The 7 Most Important Tips For Finding The Best International Flights

Finding the best airfares for international flights takes a bit of strategy. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll find the prices going up every time you look. Normally with flashing banners warning ‘only 3 seats left at this price!

As a professional traveler, flying multiple international flights per year, I want the best flight plan possible at the best price possible, and I’ve been able to figure out some good strategies along the way.

I have an entire chapter on how to get the best international flights and how to find the best international airfares in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy. It’s well worth buying the book for that chapter alone, as it can save you hundreds on your airfare.

Today I want to give you 7 tips and strategies for finding the best flights and airfares for your international trip.

1. Use An Incognito Window

Always and only ever use an incognito window when looking for flights. Otherwise companies drop cookies into your computer, track you, and put the price up every time you look. This can impact the cost of your trip by multiple hundreds of dollars. Let the companies think you are a new flyer, every time.

2. Check The Consolidators To Find The Lowest Prices

With an incognito window now check the consolidator prices. I look at Google flights and at Priceline to see what the average low price is. This gives me an idea of where the market is. If you have any flexibility in your dates see what happens if you move back or forth a day or two. I normally avoid flying peak days, like Fridays and Sundays. Where possible I try to fly Tuesdays and Wednesdays as there seems to be a dip in prices on those days. If not, I’ll look for my preferred dates.

RELATED POST: 8 THINGS YOU MUST NEVER PACK IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE

Flying over France last autumn

3. Look At Layover Times

My next strategy is to look at layover times. Not all of us are blessed with direct flights from our home town to the destination city. That means we either take a domestic flight to our outbound city, or that we fly to the first destination and then catch a domestic flight to the final destination.

For example, maybe your first flight is from your home airport to JFK in New York, and your second flight is from JFK to Paris.

Or, Maybe you fly direct from JFK to Paris but then have to catch an internal flight to Lyons. Or a trans Europe flight to Lisbon.

I recommend getting a 3 hour layover between flights. This gives you a little breathing room if your first flight is late, as well as giving you time to find a new flight if your first flight is cancelled.

Plenty of flight routes give you only 50 minutes to an hour to catch your connecting flight. You need to consider that international flights start boarding about an hour before take off, and they close the doors 15 minutes before pulling away from the gate. If your domestic flight is late even 10 minutes, you could miss your international connection. Also, with a layover of an hour or less the chances of your checked luggage not making the flight go up astoundingly.

There are plenty of U.S airports that require you to leave the secure area, go to another terminal, then go back through TSA security. This also can make you miss a tight connection.

If flying in and out of Europe, the first country you land in is where you go through passport control and immigration. You might be flying into Paris, then connecting to Rome, with Rome as your final destination. You won’t go through passport control in Rome, you will go through in Paris.

It’s the same with the return flight. The city you leave Europe from is the one you go through passport control. So if your flight is Florence to Munich, then Munich to Denver, you exit the EU from Munich, so that’s where you’ll line up to go through passport control.

It is well worth having a 3 hour layover in each direction.

RELATED POST: MUST HAVE ELECTRONIC GADGETS FOR TRAVELERS

4. Look At Total Travel Time

You may have found a smoking deal, but on closer inspection find you have a 12 hour layover in O’Hare, of that you fly to Helsinki, overnight for 22 hours, then fly on to Rome. (This forces you to pay for a hotel room.)

Or maybe that super cheap flight has your domestic outbound at 6am, which means check in at 4 am, getting up at 2:30-3:00 am, and has you completely exhausted when you arrive to your final destination.

Try to find a flight that doesn’t start too early, doesn’t have multiple domestic connections, and doesn’t have overly long and exhausting/expensive layovers.

If you can start your travel day with a 10 am flight you will arrive feeling so much less jet-lagged than if you start at 6am.

5. Check The Airline’s Website

Once you know the best prices and the best flight routes, now go check the airline’s website. Sometimes they have a better offer, but 9 time out of 10 they are more expensive.

