Set up price alerts

Instead of spending hours searching for the lowest airfare every day, you can just set up a price alert. All you need to do is go to a site such as Google Flights or KAYAK.

Once there, you would put in all of your flight information, including the dates, route, number of passengers and class. You'll then see an option to track prices. Once you enable that option, the site will send you a notification if the price drops.

These alerts might even include insights on whether the price you're tracking is trending upwards. Once you see a price you're happy with, you can book it right away.

Be flexible with your travel plans

Finding flight deals is easy if you're flexible. You can either look for sales for a specific destination or specific dates. Unfortunately, getting a deal for the exact location and dates you're looking for is rare. That's why it's best to keep your options open.

For example, let's say you want to travel to Barcelona and have no set dates in mind. Most websites will allow you to search for flights using a monthly calendar. This will quickly allow you to scan for the cheapest time to travel.

Alternatively, let's say you have specific dates in mind. If you head over to Google Flights and select the Explore option, you can search your dates. Your search results will then display all the cheapest flights available.

Travel off-peak

Peak travel seasons such as spring break, the summer, and the December holidays will always be more expensive since there's more demand. However, there could be significant savings if you can time your travel for off-peak dates.

If you're seeing higher than expected prices even during off-peak times, it's worth checking to see if there are any major events going on, as that might be the reason for the increase. For example, there's likely more demand if there's a major sporting event or festival.

Keep in mind that the day of the week and time of day you travel could also make a slight difference in your costs. Generally speaking, Tuesdays to Thursdays are less popular travel dates than Friday through Monday. As for times, if you're willing to travel mid-day, you might be able to save a bit.

Sign up for every newsletter

No one likes getting more emails. That said, if you're looking to save on airfare, it's worth signing up. Every airline has a mailing list, and they'll alert anyone that's signed up about the most current promotion.

And it's not just airlines that have a mailing list. Some websites are dedicated to finding ridiculously low airfare, and they alert their loyal readers first. Quite often the deals posted are price errors, so you need to book them right away before they disappear.

Consider a low-cost carrier

Low-cost carriers have been around for decades in Europe and Asia, but they're relatively new in Canada. Over the last few years, new players have entered the market, which presents more options for Canadians.

Swoop and Flair Airlines have already established themselves, and both provide low-cost fares to destinations including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. Lynx Air is also set to take off in April to select Canadian cities.

These airlines often have one-way fares advertised for less than $100. That said, you'll need to pay for extras such as seat selection and baggage (which also applies to major airlines).

There's also Porter Airlines based out of Toronto's island airport. They have some great prices for destinations around eastern Canada and the northeast U.S.

Use your loyalty points and credit cards

Now is the time to cash in if you’re among those who have been sitting on their loyalty points the last two years.

Bank travel loyalty programs will let you redeem your points like cash. That said, each program is different. Some will require you to book your travel through their travel portal, while others allow you to apply your points to any travel purchase made with your credit card.

As for your credit cards, some co-branded travel rewards cards give you perks such as free checked bags, airport lounge access, and companion vouchers. All of these benefits have a real value associated with them, so when you get them for free, you're putting money back in your pocket.

It's also worth mentioning that some credit cards are still offering some generous welcome bonuses to get you to sign up. For example, American Express has new welcome bonuses for its Aeroplan and Aeroplan Reserve Cards. You can earn up to 60,000 and 110,000 Aeroplan points respectively if you meet the minimum spend requirement and max out the increased earn rates.

These points can come in handy as you can use them to offset the cost of future travel.

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About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi

MoneyWise.ca Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

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