How to find cheap flights

Getting low-priced plane tickets isn't easy, but it's not impossible

Air travel is more popular and convenient than ever. But it's often tricky to find flights that don't cost a small fortune. And if you're a family, the prices can easily skyrocket.

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Take a bit of time to do some research to get those elusive great deals on your plane tickets.

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Go private

We're not saying hire a private jet, but we are talking about your online searches. The cookies on your browser can cause the prices of plane tickets to increase when a specific route is repeatedly searched.

In Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is done by pressing Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, press Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”. This will open a new browser window where your information is not tracked, so it won't increase the prices while you search. But if you're using an older version of OS X, open Safari then click “Safari” in the menu bar, and select “Private Browsing."

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 Calendar showing January and February

Be flexible

It's generally accepted that Tuesday is the cheapest day of the week to fly. There's no exact science for the reasons why this is, but it's likely to be the least popular day for passengers so airlines try and ease the numbers off other days and flights by making Tuesday flights more affordable. A study by CheapAir found that Tuesday flights can be up to around $85 less than the week's most expensive day to fly, Sunday. Wednesday is the second cheapest day to fly and oppositely, Friday is the second most expensive day to fly.

A top tip to remember is midweek flights are more affordable, and weekend ones are more expensive.

If possible, try and schedule your leaving and returning days to the less popular days to travel.

Avoid school vacation times

Due to a wave of increase in demand, flight prices and accommodation rise significantly during school vacation times (like spring break). If you're a parent you'll know when these are, otherwise, a quick look at your local government website will show you the dates to avoid when booking your trip. If your situation allows, try and book during school semester times, especially for places like Disneyland.

Book ahead

To get the best rates and the most competitive prices, book as far ahead as possible. Flights tend to be the most inexpensive around four months to three weeks before your departure date, so get those vacation request forms in quickly.

Join a loyalty program 

If you're a frequent flyer, whether for business or pleasure, look at your favorite carriers to see if they offer a loyalty system. Some airlines let you accumulate miles, while others offer "points" that can be redeemed and used toward things like seating upgrades, cheaper flights, access to the private airport lounges and other benefits.

Compare between airlines to see which offers the most bang for your buck.

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Booking off-season can pay off.

Think outside the box

Choosing a destination that isn't going to be wildly popular at certain times of the year can really help drive costs down, in accommodation as well as plane tickets. For example, New Orleans in January and early February is going to be significantly cheaper than around the Mardi Gras weekend.

The South of France is a beautiful destination and can be extremely hot and busy during the peak months of mid-June to the end of August. But if you book in September to early October you could save yourself a small fortune. The weather will still be hot and beachy, but it won't be crowded.

You can also look at doing a city break. Some flights from one US city to another can be as little as $75 for a round trip.

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