How to Buy International Flights on a Budget

Flights can consume a hefty chunk of travel costs, and that $1,500 price tag on a plane to Paris can easily derail any hopes of a summer vacation if you’re on a budget. It’s less daunting to find affordable airfare than it seems, which I discovered while taking multiple trips to Europe on a college-student income (i.e. very little money). With these tips and tricks, you no longer have to succumb to expensive airfare depression or let it keep you from that much-needed trip!


Know Which Airlines Have the Best Deals

One of the best ways to cut down on travel costs is to fly with international airlines instead of the usual American options. Norwegian Air and Icelandair are two companies I used when planning low-budget trips, and booking with them can cut your ticket price by more than half. Norwegian Air has international flights out of New York, Florida, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Los Angeles airports. If you don’t live in one of these locations, find the airport closest to you and book a separate flight there before hopping on the plane to your final destination. It’s usually cheaper to purchase that extra domestic flight than flying abroad with a major American airline. Using this method, you can fly to some European cities for as little as $500.

Icelandair is another great option and the company gives you the option to book free, multi-day layovers in Iceland if you wish to add an additional city to your itinerary. This company operates out of more American airports than Norwegian Air, but you’ll most likely still find the best deals out of major cities. Some flights from Boston run as low as $250 depending on the booking date, and you can spend a few days exploring the mountains, ice caves, and hot springs around Reykjavik for no extra airfare. Finn Air and Air Europa are additional airlines worth looking into. The only downside with some of the budget airlines is a lack of free in-flight meals and entertainment, and pricey upcharges to checking luggage. Bringing your own snacks and checking luggage weight limits ahead of time for budget airlines can help you avoid added costs.

American companies can have good deals, though; so don’t count them out completely. You can snag a flight on American Airlines for less than $600 if you time it right.


Use the Right Search Tools

Searching flights via Google works extremely well, sometimes. When it doesn’t yield affordable results, turn to search sites like and These search engines pull from a variety of international and domestic airlines to gather the best budget options. Using these sites I found a round-trip flight from North Carolina to Bangkok for under $700, a much healthier option for bank accounts than the usual $1,000, sometimes $2,000, ticket to Asia from the East Coast.


Be Flexible and Book in Advance

Traveling during the off-season will lower your airfare cost, of course, but with a little planning you can book during the prime travel months of summer without forsaking your budget. The key is to buy your flight approximately three to six months before your departure date. Six months out is when the prices really start dropping, and you can still find brag-worthy deals around the three-month mark. It helps to track flights weeks before you’re ready to buy to ensure you get the best deal.

The day of the week you purchase the flight on also influences the price, and tickets tend to be cheapest on Tuesday because many airlines announce their deals on Monday evenings. By Tuesday afternoon other companies are reducing their prices to match those competitive price drops. This is not to say you won’t find a fair deal other days of the week, but searching on a Tuesday or Wednesday is definitely a strategy worth trying out. You may also find that flights are generally cheaper a week before or after you were planning to leave, so try to keep your dates a little flexible. Adjusting your itinerary somewhat can help if flights are still out of your price range. See if it’s cheaper to fly into a different city nearby and then take a short bus or train to your destination. This isn’t usually necessary, but being open to changing plans for cheaper options is valuable when booking budget travel.

With these tips you have no excuses not to plan your best trip yet. Go forth and explore. The experience is always worth the money.


  • Omg! I’m living for this! Thanks for the great tips!

    Happy New Year!

  • Ashley Stange

    I flew Iceland Air and Wow this summer. Although I didn’t take advantage of the stopover, I found it cheaper by hundreds to fly back to Iceland first before heading home instead of taking a direct flight. Thanks for the tips!

  • Being flexible is definitely key. I always try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday and have managed to say hundreds of dollars just by shifting the day of my flights a day or two. So many people want the Friday or weekend fly, but it’s so much cheaper to fly during the week.

    And Google Flights! I love it so much and use it and Kayak to set price tracking on my flights and that’s definitely helped me save some money as well.