How we find cheap flights

There’re several ways to find cheap flights. Most importantly is not having restricted dates. If you are stuck with certain dates, it going to be a lot harder to find cheap flights. We subscribe to many alerts and emails for airfare deals, although not every deal we found has been through one of the services. We also use Google flights and their price tracker to keep track of flight costs over a period of time.


General Google flight searches

If you have set dates, you can use Google flights to track prices. There are several filtering options including airlines, stops, times and connecting airports. Here we tracked the price from Minneapolis (MSP) to Dublin (DUB) for January 23 – January 29 2019. The price that is struck through is the first price when you set the tracked pricing which in this example was $335. The current price is $421 and is trending upwards as compared to the original price and looks like we’ve been tracking the price for 36 days or so.

Here is a tracked price from MSP to Shanghai (PVG) that started at $857 and is currently at $695. The price has fluctuated up and down and it appears that the lowest price was around $475.  This search is for economy and any airline.

Another good thing about Google flights is that if you are tracking the price of a flight and the date you are tracking is in the past, the chart will convert to show the price leading up the to the day of travel. This oneway flight from Chicago (ORD) to Minneapolis (MSP) went up quite a bit in price in the few days leading up to the travel date as expected.


Not all cheap flights come from a free or paid service

We found a United flight from Minneapolis to Belize with a connection in Houston for $274.21 RT PP which included a checked bag.  This was a flight that we found using Google flights using their tracked prices feature.  After we purchased, we ended up looking for this fare on any of our airfare tracking services that we use and didn’t see it advertised.  This is normally around a $650 dollar flight.


Searching from your non home airport

If you aren’t finding good prices from your home airport, you may want to try to search for airports you would likely connect through.  For example, if we want to go from Minneapolis (MSP) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) on May 8-16 2019, the cheapest price is $885 RT PP. 

If we search Los Angeles (LAX) to KUL for the same dates, the cheapest price is $453. 

Surely we can find a flight from MSP to LAX for under $432 ($885 -$453).  We were able to find a flight from MSP to LAX on May 7 -17 2019 for $240. 

Note that this flight is a day earlier and a day later due to the LAX flight leaving just after midnight on the 8th (obviously need to arrive in LAX a few hours before that) and the LAX return flight arriving at 7pm on the 16th (no late evening flights from LAX to MSP).  Hopefully that makes the point.

A few words of caution when booking this way.  Allow enough time to make connections and make sure you you have the correct dates.  As mentioned above, the flight out from LAX leaves just after midnight meaning you need to arrive a few hours before that which would be the previous day.  Also, being that you would have multiple reservations can cause issues if one of your flights is delayed and checked bags wouldn’t be transferred on different reservations.  Lastly, checked bags may be extra.  In our MSP-KUL itinerary, two checked bags were included.  The delta flights between MSP and LAX did not include checked bags in that price which would be an extra cost if needed.

REDCAMP 96L Extra Large Duffle Bag Lightweight, Water Resistant Travel Duffle Bag Foldable for Men Women

With an upcoming 12 total flight trip to Malaysia, we decided to use our camping/travel backpacks instead of a typical roller bag. When we arrived at Perhentian Kecil, we were glad we had backpacks as we had to walk almost 800 meters across a sandy beach to get to ur accommodation.

We wanted to protect our backpacks while in transit so we decided to get two duffle bags. We found these for ~$17 on Amazon. The reviews on Amazon aren’t too positive but the price and size seemed right. The fabric is light weight yet seems quite strong. The zipper pull felt very flimsy and very thin. The overall design seemed quite good with a large zipper opening that goes half way down the side. One of our smaller backpacks (Gregory Jade 50) fit right in but the larger 70 liter one had a hard time getting in. There was a little bit of vertical compression needed on the backpack to get it inside the duffle bag, but once in, it actually fit quite nicely.

We had originally tested the fit of the backpacks in the duffles without too much in the backpacks. The night before we were set to depart, we did another fit test with more in the backpacks. The smaller backpack fit just fine again but the larger one split the stitching near the zipper and caused the zipper to fall off. We were glad this happened at home rather than on our travels. Our first flight was scheduled at 5:40am and it was about 10pm. Luckily we have a sewing machine so we spent the next hour reinforcing both bags. Originally we just ran a new stitch near the zipper but this didn’t seem like it would be enough.

The 70 liter backpack weighed in at 21kg while the 50 liter backpack was around 17kg.

One stitch.

Realizing that more stitching was needed. It looks terrible but should do the trick.

After a few flights, the stitching for the handle came undone. This was an initial oversight on the sewing reinforcement that we did as grabbing this bag by only one handle and pulling puts a lot os stress where the handle meets the bag.

After the seventh flight, the first major issue. The zipper ended up coming apart. The zipper was able to be reset after this and worked fine.

After the ninth flight arriving in Bangkok, the bag ended up failing pretty badly. This luckily was our last flight where we needed access to this bag so…

We ended up getting it wrapped in Bangkok for the remaining three flights. We felt so gross that all this plastic was used just to get this bag home without more damage happening.

Finally back in Minneapolis after twelve flights.

Overall, we wouldn’t rate these bags very highly unless they were to be used lightly and stuffed with things like pillows, sleeping bags or something around that density.  Using both handles will also extend the life of the bag but that is not always  controllable with the way bags are handled for flights. The bag that had the lighter and smaller backpack held up just fine and that bag was also reinforced by us before we left.

The recommendation would be to reinforce the areas around the zipper and where the handles meet the bag.  Obviously, not everyone has a sewing machine, has the time or feels like they should have to put extra effort into making a product usable. We feel that the further reinforcement that can be done to the bags after the trip will make the bags last quite a bit longer.