I call the airline, speak to a human, and see if they can match the consolidator’s price. So long as it is the same airline, they frequently will match it, better it, or find you another flight plan that is even better!

If they don’t, just buy the consolidator ticket. I try where possible to buy through the airline itself as that makes it easier if anything goes wrong, but I won’t over pay for a ticket.

RELATED POST: 8 CRUCIAL THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE

Leaving Christchurch, December 2022

6. Check Your Credit Card Portal

Most major airlines and many major credit card companies have their own shopping portals. For the benefit of having you click into their portal, then to the airline website, they give you extra frequent flier miles. If I am booking an American Airlines flight I will check the American Airlines shopping portal and see how many extra miles I get for booking my flights through there. Then I check my credit card portal.

I might get 3 miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines by using their portal, or I might get 5 miles or even 10 miles per dollar spent via my credit card’s portal. Or the other way around. Either way, I not only want to get miles for my flight, I want all the bonus miles I can get.

I explain how this works in detail on the Untold Italy Podcast episode #116. (The pod episode is on all major podcast platforms.) In that episode I tell you multiple ways I save money when traveling, and how I get at least one free roundtrip airfare to Europe or Australia/New Zealand every year. Most of it is through front end strategy, using tricks like this to earn enormous numbers of frequent flier miles every year. It is definitely worth a listen!

7. Prepare For An Upgrade

I get an upgrade approximately 1 in 3 international flights. Normally from an economy seat up to a business class seat.

In Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy I go into depth about how I get upgraded so often. I still use all the strategies in the book, but in the last 5 years have added another trick when I’m not flying the 3 major U.S carriers. (American, Delta and United.) The big 3 don’t participate, but many/most other airlines take part in Upgrade Auctions. You can either find the upgrade auction on the airline website after buying your flight, or there are third party companies that do them.

Premium Economy will almost always sell out, and much of the time regular economy does too. The class that doesn’t always sell out is business class. So airlines can fill their planes by upgrading lower classes and selling more economy class seats. One way to monetize this is to auction the empty business class seats to the highest bidders. When you go into the upgrade auction it will tell you the lowest you can bid (it typically starts around $300 – you can’t bet $10 and get into biz class. It may top out at $850 or $1400, or whatever they think they might get.)

In the 24 hours before the flight leaves the winner(s) will be notified by email, their credit cards will be charged, and they now get all the perks of flying business class. This includes access tot he club lounge at the airport, priority boarding, extra luggage allowance, and of course all the inflight perks from lie-flat seats, to better meals, real flatware and plates, complimentary champagne – the works.

*** Before you buy your ticket check to see if that airline has an upgrade auction and if they only open it to travelers who have bought through their website, or through that airline. I recently flew Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Auckland, but had bought a code share ticket through United, which saved hundreds of dollars. I couldn’t go into Air New Zealand’s upgrade auction because the flight was purchased through United.

Hopefully you will use these tips to find amazing flight deals and the best flight plans for your upcoming trips! For more international travel tips and specialty Italy trip info, including my favorite secret towns and villages across Italy, join thousands of people around the world, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

One Last Thought

Always buy travel insurance for international trips. This covers you if anything goes wrong, from missed flights to luggage not arriving, to you getting sick while away. I normally buy my travel insurance from Travelex.

This blog post explains more about travel insurance. In a pandemic/post pandemic world you need to get Covid cover with your insurance policy. This is normally found in the Trip Delay category. Look for a trip delay of $2000. This covers accommodation for 10 nights should you test positive and not be able to fly home. At the time of writing this blog post no airlines/countries are stopping people testing Covid + from boarding flights, but between now and your flight home it could be reimplemented. Or, you could get sick while away and not be able to fly home.

It never hurts to be prepared…

Coronavirus and Travel Insurance – What You Need To Know

If you have booked a trip for this spring or summer and now are not sure whether to go or not, or how to interpret your travel insurance, this post will hopefully be of help to you!

