How to Book Cheap International Flights: Step by Step

International airfare costs have plummeted over the last decade and it’s never been a better time to get out and explore the world! That being said flights overseas are going to be the single largest expense in your trip planning so it’s important to save every dollar possible. There are certain tips and tricks to booking international flights, but mostly it’s about where you look to book! Using this fool proof method in the last 12 months I have secured flights like Kuala Lumpur-New York City $375, Manila-Dubai $303, and Chicago-Bogota only $166! This is a step by step guide how to book cheap international flights to and from anywhere in the world!

In early 2015 I found a revolutionary flight search engine, Skiplagged, that has completely changed how I search for cheap flights and what I expect to see for pricing. Seriously, I instantly laugh when I hear what others have paid for flights! Skiplagged is a flight search engine unlike any other on the web. It’s designed to benefit the consumer by taking advantage of flaws in the airline pricing algorithms when it comes to things like hidden city pricing, pricing by IP address, combining multiple airlines’ routes to reach your destination, etc. This site works so well United Airlines and Orbitz tried to take it down with a lawsuit, but to no avail! It takes a bit of scouring around the internet to complete the bookings but the reward is more than worth the effort! I can get a flight to any continent in the world (less Antartica unfortunately) for under $400 thanks to Skiplagged, if that isn’t the definition of cheap international flights then I don’t know what is!

How to Book Cheap International Flights

Skiplagged is incredibly easy to use and it will instantly save you money. Just type in the To/From airports, pick a date of travel, and it will populate the screen with the best flight deals out there! A handy line graph shows the trend in pricing throughout the calendar year day by day, so you can see if waiting to depart is worth it. I do all my searches for one way flights as Skiplagged usually doesn’t show better deals for booking the return ticket at the same time. Now that you can navigate Skiplagged’s platform you can learn how to book cheap international flights in just a few easy steps!

how to book cheap international flights
Example: TYO-DXB Sept 11th shows $462 flights, but the line graph shows I can fly for $361 on the 16th!


Step by Step: How to Book Cheap International Flights

*Using the flight path of my home in Indianapolis, USA to Bali, Indonesia as an example*

  1. how to book cheap international flightsGet an idea of the route you need to follow to your destination. More often than not international travel means visiting a land that’s totally foreign to you. It’s impossible to find the best flights if you don’t even know how you’ll get there! Luckily there’s Rome2Rio for that, just plug in points A and B to see a list of every combination of trains, planes, and automobiles you could possibly use to get to your destination. It’s really helpful as it shows nearby airports, timetables for public transit, all the alternative methods of travel, and really helps you get your bearings. Learn more about how to use Rome2Rio to determine the best transport methods.
  2. Identify the airport near you with the cheapest international routes. Your journey starts the second you leave your front door, no reason to fly from the local airport if an overnight bus ride will save you hundreds of dollars! Flying Indianapolis to Bali bare minimum will cost $701, but by taking the time to catch a 4 hour bus up to Chicago (that I found on Rome2Rio) I can get to Bali for only $580, saving myself $121!
  3. How to book cheap international flights
    View from my first strategic stopover, 8 hours in London!

    Determine if a strategic stopover will save you money. This is where the trial and error comes in, as well as a bit of research. Pull up Google Maps or Rome2Rio and see what major cities or even other countries are nearby your destination, also look up information on the biggest airport hubs in the region you’re traveling to. So far I’ve found Chicago-Bali all together for $580, not bad considering the same exact flight is on Priceline for $620. However, after a bit of research, I see that many flights make stopovers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the largest airport in Asia) on their way to Bali. Turns out I can book Chicago-Kuala Lumpur for only $395! From there, it’s easy to get on a local airline like AirAsia for under $40 and fly to Bali, saving me another $140 over flying Chicago-Bali and $266 over Indianapolis-Bali. Plus, you get to check another city/country off the bucket list while avoiding a boring layover stuck in an airport! This strategy has helped me turn the journey into part of the destination by getting most I can out of time and money normally lost to transit.

  4. Book the flight directly through the airline. Skiplagged does not facilitate actual bookings, the simply provide links to the websites they used to find the pricing provided. Sometimes it can be a pain to book for the same price Skiplagged shows, but never fear it does exist out there somewhere! Often times you just have to read carefully, many airlines cooperate with seat and route sharing. For my Chicago-Kuala Lumpur flight Skiplagged displays the operator as American Airlines, but the price on Skiplagged shows way below what I could get on their website. It took some time searching around to realize the flight was actually operated by Kuwait Airways, their overseas affiliate, so I had to book through their website for the best pricing. Booking directly with the airlines also cuts out issues that can arise from rescheduling, cancellation, and billing disputes.
how to book cheap international flights
Making our way out of Cambodia for $20 a seat!

Tips to Keep in Mind While Booking

-Book at least 2 months in advance to avoid surcharges, 4 to 6 months in advance for the best pricing available

-The best day to purchase any airline ticket is Tuesday,  the worst days are Friday and Saturday

-The cheapest days to fly are Wednesday and Thursday, the most expensive days Friday and Saturday

-Almost all flights can be cancelled within 24 hours of making the reservation

-Most international flights are not refundable or transferable to other individuals, but they are usually transferable to a different date/time 

-Don’t get stuck to a certain itinerary or timeline for your trip, use the pricing and availability of flights to minimize transport costs and ideally even add on to your travels 

-Be mindful of baggage fees, don’t expect free checked baggage even if you’re ticket is for a long overseas flight


It can be difficult to determine how to book cheap international flights but once you’ve gone through the process a few times it becomes quite fun! If you have any questions, suggestions, or improvements to my method let me know! Now that you’ve booked your flight, learn about the best carry on luggage for long term travel!

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