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.

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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.

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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…

10 Fantastic Travel Tips You Need To Know Before You Fly

Have you ever noticed how business travelers and people who fly frequently seem to move through airports easily, not even slightly flustered, keeping their cool and looking chic, while you are juggling your carry-on, your handbag, your boarding pass, your I.D and your coat, trying to remember if there are liquids in your bag, hoping you didn’t just drop your iPhone, and getting totally stressed out?

There is an art to air travel. Simple tricks that make everything work seamlessly, get you early boarding and upgrades, make navigating airports easy and have you arriving to your destination looking cool, calm and collected. Business travelers know these tricks. People who fly often know these tricks. And now you are going to know them too!

10 Travel Tricks Every Business Traveler Knows

1. Choose One Airline and Stick With It

Business travelers know whenever possible you should stick with one airline.

Sometimes you can save a few dollars by flying with a cheapie airline or by using a competitor airline but often its just not worth it

Sticking with one airline is beneficial not only for accumulating free flights but also for getting upgrades. Loyal customers tend to get more opportunity to board early and to be upgraded to better seats, and are less likely to be kicked off the flight if it is oversold. Airlines want to build loyalty (hence the frequent flier programs) and understand there is value in taking care of good repeat customers. Also there is a huge benefit to you as a traveler already being familiar with the airline and the way they operate.

2. Choose Your Seat When You Make Your Booking

Business travelers and frequent flyers seldom get stuck in the middle seat.

One of the ways that airlines are making more money is by charging you to choose your seat and staggering the costs depending where on the plane that seat is. You seldom find half empty flights anymore, and most flights are full, even the red eye flights that used to be mostly empty in the good old days. You can safely assume that if you don’t choose your seat ahead of time you will in fact get the dreaded middle seat and be squashed in between two overweight, itchy passengers!

For a short flight it doesn’t matter so much, but for a long flight or for an international flight this can be very important.

Use an app like Seat Guru and evaluate the pros and cons of a seat before committing to it. For example avoid being next to the toilets, look to see if that seat has limited recline or no recline, look to see if the seat has a shorter pitch than others and also see if there is an entertainment system under the seat in front of you taking up both your leg space and your space to put your extra bag. I have been saved countless times by using the Seat Guru app.

RELATED POST: HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE LIKE A PRO

3. Never Check In At The Airport

Business travelers don’t wait til they get to the airport to check in.

Most airlines will offer you the opportunity to check in online 24 hours prior to your flight. Even if you are checking bags always take this option. Apart from it being a time saver, especially if the ticketing area at the airport is busy, it lowers the chance that you will be kicked off your flight if the flight is oversold.

With most airlines this enables you to either choose your seat or at least get a better seat assignment. Your boarding pass can either be printed ahead of time or even sent to your phone. Every step you take to streamline the travel process is worthwhile.

4. Be Ready For TSA Security Checks

Business travelers sail through the TSA security check points quickly and effortlessly.

This is huge. You can tell who are the business travelers and frequent travelers just by watching them move through the TSA check points at the airport. And you can learn a lot from them too.

man being searched at tsa checkpoint in busy airport
image courtesy of Daily Mail

The travel pros are ready for the security X-Ray machines. Jewelry and belts are removed before getting to the conveyor belt, often not put on in the first place until they have cleared the screening point. Keys and coins are removed from pockets and either stored inside their bag or put into a small tray. They know that if they don’t have TSA Pre Check they will have to remove their shoes, so they wear shoes that are easy to get on and off.

Their cabin baggage is organized, with laptops and properly sized, properly packaged liquids at the top, easy to access and put in the trays. Frequent travelers don’t hold up the line and don’t waste time fossicking around in their bags to find the items that set off the x-rays machines. Surplus clothing – coats, hats and scarves are already removed and folded. They have their boarding pass and ID in hand, they are ready.

Frequent travelers will scan the lines at TSA and avoid the ones filled with children and disorganized people. Why get stuck behind someone who is taking up too much space and time?

They know to go left – most people are right handed and will instinctively veer to the security lines to the right. The lanes to the left typically move more quickly and have both fewer people and fewer disorganized people.

By being prepared you can expedite the security process, avoiding some extra stress in the process as well as lessening the likelihood of losing personal items in the process.

5. They Board ASAP

Business travelers don’t waste time hanging around the gate – they board their flights as quickly as possible.

Although it means a few more minute on the plane vs standing at the terminal gate (and who wants to do that anyway?) frequent travelers know to board their flight asap. Have you ever noticed that first class passengers are seated and comfortable with their bags stored in the overhead bin before anyone else is allowed to board?

The first reason to board immediately is to get your share of valuable overhead bin space before it’s gone. Simple and small things such as being able to fold your coat and put it away neatly (rather than having to hold in throughout the flight or have it crushed while you try to squish it in around other travelers rollaway bags) can make all the difference in any flight, be it a short or a long one.