If you are on my Private Members Newsletter list you will already have a comprehensive breakdown of everything in your inbox. If you are not on the list you can join HERE

Coronavirus

Some of the information about Coronavirus here in America is very misleading. I never thought there would be a day when I would advise against listening to anything an American president says about an epidemic, but here we are.

coronavirus and travel insurance
image via CDC

I suggest sourcing your information from more than one place, ideally looking to international news as well as domestic. You will see the entire world says one thing and the US president says something quite different.

RELATED POST: SHOULD YOU BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Quick Facts

Coronavirus COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that attacks the upper respiratory system. Approximately 80% of the people who contract it will be somewhere between asymptomatic and having cold/flu symptoms. 20% will get very sick, 5% critically ill and for around 2% it will be fatal.

These figures may be skewed due to not enough people being tested. Here in the U.S we have no idea how many people are already infected.

It disproportionately impacts those with underlying conditions, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. You can read more about it on the CDC Website but be advised they aren’t allowed to tell us everything they normally would have up there. They had to take down posted figures on the number of people tested in the USA.

coronavirus and travel
Coronavirus image via CDC.gov

The USA is ridiculously behind the rest of the developed countries in testing. South Korea has tested more than 110,000 people. Italy has tested more than 25,000 people. The U,K more than 13,500. The list goes on and on, but the USA as of today is still limping along at the 500 mark.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

There are multiple factors to look at with your travel insurance policy. You can normally find it all in the fine print.

Some policies have no cover for events such as epidemics, pandemics.

Foreseen/Unforeseen Events

Travel Insurance policies will normally have an exit clause for Foreseen events. For example if you insure your trip today and then the weather service announces a hurricane advisory next week, you will be covered because you bought your policy before the advisory, so it was Unforeseen.

If you purchased insurance after the weather service announced there could be a hurricane next week, even if you hadn’t heard about it yet, that would be a Foreseen event and you would not be covered.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 was declared an epidemic on January 21st 2020. If you bought your policy before this date you should be covered. If you purchased it after this date you will not be covered for Coronavirus related problems.

RELATED POST: HOW TO AVOID GETTING SICK WHEN YOU FLY THIS WINTER

Cancel For Any Reason

If you bought an additional CFAR or Cancel For Any Reason with your policy before January 21st 2020 you should be able to get a 100% refund. If you purchased CFAR after January 21st 2020 you may not be covered, or the extent of your coverage is in the hands of the insurance company.

Non Essential Travel Advisory and Travel Ban

The State Department or Foreign Service for your country allocates a variety of threat levels for international travel. Two that you need to watch out for are an all out Travel Ban and a Non Essential Travel advisory. At the time of writing this post the U.S State Department has issued Non Essential Travel advisories for several countries. If you travel to one of these countries during the advisory your travel insurance policy doesn’t have to cover you for anything.

This is what Consumer Reports says about Travel and Coronavirus. Also here is an example of how travel insurance companies are dealing with it. My travel insurance is through Travelex, so I am using them as an example: Travelex Insurance and Coronavirus

Should You Cancel Your Trip?

This depends entirely upon where you are traveling and when.

I am going ahead with travel to Italy and Europe for the summer. There is every likelihood the virus will calm down over the summer months if it follows the behavior of its fellow viruses SARS and MERS. Obviously I will be watching and evaluating what is happening over the next weeks. My expectation is that we will see the worst of it in March and that from April forward the virus will start disappearing as the warmer weather comes.

I had planned to travel to Europe in December but for now temporarily have those plans on hold. I’m expecting to see the virus get worse again over the cold/flu season.

Obviously I’m not a doctor/microbiologist/epidemiologist and have no scientific background to support that theory. If I am wrong with my predictions then in December you will find me shopping in the Christmas markets in Europe.

RELATED POST: 15 FABULOUS BOOKS SET IN ITALY

Trips To Re-Evaluate

There are two types of trip I think you should re-evaluate and that I would opt out of:

Theme Parks/Water Parks

Although the hot weather may reduce or possibly even eliminate the risk of spreading the virus, theme parks are the perfect places for contagions to spread quickly. You may want to really rethink trips to theme parks for the next few months, at least until the virus is under control

Cruises

I am very outspoken in my aversion to cruises and freely admit to being very biased. Cruise ships are floating incubators for viruses. They are incredibly difficult to sanitize, which has made them a paradise for a variety of ailments including Norovirus. I have known several people who contracted Norovirus on cruises and who were very ill for months and as long as a year.

