How to find cheap flights

Friends often ask me how I can afford to travel between Europe and Australasia so regularly given my low-income lifestyle. The answer is that I have a secret method for finding cheap long-haul flights, which often brings the total cost down by a factor of 3-5. This post contains explicit instructions outlining my method, partially for the sake of convenience (it would be easier to send my friends an URL than explain each step in detail), but also I think that economic incentives in the market for air travel are not super effective at signaling consumer preferences (because of outdated technology and other factors which make it hard to make a rational informed decision). I therefore hope that this post contributes toward a more efficient market with cheaper flights and better routes.


  • Visit Google flights and select your departing airport.
  • Click on the lower-right map.
  • In the top left, select ‘One way’ or ‘Return’.
    • I personally use ‘One way’ as it makes the whole process of cross-checking flight prices easier, but if you are planning on returning, booking a return flight upfront is usually cheaper as these flights are marketed toward people going on holiday while one way flights are more marketed toward business travelers.
  • Select ‘Flexible dates’, and either pick a month when you wish to travel or select ‘All’.
    • You can pick specific days if required, but this will reduce your odds of finding a cheap flight.
  • Drag the map around until you are viewing the region of the world where you wish to travel.
    • This is one of the key functions of Google flights as the displayed prices are updated semi-regularly (based on Google’s indexed data), allowing you to bide your time waiting for the cheapest flight to appear.
  • Select a destination and, on the left panel, select the cheapest flight.
    • Note: the destination you select doesn’t have to be your final destination; sometimes it is cheaper to book a short visit to a nearby country along the way. E.g., in the above example, stopping over in Melbourne on the way to New Zealand and booking a separate flight might be cheaper than booking direct. However, I would advise against booking two international flights within 48 hours of each other (in case of delays).
  • Select the date in the top right.
    • Note: in this example (LGW-MEL), there is a symbol indicating that check-in bags are not included in the itinerary. This is often the case when tickets from different airlines are booked together.
  • This is great for viewing a range of prices for a given route across different months. E.g., if I wanted to take this trip a month sooner, the cost difference is only £5.
  • Play around with the parameters (especially departure airport) to see how much of a difference it makes to the overall cost. If you can book directly with an airline that is preferred, but if the price difference is substantial then third-party booking agencies aren’t as bad as everyone makes them out to be (in my experience).
  • Here you can see a more direct & cheap flight is leaving from Berlin. If I am located in London, then perhaps it would be cheaper and more fun to train over to Berlin for the flight (compared to my original itinerary).
  • You can set up price change alerts, but I prefer to check prices manually over the course of a few weeks, finalizing my booking at least two months before my intended departure.

This is basically it. You can use other sites (e.g., to scope out which airlines fly to which airports, which can help with the searching process. But at the end of the day this method requires you to play around with the parameters in order to get the best deal. I highly recommend stopping along the way for a week (plus) at a time if you’re passing by cheaper countries.

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