Updated on: September 12, 2023
Short on Time? Here’s how to get cheap flights in 2023:
- Step 1: Get a good VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN, as it has servers in 90+ countries (including many low-income locations), and it helped my colleague in the US save $216 on a Denmark-Vietnam flight and my colleague in the UK save around $144 on a flight from Spain to Australia.
- Step 2: Download and install the VPN. Just follow the installation wizard’s instructions — the whole process won’t take more than 1–2 minutes.
- Step 3: Open the VPN app and connect to a VPN server. Try using a VPN server from a low-income country, then start browsing for cheap flights.
- Step 4: Try other money-saving tips. Using different browsers in incognito mode, a different device, flight comparison sites, budget airlines, and loyalty points can also help you get cheap flights.
Flying should be both convenient and affordable — but it’s not like airline companies are going to tell you how to save money on their flights.
That’s why I spent the past weeks testing different ways to find budget-friendly flights. I read tons of blog posts from travel influencers, talked with seasoned travelers on different forums, and tried out different methods on flight booking sites (and asked a few of my colleagues to do the same) to see which ones work best.
I found that the best way to get cheap flights is to use a VPN, which is an online app that spoofs your location. I tested the top VPNs on the market and found 4 that are great for getting cheap flights (ExpressVPN is my #1). In addition, I also put together a list of 14 other tips that can save you money on flights.
How Does a VPN Help You Get Cheap Flights?
Airline companies often personalize their prices based on what country you’re from — so you might see higher prices if you’re from a high-income country like the US, the UK, or Japan.
Fortunately, a VPN can help you change your online location — it does this by routing your traffic through a VPN server, so you’ll access airline sites using the VPN server’s IP address. Basically, your connection will look like this:
You → Internet Service Provider → VPN Server → Airline Site
This causes travel sites to think you’re accessing them from the VPN server’s location — if it’s a low or middle-income country or just a different location, there’s a chance you might see cheaper airline tickets.
I asked my colleague in the US to test how well this works. He first used Skyscanner (a flight search engine) to look up flights from Denmark to Vietnam without being connected to a VPN. Then, he used ExpressVPN, which is the best VPN for getting cheap flights on the market, to search for the same flights on Skyscanner.
Here is the cheapest flight my colleague found without a VPN:
And here’s the cheapest flight he saw with a Vietnamese VPN server:
So, my colleague in the US would have been able to save $216 on a flight from Denmark to Vietnam by using a VPN!
Plane ticket prices fluctuate very often, so I can’t guarantee that a VPN will always help you save a lot of money. I also can’t guarantee that you will see the same savings my colleague did. So always remember that using a VPN to get cheap flights can sometimes mean you might save $100+, while other times you’ll only see $5–$10 discounts.
Best VPNs for Getting Cheap Flights in 2023
Quick summary of the best VPNs for getting cheap flights:
- 🥇 1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN for getting cheap flights in 2023. Comes with servers in 90+ countries, including many low-income locations that help you save a lot on ticket prices. Also has very beginner-friendly apps, which make it easy to connect to servers to get cheap flights.
- 🥈 2. Private Internet Access — Best for blocking ads on flight comparison sites. Has the best VPN ad blocker on the market, which gets rid of all ads on flight comparison sites, making them load faster. Also protects you from shady and malicious flight comparison websites, and has servers in 80+ countries, including many low-income places.
- 🥉 3. NordVPN — User-friendly VPN with great security features. Has beginner-friendly apps and also provides access to helpful security features, including malware protection and a data breach monitoring tool.
- 4. Surfshark — Affordable VPN for getting cheap flights. Has some of the cheapest prices on the market and also comes with a large server network and good security features.
- Comparison of the Best VPNs for Getting Cheap Flights in 2023.
🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN for Getting Cheap Flights in 2023
ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for getting cheap flights in 2023. As noted above, my colleague in the US ran tests and was able to save $216 on a Denmark-Vietnam flight on Skyscanner. I also asked my colleague in the UK to run tests, and he said connecting to a Malaysian server allowed him to save $144 on a flight from Spain to Australia.
I really like how the provider has servers in 90+ countries, including low and middle-income countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and India — you can connect to tons of locations to see which ones provide you with the cheapest flights.
I also love how user-friendly ExpressVPN is. It comes with apps for all major platforms, which only take 1–2 minutes to install. What’s more, the apps are very simple to navigate, which makes it easy to find and connect to different VPN servers.