We are seeing cruise ships around the world banned from docking due to Coronavirus. As I write this a Princess cruise has been denied entry to San Francisco due to Coronavirus. A passenger from a previous trip on this particular ship (February) died from Coronavirus in California yesterday.

The Grand Princess leaving San Francisco

The CDC is helicoptering test kits to 100 passengers who have been identified as “at risk” due to flu-like symptoms and upper respiratory illness. There are 2500 passengers on the ship.

You have to ask yourself is it really worth the risk? But don’t take my word for it. Here is an article from Tara C Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State about the dangers of contracting viruses on cruise ships: CRUISE SHIP NIGHTMARE

I hope this post has been helpful to you. If you have additional advice or information for travelers please leave a comment below. If you are a virologist/epidemiologist/microbiologist etc and can refute or add to anything here please do so in the comments below, and if possible link any articles that corroborate your position. I will happily add them to the body of this post. The more facts that can be given (vs my personal opinions) the more helpful this will ultimately be to travelers.


728x90 Get Quote

Plane Gorgeous ~ How To Look Fabulous When You Land

Stand at the arrivals gate watching international travelers pushing their luggage carts through and you will notice most people look hungover after a long flight.

Their skin is grey, hair is all over the place, clothes are crumpled and they look well worse for wear.

But you don’t need to. After an entire lifetime of flying around the world, half the time having to bounce off the plane and straight in to a business meeting, a shoot or a dinner party, I’ve learned some tricks to help you look lovely after a long flight.

Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy available in paperback and digital on Amazon.com. Bestseller Italy travel guide

Hydrate During Your Flight

That grey skinned, beat up look that most flyers get comes from dehydration. Every hour you are flying the friendly skies you are losing an extra glass of water, so the trick is to keep hydrating before, during and after your flight.

It doesn’t hurt to add in some electrolytes from a hydration packet or an EmergenceC either.

RELATED POST: HOW TO SLEEP ON A PLANE – 10 TIPS FOR SUCCESS

This post contains affiliate links. Should you purchase anything through these links a (very) small commission will be paid to this blog to help offset the hosting costs.

Fly Makeup Free

Maybe you don’t want to cavort through the airport with a bare face, but either arrive with no makeup on or remove your makeup with some facial wipes once you take off. Wipes are notoriously destructive to the area around the eyes, so go easy on mascara that morning or don’t wear any. If you do have eye makeup on you do need to remove it gently.

Don’t fly overnight with mascara on. Even if you don’t sleep you will probably snooze a bit/go into twilight sleep, and those long luscious lashes you boarded with will look like morning after drunk girl lashes.

Facial Spray

makeup artist favorite Caudalie Beauty Elixir spray in travel size
Makeup Artists and customers alike have turned Caudalie Beauty Elixir into a cult favorite

Invest in a travel sized facial spray and spritz your skin throughout the flight. It feels nice, and helps your skin stay hydrated. Recommended product Caudalie Beauty Elixir is available in travel size at Sephora.com

RELATED POST: BUSINESS TRAVELER TRICKS – 10 Things To Know Before You Fly

Complexion Superfood

Apply a supersonic moisturizer either before your flight or after takeoff (depending on whether you board with makeup on). Weleda Skin Food is one of the most amazing deep moisturizers ever. Even after a 12 hour flight you will deplane with a glowy complexion.

Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask is perfect for travelers
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask is the perfect travel companion.

Another option is Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask. It wears like an intense moisturizer while you fly and leaves your skin beautifully prepped when you land. All three Summer Fridays Masks are available at Sephora.com

Keep Your Under Eyes Hydrated

The skin under your eyes dries out faster than any other skin on your body, so needs some extra loving if you are going to arrive looking fabulous. My latest favorite under eye product when I fly is this Cooling Water stick by Milk. It comes in a travel size and not only hydrates but has a very cooling effect as well.