It is much easier to keep your inflight belongings organized when you have had time to board your plane comfortably. Trying to organize your book or laptop, your phone, your earphones, your sweater or scarf, your water and anything else you need out with you, while trying to climb over other passengers and trying to find overhead bin space is not only really difficult but also raises your chance of losing items. You seldom see business travelers or frequent fliers losing their travel items – they board early and stay organized. Which makes them both look and feel calm.

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6. Don’t Bring Unnecessary Valuables

Business travelers know that bringing unnecessary valuables when you travel is plain stupid. The streamline whatever jewelry they are bringing and use the hotel safe to store anything surplus they do have to bring.

They also know that all laptops/medication/jewelry/cameras/valuables have to go on the plane in their carry-on luggage and never in their checked bags. If it has value, never, ever check it.

7. System Boosting

Frequent long distance flyers know that getting sick during a flight can ruin the best business meetings and the best vacations.

Face it, airplanes are full of germs. Not only are all the surfaces dirty – they are not chloroxed down in between flights, but they are also covered in whatever the previous passengers have been sneezing and coughing up, and you don’t even want to know what else!

On top of that along with everyone else you are breathing in recirculated air that is not fresh or clean. Add to that your defenses being down due to lack of sleep and change in routine and you have a recipe for catching every bug that is floating around.

Before you travel build your personal defense system with extra vitamins. Instead of indulging in airport food, which is typically starchy, fatty, high in sodium and relatively bad for you, pack healthy snacks.  The same applies to airplane food, which is not known for its health benefits.

Business travelers typically don’t drink endless sodas or alcoholic drinks during their flights either. Both break down your body’s defenses and make you more vulnerable to getting sick while traveling.

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8. Avoid or At Least Minimize Jet Lag

Business travelers and people who fly a lot know how important it is to stave off jet lag and travel fatigue, or at least minimize it.

Sometimes you just cannot get away from jet lag, such as when you wake up in Los Angeles and go to bed in Singapore, but you can minimize the effects of it.

The game changers include staying super hydrated before, during and after your flight, banking some extra sleep in the days leading up to your flight and by making really good food choices. In the lead up to a big flight avoid heavy, starchy foods, salty foods and junk foods. Eat lean and clean.

Another great way to help mitigate jet lag and travel fatigue is to get extra exercise in the days leading up to your flight and then getting quality exercise when you land, either from taking a really good, long walk or working out at the hotel gym. Even 20 minutes sweating on a treadmill can help your body to recover by getting the blood pumping and reducing swelling in the feet and ankles.

9. Stick To Your Home Schedule

When moving through different time zones, crossing datelines or just traveling across country one of the best ways to acclimate your body is to maintain your home schedule.

If you don’t drink alcohol during the week at home, avoid drinking during the week while away. Try to get the same number of hours sleep per night as you do at home, keep up your exercise routines and watch for the devil that is sugar. It is easy to start indulging in novelty foods while away but remember sugar is at the root of most evils. A body getting excess sugar is more likely to get sick, feel icky, get bloated and have trouble sleeping, as well as many other negative things.

10. Dress The Part.

Business travelers and frequent flyers know that wearing the right clothing to travel in is a must. You can see them deplaning after a 10 hour flight looking chic and stylish instead of completely crumpled.

Simple pieces made in breathable fabrics that you can layer are the key to easy travel.

angelina jolie and maddox arriving at LAX
Angelina Jolie wearing a perfect travel uniform, arriving at LAX with her son Maddox

Most people will bloat a little during the flight as the cabin air pressure changes, so clothing that is too tight or that doesn’t move with you can make a long flight incredibly uncomfortable.

Look for fabrics that don’t crease and that although thin are nice and warm, such as Modal and merino. Airplanes get cold but heavy bulky clothes aren’t fun to fly in.

Choose shoes that are comfortable and that you can wear with socks, and definitely avoid heels! Add a pashmina or large scarf that you can use either to wrap up in or as a blanket if needed.

Have you read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget!) yet? It is available exclusively on Amazon.com, in both paperback and on Kindle.

How To Get The Best Deals On International Flights

Are you planning an international trip in the next year or two? Would you like to save hundreds of dollars on your international flights while still using your favorite airlines?

If you are thinking about traveling internationally in the year ahead then you need to read this post before you do anything else!

How To Get The Best Deals On INternational Flights! Learn how to save hundreds of dollars on your airline tickets while still flying the best airlines in the world

My secret talent in life is finding incredible flight deals and saving a fortune on international travel. I have an entire section in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) on how to get the best flights possible for the least amount of money. Every hundred dollars you save on airfare is a hundred more dollars you can spend on shopping!

Some of my Glam Italia Tour travelers this past summer saved as much as $800 on their round trip flights using the tips in my book. By this I mean they were able to get the exact same flight on the exact same plane for $800 below price. If the book saves you even $100 on your flights then it was worth spending the $15 to get it! You can get a copy of my book here on Amazon.com

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I am a Sagittarian and I am a Kiwi, so it stands to reason that I have a heavy dose of wanderlust running through my veins. I am never happier than when I’m on my way to the airport about to embark on a new adventure.

