to broaden your search to neighboring countries. Sometimes airports abroad are more comfortable to reach than the major airports within your state.

2. Direct Flights Are More Expensive

Without any further information, one should think that flying without a layover will be less expensive than having two or more stop-overs. To the contrary: in most cases, you’ll end up paying extra if you want to get to your destination with changing to another plane. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Passengers are willing to pay more for direct flight. A layover means stress and also extra time that you’ll need to get from A to B. Since most people like to avoid stress and love their time, airlines tend to charge more to people that want to travel convenient.
  2. Airlines are in constant competitions with each other. And they try to take away each other’s passengers. One way to accomplish this goal is to offers cheap flights from airports that other carriers use as their hub. Since the airline that is trying to steal customers can’t just fly to and from any country in the world, flights will be routed through an airport in the carriers home country. For example: British Airways might want to take away travelers from KLM. So they could offer cheap flights to South Africa. More affordable, than what the Dutch carrier is promoting. So BA will pick up passengers from Amsterdam, fly them to London and from there to Johannesburg. There’s your cheap flight including a layover.
  3. Sometimes airlines just reduce the price for flights with stops. After all, if the non-stop connection would be more reasonable, who would opt for a flight including a layover?
  4. In some cases, a better price results from fees or taxes. Or better the lack of one of them. That way you can fly from Amsterdam to New York via Frankfurt and pay less than you would have for just the flight from Germany to the USA.
FRA JFK Cheap Longhaul
Flight from Frankfurt to New York
CPH JFK Cheap Longhaul
Same route but cheaper with departure from Copenhagen

But it’s not only flying from somewhere else that can save you money. Sometimes one segment is actually a train ride, like deals from Brussel that take you to Amsterdam on the rails before you board a plane.

3. Know Your Travel Periods

  1. High or low season? It is crucial to know if your dream destination is popular or not during a specific time in the year. If you’re planning on going to Thailand and you’ve found super cheap flights, you should check if you’re not planning on visiting during the rainy season. But not all destinations are as bad in the low season as Asia during monsoon time. Take New York. It might be cold in winter, but there are less tourist and it’s always great for Xmas shopping.
  2. School holidays? If you have children, then you’re a fortunate person. But maybe not so much, if it comes to traveling for less money. If you can only get away during school holidays, you have a lot of competition for those sweetly priced flights. Airlines know that and will often raise fares during summer. Again, you might want to check if school ends sooner or later in another province or a neighboring country and book your flight from there.
  3. Any big events going on? If you’re checking for flights and realize that prices in one week are way higher than in the one before or after, you should check for events or expos. During those times, not only hotel rates skyrocket but also prices for flights are higher.

4. The Perfect Timing

There were times when airlines released tickets and however came first, was able to get the cheapest booking classes. But not anymore. So the plan to book as early as possible in advance might not always be the best. That said, waiting too long is also not the wisest choice.

Okay, very smart. Not too soon, not too early. Awesome advice *cough*…

Well, in fact, we can go into more details here. Not that we conducted extensive studies over the past decade. But from experience, we can say that somewhere between six and two months before your vacation should be an excellent time to book your flight. You might even want to reduce this period to only three months. A lot of fares can’t be booked earlier than half a year before departure. And if you wait too long, you might not be able to get a ticket due to restrictions in the fares rules.

If you want to know exactly when you’ll be able to book a flight, take a closer look at the fare rules. The airlines will give you a precise travel period and a date until when the fares will be available.

Matrix Seasonal restrictions
The ITA Airfare Search will show you the fare rules

Your first step should, of course, be doing some research. Use Google flights to check out all the prices that are being offered for your preferred route. The calendar view enables you to see prices over a couple of months.

You might just find the perfect offer right away when looking at prices in the near and not so near future. But you will also get a good idea of what is cheap and what is just, well, normal. That’s how we do it. All of us here have a lot of experience with airfares, and we know precisely when a price is right or even great. No need for you to become a travel agency. But some comparing and educating yourself on costs can’t hurt.

Example CDG JFK Cheap Long Haul
An example of how prices for flights from Paris to New York can change within weeks

And there’s help if you need any. Have a look at our article about using Google Flights to see how you can monitor prices for a certain route and receive notifications once your set price target has been reached.

It can also pay off to wait for promotion sales that airlines regularly start. And if you’re too late and all seats are gone – just check the same route within the next couple of weeks. It happens fairly often that airlines start selling for promo price even if the sale has officially ended.

5. Choose the Duration of Your Stay Wisely

If you only want to stay at your destination for a brief period of time (up to 6 days), this might interfere with the minimum stay requirements that the airlines connect to a fare. The same issue applies for staying too long.

Typical requirements are 7 days (at least) and 3 months (at the most). Most airlines do allow a fast return if you stay from Saturday to Sunday. That way, they want to keep business travelers from booking cheap fares.

So, it will always be tricky to find cheap flights if you want to visit someone for just a day or two during the week or if you’re planning on staying with relatives for 10 months. In those cases, you often have to pay for an expensive ticket.

Unfortunately, booking both flights as one-way connections is not a good solution either:

6. Roundtrips Are (Commonly) Cheaper Than One-ways

Aviation can be weird. You’ll often think: It should be that way. But then it’s not. Like with return flights. Technically there shouldn’t be a difference between booking a return flight or just booking two one-way tickets for the exact same route. But there is a difference. A huge one. Not only will both flights combined be more expensive than the return flight. One alone will cost way more. Have a look:

CPH JFK round trip
Examples of prices for return flights from Copenhagen to New York with Lufthansa
CPH JFK oneway
Prices for one-way flights from Copenhagen to New York with Lufthansa – almost 3 times as high!

The reason is probably that airlines can calculate way easier if they sell return tickets. They know that they will fill the plane on the way back with precisely the same people that they dropped off a couple of days or weeks ago. Also, travelers that really just need to get to one place and not back again don’t have too many options, right? So the airlines will let them dig deep into their pockets.

This rule – one that has been around for a long time – starts to become less accurate nowadays. Thanks to (mostly) low-cost airlines. They will often only sell one-way tickets. Ryanair is a good example. But also other carriers such as TAP Portugal will sometimes let you buy one-way tickets without charging crazy prices. We regularly post decent one-way fares, too.

One way TAP easyjet
TAP Portugal as well as easyJet and Ryanair don’t charge crazy prices for one-way tickets

7. Bonus: Stay up to Date with Travel-Blogs

Even if you apply all those tips above, sometimes you simply cannot beat a good promotional price when it pops up. Usually, these prices are only valid for a few days or even hours. What’s the best way not to miss out on them? Either scavenge the internet for great flight deals 24/7… or let us do that job for you.

Bookmark our site to check for updates regularly or even better, subscribe to our free newsletter:

We could recommend other sites, but it simply saves time to check back with Travel-Dealz. Why? We don’t use clickbait. In fact, we put as much crucial information as possible in the headline like:

  • Origins
  • Prices for hold luggage
  • Travel periods
  • Round-trip fares, except clearly marked exceptions
  • Other drawbacks or inconveniences

Do you have any more hints how you save money when looking to travel long-haul? Tell us and other readers about it in the comments!

Cover Picture: Photo by Kevin Hackert on Unsplash

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Comment (1)

  1. Nicolas says:

    Thank you very much.

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