Milk Makeup Cooling Water is the perfect undereye product when you travel. Hydrating and cooling it is ideal for long flights
Milk Makeup Cooling Water is the perfect travel companion. It both hydrates and cools tired under eyes, leaving your skin fresh and nourished. Available at Sephora.com

Allowing for the fact that every surface on a plane is a germ-fest I love that this particular product comes as a wind up stick, so your fingers don’t have to pollute your jar of expensive eye cream. It is the perfect travel companion.

Keep Your Lips Luscious

Another sign of dehydration is grey, cracky lips. Avoid this my using a good hydrating lip balm. I love the little round EOS lip balms. They travel well, don’t dry out and make your lips more cracked, aren’t too waxy, and if you apply a couple of times during your flight you will arrive with soft, lipstick ready lips.

RELATED POST: HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE LIKE A PRO

Before You Land/When You Land

Either before you land or in the space between de-boarding the plane and your bags arriving into baggage claim, do a quick tidy up. Quick as in under 5 minutes.

1. Brush Your Teeth

Trust me, your breath stinks after a long flight. A fresh, minty mouth makes you feel better, and shiny, clean teeth look 1000 times better than mossy, dirty teeth!

2. Avoid Foundation And Powder

Instead of applying base or powder gently use a facial wipe to clear away any remnants of the flight, give your skin another spritz and some moisturizer. It will love you for it. If you really do need some color support use a lightweight BB or CC cream

3. Groom Your Brows

Your eyebrows are one of the most important features on your face. Give them a quick tidy up and pencil in a little color. This draws the viewer’s eye up and away from your under eyes, and makes you look polished.

RELATED POST: THE BEST TRAVEL ACCESSORIES ON AMAZON

4. Luminize Your Under Eye

Apply a little luminizing color correction under the eye to neutralize dark rings and pop a little light off. My favorites are YSL Touche Eclat and recently ColoreScience Total Eye. Either of these will hydrate, color correct and brighten, leaving you looking fresh faced and lovely

5. Show Your Lashes Some Love

Lancome definicils mascara
Lancome Definicils mascara has been around for a while. It is a tried and trusted mascara that will probably be around forever..

If you feel so inclined add a couple of coats of a lash defining mascara. Nothing goopy or thick, just something to make the lashes look defined, lush and shiny. I have been using Lancome Definicils for the past year and love it.

6. A Bright, Bold Lip

The best trick to wake up your skin and look fresh and fabulous is to apply a bright lipstick. Reds will highlight the blue/grey in your skin and unless you are JLo will make you look more haggard and beaten up, so I avoid them when flying. My favorites are fuchsias. They are bright but don’t fight with your skin tone. Even if you just wear a hint of it.

I also avoid matte formulas when I’ve been flying as they can make already dry skin and lips look dead. I prefer a sateen or very low gloss.

7. Put Your Hair Up

Sometimes something as simple as a fluffed up high ponytail can add layers of glam to your look. If there is absolutely no redeeming my hair I will backcomb it a little and put it into a high pony. This at least looks fresh.

8. Palazzo Pants

Heads up ladies, palazzo pants or pants with a little movement in the lower leg are God’s gift to frequent fliers! For the past 10 years or so I have been flying in simple black palazzo pants. They are comfortable to wear, especially in cramped seating, but even better, they swish when you walk.

Miranda Kerr walking through airport in Palazzo pants

Have a look at your fellow flyers. Their clothes look bunched, wrinkled, and slept in. On the other hand a palazzo in a travel friendly fabric that swishes a little as you walk makes you look fresh and fabulous.

If you have read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) then you will already know about my FREE RESOURCES for travelers. These are downloadable PDFs that help you with everything from planning your trip to pre-travel checklists that help you to travel stress-free! You can download your FREE RESOURCES TRAVEL PDFs HERE


728x90 Get Quote