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If you’ve tried to book a trip recently, you know that flights have gotten a lot more expensive.  According to the U.S. Travel Association, the cost of airfare in June was almost 25% higher than it was the same time last year.  Although flight prices have gone up, there are still deals to be found.  Here are some tips for finding a cheap flight.

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Be flexible about the destination

Normally when people plan a vacation, they have a destination in mind and look for an affordable flight.  But you can save a lot of money by being flexible about where you go.  Typically, when airlines advertise deals, you can only fly to certain places, and it must be within a specific timeframe.  Do a search to see what flight deals are available and book a trip to one of those destinations. 

Use a travel search engine to compare multiple airlines at once

As with any other major purchase, you won’t know if you’re getting the best deal unless you comparison shop.  So use a travel search engine like Expedia, Orbitz or Hotwire to compare the fares of multiple airlines at once.  Play around with the travel dates (try leaving a day earlier or coming back a day later) to see if you can save even more money.  Mixing and matching airlines or choosing connecting flights can also help reduce the cost. 

Sign up for price alerts

With prices constantly fluctuating, it can be hard to figure out the perfect time to book your ticket.  If there’s a magic number you’d like to pay, set up a price alert for the route you’d like to take.  Once the price drops below a certain level, you’ll receive an email or push notification telling you it’s time to book your trip.

Avoid traveling during popular times

Ticket prices tend to be higher around major holidays and school breaks because that’s when everyone wants to travel.  So save your travel plans for the off-season, if possibe. You’ll spend less money on your flight and deal with less crowds at popular tourist attractions.  That’s a win/win situation.

Book early

Book your ticket in advance.  Travel experts say the best time to book a domestic flight is one to three months before your trip.  The time frame varies for international flights, but the sweet spot is around six months before departure.

Fly with a low-cost airline

One way to book cheap tickets is to fly with a low-cost airline.  Their flights are cheaper because they offer minimal features (no TV, backseat pocket or reclining seats), no free in-flight food/drinks, less direct flights and they typically fly out of smaller airports.  The downside is they charge extra fees for almost everything so watch out for that.

Enroll in a frequent flyer program

Many airlines have frequent flyer programs which reward passengers for being loyal customers.  Once you enroll, you’ll start earning points or miles for each trip, which can be redeemed for future flights.  Depending on how many points you accumulate, you may be able to get a free one way or round-trip ticket.  Usually, you’ll only have to pay the fees and taxes.