The only problem is that I am also a single mom which gives me a different set of budgetary realities to deal with. People are always questioning how I can pull of all the travel I do on such a tight budget. Since 2010 I have flown to Australia round trip twice for free and to Europe five times for free, all using my frequent flier miles. This past weekend I booked a $1700 round trip trans world flight for free, using the ultimate travel hack. I have written about that in a separate post here: How To Fly Anywhere In The World For Free

Grand Canal venice in the late afternoon. If you could fly anywhere in the world where would you go?

The Grand Canal in Venice. If you could fly anywhere in the world, where would you go?

For those of you who are subscribed to my newsletter you will be getting the very specific details on how I do it in your inbox on Friday. If you are not already subscribed to my newsletter you can do so here.

Today I want to look at flight pricing and how to get the very best price on a great flight. There are important steps to follow and they work every time.

How To Get The Best Deals On International Flights

Step One: Go Incognito

Always and only ever look at flights on an incognito window. (Google how to open an incognito window on your computer).

Have you noticed that if you click on an ad or google almost any product these days your social media suddenly gets swamped with ads for that product? You open your computer and everything you try to read or look at gets riddled with ads for that product you only clicked on once???

It’s so annoying! Not only do companies drop cookies into your computer, they also drop Facebook pixels (and no doubt lots of other pixels too) that track you, collect data on what you look at online and change your marketing profile.

Most of the time it’s just annoying, but when it comes to searching for flights it can cost you hundreds of dollars. Now that they know what you’re up to they will keep upping the price of the flights you are researching. Then they start trying to make you panic by flashing “only 3 seats left at this price!” signs at you.

When you only look at flights with an incognito window, each time is the first time and you will see major differences in the price.

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Step Two: Check the airline website.

If you have a favorite airline or an airline you specifically want to use, you need to know what their price point is. My main airline is American Airlines, because that’s where most of my frequent flier miles are, so I check them first.

The airline website will normally show you the most expensive pricing you will find! But you need to know what the top dollar on this flight will cost. It doesn’t hurt to click around on their website and see if they are offering any specials, sales or big discounts somewhere else on the site.

Step Three: Check the consolidators

Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz etc will typically have the same flights for cheaper. The various consolidators have different airlines, so look across several of them.

Green Fiat 500 in Capri. Learn how to get the best deals on airline tickets. If you could fly anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Step Four: Separate off the junk.

You will find some amazing pricing with the consolidators, but know that there will be some junk routing you need to avoid.

Watch out for crappy airlines and crazy routing. When I was looking for my flights this past week and weekend there were some great prices but they had horrible routing. Instead of a 24 hour door to door some of them were as much as 41 hours! Sending me all over the place and giving me 13 hour layovers in places I didn’t want to be.

On top of that many of the airlines they were showing me were airlines I wouldn’t want to fly. Taking a long haul flight on a substandard airline is (in my opinion) not a great idea. There are plenty of great airlines out there, so if you are not familiar with a particular airline, check the reviews on it before you discard that flight option. If you see bad reviews, dig deeper – you may have a disgruntled customer who isn’t familiar with overseas travel, but if you keep seeing the same types of negative reviews run a mile!

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Step Five: Look beyond your home airport.

I live in Phoenix, which is an expensive airport to route in and out of, sometimes hundreds of dollars more than other airports. So although I do check pricing from Phoenix I also look at other airports not far from here. Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver and Los Angeles all tend to have much better pricing. Tucson is  only a 2 hour drive, and the other three I can get round trip flights to for $150 or less. I constantly save as much as $700 on a round trip flight by booking it from Los Angeles.

Step Six: Stick with it.

If you persevere invariably you can find something fantastic. Most airlines had my flight starting at $1700 and heading upward in price from there to more than $2400 for the round trip! Others were as low as $800 but the routes were just awful and on airlines with horrible revues.

After clicking around across a couple of days I found the perfect flight. It is direct, so door to door 24 hours (other side of the world), and is with one of the best airlines in the world. And it cost $958 round trip. I didn’t pay so much as a penny for my flights though – I used a frequent flier mileage trick that meant I didn’t even pay airport taxes. Normally if flying on frequent flier miles you still have an out of pocket cash cost on taxes. I am walking away from this with not one cent out of pocket. I have detailed it in this post.

Airline choice is a huge factor, especially on long haul flights. Little details such as seat pitch, food quality  and service are super important, and can mean the difference between arriving feeling sick and exhausted and arriving feeling great.

My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) goes into depth on how I get all these flights, how I make sure my flights are fantastic, get upgraded much of the time, and avoid jet lag. Regardless of where in the world you are traveling you will find this information both helpful and cost saving. It makes a great gift for anyone you know who is planning travel to anywhere in the world, (not just to Italy). You can get it here on Amazon.com

Want more details on how I get the best flights for free? Subscribe to my newsletter here.