Plus, I really like the Shortcuts feature, which lets you create 1-click shortcuts for specific apps and sites that show up on the VPN app’s screen after you connect to a server — this way, you can get instant access to platforms like Priceline and Skyscanner after you connect to ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN also provides free access to ExpressVPN Keys, a good password manager that can secure your login credentials for air carrier and flight search engine accounts. I’m also a big fan of the Threat Manager feature, which stops trackers from gathering information about which flights you browse and also prevents you from accidentally connecting to malicious flight comparison websites.
Plus, I like how the VPN comes with full leak protection — I ran leak tests on servers in 20+ countries and never experienced any leaks, so you don’t need to worry about ExpressVPN leaking your real location to air carrier sites and flight search engines. The provider also has other advanced security features, including RAM-only servers (every server reset wipes all data) and perfect forward secrecy, which changes the encryption key for each VPN session. And its no-logs policy has been independently audited and proven true.
ExpressVPN has various plans that start at $6.67 / month — it’s pricier than other competitors but worth it since this VPN provides excellent value. Also, each purchase is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
🥈2. Private Internet Access — Best VPN for Getting Rid of Ads on Flight Comparison Sites
Private Internet Access (PIA) provides access to PIA MACE, which is the best VPN ad blocker on the market — in my tests, it always got rid of annoying ads on flight comparison sites like Priceline, Kayak, and Skyscanner, which made my web pages load much faster. Plus, I really like how PIA MACE can block malicious sites, as that protects you from shady flight comparison sites.
I also like that the provider has servers in 80+ countries, including less wealthy places like Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, and India — when my colleague from the US tested the VPN, he was able to save up to $166 on a flight from France to India on Kayak. This is great, but I honestly like ExpressVPN more because it has servers in 90+ countries, so you can test a few more locations to improve your odds of getting a good discount.
In addition, PIA’s apps are very intuitive. The interface is simple to navigate, there’s a search field for quick access to servers, and all features and settings have helpful explanations. Plus, I like that you can automate your VPN connections — for example, you can configure the VPN app to automatically connect you to a server when you use unsecured Wi-Fi (like when you use airport Wi-Fi to buy a cheap flight). The provider also allows unlimited connections, so you can use its service on as many devices as you want.
You also get very strong security features with this provider — it comes with advanced security features, like RAM-only servers, perfect forward secrecy, and full leak protection (I never experienced any leaks in my tests). What’s more, its no-logs policy has been proven true in several court documents, and it also passed an independent security audit. And all of the provider’s apps are open-source, which means anyone can inspect the code for security issues.
Private Internet Access provides even more value, as it’s also one of the fastest VPNs in 2023, and it provides really good torrenting and streaming support.
Private Internet Access’s paid plans start at only $2.11 / month, so they’re very affordable — plus, the provider has a 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans.
🥉3. NordVPN — Easy-to-Use VPN With Strong Security Features
NordVPN provides access to beginner-friendly apps, so it’s a good pick if you’ve never used a VPN before. The interface is really intuitive, it doesn’t take more than 5 seconds to find and connect to a server, and all settings and features have helpful explanations.
There are also security features that protect your connections to flight comparison sites. For example, Dark Web Monitor sends you alerts if the login credentials associated with your NordVPN account are leaked — this is really helpful if you use those credentials for flight comparison site accounts.
In addition, the provider has Threat Protection. This tool stops you from connecting to fake sites, protects you from malware-infected downloads, and blocks ads (though it doesn’t block all types of ads like Private Internet Access’s PIA MACE).
Plus, the provider also has advanced security features, like RAM-only servers, full leak protection, and perfect forward secrecy. Also, its no-logs policy has passed several independent security audits.
There’s also split-tunneling, which lets you pick which apps use the VPN and which apps use your local network. You can use this feature to only route traffic from the browser you use to find cheap flights through the VPN, while using a separate browser to access your bank account and keep an eye on your budget (most banks block VPN connections).
NordVPN’s server network is also big, numbering 5,000+ servers in 55+ countries. NordVPN has servers in more than a dozen different low and middle-income countries (like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brazil) — that said, I still like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access more because they have servers in more countries.
The VPN also has other perks, including great speeds, the ability to access 10+ streaming sites, and a large P2P server network.
