Dirt-cheap travel can be and is very much a thing, and a part of my life. Finding a good flight deal can be one of the most important and make-or-break aspects of your trip, and is worth the effort if you aren't in a hurry to get anywhere.
Be flexible with your destinations.
If you're not set on a particular place, or your travel plans are open, there are many websites that have flexible option features, such as Skyscanner, which I swear by.
Skyscanner has an "everywhere" feature that I always use. So for example, I know that I want to go somewhere for one week in August, from the 1st to the 7th. I type in those dates, and instead of selecting a particular destination, I search "everywhere" and then Skyscanner ranks everywhere that I can go from August 1st-7th in order of cheapest to most expensive.
Even if you have more specific plans, like you know that you want to visit Italy but aren't set on a particular city, you can use "Italy" as a destination, and it'll tell you where is the cheapest to fly.
Know when it's cheapest to fly, and be flexible with your dates.
In the same sentiment, Skyscanner has an "any time," as well as an "all month" feature to help you find out when it is the cheapest to fly. You can use this to pick destinations that you're set on, but times your flexible with.
This feature can also show you, in graph form, when it is cheapest to fly. Any time surrounding a major holiday - Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. is always the most expensive time. However, you can find some great deals for the days following major holidays, so keep an eye out for those. August and July are also big months for traveling for Europeans - so prices tend to skyrocket during the summer months. If you're willing to spend a little less to be a little colder, it's definitely worth looking into.
Know what search engines to use.
I've already mentioned Skyscanner, which I swear by and almost always use. Skyscanner is great not only because of the features that I mentioned above, but they also include all the weird rogue airlines that aren't usually included on typical search engines. And those are some of the cheapest flights I've ever found (Norway for $9 anyone!?)
There are other search engines that work well too, such as Momondo. Try to avoid sites like Orbitz or Kayak, because often times those are commissioned through individual airline companies, so they offer higher prices. You also can't really find any budget airlines on those ones, as they don't want to pay the extra booking fees.
If you're looking for a more all inclusive booking, check out Flights Direct.
Also, keep an eye out on the RyanAir and EasyJet websites, as some of them will have quick snap sales where you can get unbelievably cheap flights. Airfare Watchdog keeps track of the cheapest flights too, and alerts you when prices dip it low.
Know the best times to book.
Book early, but never too early! Prices fluctuate, so keep an eye out. Budget airlines will often tell you that they have "1 ticket left!" at a particular fare, so don't hold out too long, because prices will continue to rise. The best time to book is typically between 5-8 weeks before your flight.
Fly to secondary airports.
A lot of airports that cater to budget airlines are located slightly outside of their main port of call. For example, "Brussles Charleroi" airport is located about 30 miles outside of central Brussles. And that's just one example of hundreds. But don't let that scare you. All of these secondary airports that I've been to offer shuttle service (you have to pay extra or the ticket), to the city center and if you're willing to spend less cash but sit on a bus for an extra hour, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.
Try different routes.
You can turn stopovers into another destination if you're not in a rush! IcelandAir is newly offering a stopover for up to 7 nights in Iceland en route from the US to Europe. This not only is boosting tourism for Iceland, but offers a cheaper, alternate route.
As well, it's often cheaper to stop off for a few days and take a budget airline when possible. It's probably cheaper to fly from LA to London with a stop in London, and then take a separate budget airline to Florence - but you have to have the patience for this. It's not for everyone, that's for sure.
Check student discounts.
Check out STA Travel, which has great deals for students from flight deals to visa discounts to cheaper railcards.
Check for glitches in travel websites.
These are more rare, but I got to travel from Chicago to Istanbul round trip for just around $200 in March 2014 because of one of these. A Norwegian website called Wideroe stopped charging for fuel surcharges, so I was able to snag one of these before it was removed. Similar things have happened with United Airlines and Delta, and are only sometimes honored.
It's difficult to rely on glitches like this to plan your flights, but it doesn't hurt to look out for them. JoinFlyerTalk to keep updated on these things.
Get a travel credit card.
There are tons of different credit cards with different offers for milage and points etc. Find the one that's right for you - as long as you don't get yourself into trouble with it!
Found any awesome travel deals? Share them in the comments below!