NordVPN comes with tier-based subscriptions and plans that start at $3.19 / month, and it also backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
4. Surfshark — Affordable VPN for Getting Cheap Flights
Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market, making this a perfect pick for people who want to get cheap flights while also using a very affordable VPN.
The provider has 3,200+ servers in 100+ countries, including less wealthy regions like Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and India. My colleague in the US tested a few locations, and he was able to save up to $92 on a flight from the US to India.
Surfshark’s apps are also really user-friendly — it’s very simple to quickly find the servers you want to use to get cheap flights, and I like how you can customize the quick-connect tool to automatically connect you to a server of your choice (like a server location in a low-income or middle-income country). And I think it’s also great that this VPN allows unlimited connections.
The provider also has strong security features, including RAM-only servers, perfect forward secrecy, and an audited no-logs policy. What’s more, there’s also CleanWeb, which gets rid of ads and protects you from shady sites. However, the VPN only has DNS leak protection — competitors like ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and NordVPN all have full leak protection. Even so, I didn’t experience any leaks while using Surfshark.
Surfshark also has other advantages, including decent speeds and the ability to access 50+ streaming platforms.
Its plans start at $2.30 / month, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for all purchases.
Comparison of the Best VPNs for Getting Cheap Flights in 2023
|VPN||Starting Price||Number of Countries||Number of Devices||Free Plan||Money-Back Guarantee|
|🥇1. ExpressVPN||$6.67 / month||90+||5||❌||30 days|
|🥈2. Private Internet Access||$2.11 / month||80+||Unlimited||❌||30 days|
|🥉3. NordVPN||$3.19 / month||55+||6||❌||30 days|
|4. Surfshark||$2.30 / month||100+||Unlimited||❌||30 days|
14 Other Tips for Getting Cheap Flights in 2023
1. Use Flight Comparison Sites
Flight comparison sites allow you to quickly compare airline prices. They show information from tons of airlines so you can see which ones provide the best deals — it’s much more time-efficient than manually looking up flights on different carriers’ sites. Here are the most popular flight comparison sites at the moment:
|Kiwi||Very user-friendly and lets you easily filter flights by carriers, countries, and departure and arrival times. I usually find the cheapest flights on this site.|
|Kayak||Lets you easily filter cheap flights by payment method and change fees and also has a digital map you can use to browse destinations and see the cheapest flights near you.|
|Skyscanner||Makes it easy to view flight prices in different currencies and also provides quick access to hotel bookings and car rentals.|
|Momondo||Uses a massive database to display the cheapest flights. I also like how it lets you filter flights by take-off and landing times, which is useful if you have another plane or a bus or train to catch.|
|CheapOair||Lets you get fare alerts for specific flights, allows you to filter tickets by flight or layover duration and sometimes offers promo codes that provide even bigger savings.|
|Priceline||Allows you to easily bundle flights, hotel bookings, and car rentals in one search to quickly find the best deals for you.|
|ITA Matrix||Advanced flight search site powered by Google that lets you use filters like preferred time of the day to depart, senior discounts, and routing and extension codes.|
|Skiplagged||Good flight search engine for finding “hidden city” flights, which are usually pretty cheap.|
|Secret Flying||Easy to use and good for finding mistake airfares.|
I strongly recommend checking for a flight on multiple flight comparison sites, as some might display better deals than others. For example, I looked up a flight from Hungary to the UAE on Kiwi and Kayak — the cheapest flight on Kiwi was $88, while the cheapest flight on Kayak was $263, so Kiwi saved me around $175, which is great.
2. Use a Different Browser in Incognito Mode
Avoid accessing a booking site multiple times with your day-to-day browser. That allows it to learn about your preferences and browsing habits through cookies, which are small text files a site places on your device via the browser. The more you do that, the more likely you are to see higher prices — sites might do that to create a sense of urgency, which might cause you to book a flight on the spot for fear of the prices going up even higher.
Instead, install a separate browser and use its incognito mode to look up flights — that way, there will be no cookies to give away your preferences. Even better, incognito mode clears any cookies the site might store on your device on exit. I tested this by looking for a flight from the US to Poland on Priceline using my regular browser and a different browser I never used running in incognito mode. The separate browser displayed flights that were almost $90 cheaper!
3. Use a Different Device
Flight booking sites also collect data about your browsing and preferences via browser fingerprinting, which is a method of analyzing a user’s software and hardware configuration — basically, it allows the site to collect data such as your device type, operating system version, language, timezone, and more. Just like it does with cookies, the site might then use this data to display higher prices when it detects your software and hardware.
You can circumvent that type of data collection by using a different device — for example, I looked up a flight from Denmark to Dublin on Kiwi using my Windows 10 PC and my girlfriend’s Windows 10 laptop and was able to find a flight that was $42 cheaper on my girlfriend’s device.
4. Try Budget Airlines
You’ll almost always see cheaper flights with budget airlines than with big carriers. I think budget airlines are a good pick for shorter flights, as the ticket price doesn’t include amenities like seat selection, meals and drinks, and baggage check, and there’s also less leg-room. Another thing to keep in mind is that some budget carriers fly in or out of smaller airports, which are located further out of town.
I tested this by looking up a flight from France to Italy on Kiwi — flying with a budget airline like Ryanair costs around $86, while flying with a larger carrier like ITA Airways costs roughly $144, so the low-cost carrier would have saved me $58, which is neat.
Here are the most popular low-cost airlines depending on your location:
|The US||Canada||Australia & New Zealand||Europe||Asia|
|Southwest||Air Canada Rouge||Jetstar||Ryanair||AirAsia|
|Frontier||Flair Airlines||Wizz Air||Jeju Air|
|Allegiant Air||Swoop||easyJet||HK Express|
|Sun Country Airlines||Eurowings||SpiceJet|
|JetBlue||Iberia Express||Nok Air|
5. Set Up Fare Alerts
Fare alerts are helpful if you know exactly where and when you want to fly. With fare alerts, you’ll receive email notifications if the price for the flight you’re interested in drops below the current price.
6. Avoid Peak Travel Times and Tourist Destinations
You’re more likely to see cheap flights if you book when most people don’t want to fly — like during holidays, low seasons, or on weekdays. People also tend to avoid very early flights (usually between 5am and 7am) and overnight flights. I can’t guarantee this, as you might sometimes see flights that are cheaper on weekends than weekdays for instance, but I’m usually able to find the cheapest flights by using the metrics that I previously mentioned.
Here’s an example — I looked up a New York-Los Angeles flight on Priceline, and the tickets were around $150 cheaper on weekdays compared to weekends. Also, flying on Christmas Eve is almost 50% cheaper than flying on the 23rd or 25th of December.
Being flexible with your destination also helps you save a great deal. That’s because peak seasons vary from location to location. For example, my colleague in the US used Kiwi to look up a flight from New York on a specific date to different destinations by using the Anywhere tag — he found out the cheapest place he could fly to in the US was Orlando, while the most affordable international destination was Berlin.
7. Book One Ticket at a Time as a Group
If you’re traveling with a friend, you might get better prices if you book one ticket at a time. This is often cheaper than buying two tickets at once. For example, I looked up a flight from Seattle to Miami for 2 people, which was priced at $319 per ticket — but when I reduced the number of travelers from 2 to 1, the same flight dropped from $319 per ticket to $273 per ticket!
This happens because airlines use different fare categories (called “fare buckets”), and each category comes with its own pricing — and when you try to book multiple tickets, the airline will likely try to put the entire group into a single fare bucket. So in my example, there’s a chance the airline only had one more ticket in the $273 fare bucket. When I looked up 2 tickets instead of 1, the airline skipped over the single $273 ticket, and instead displayed fares with at least 2 seats available, which were priced at $319 per ticket in this case. So, by booking the tickets one by one, I would have been able to save around $46.
8. Book Flights within the “Goldilocks Window”
This term refers to the period when you are most likely to find the best rates on flights. Here’s when that is:
- For domestic flights — You’re more likely to see cheaper flights if you book 1 to 3 months before your travel dates.
- For international flights — Try booking 2 to 8 months before your travel dates. If you’re flying during a peak travel time (such as Christmas), try adding 2–3 months to those windows.
In addition, fares usually tend to go up 21, 14, and 7 days before departure — that’s because certain fare buckets are only available if they are booked a certain number of days in advance. Plus, airlines are aware that business travelers book flights late and don’t care about the cost because the company is paying for them, so they increase the prices on tickets business travelers usually purchase (like last-minute tickets).
9. Try Paying in a Foreign Currency
You might sometimes find cheaper flights if you choose to pay in a different currency. For instance, I looked up 2 tickets from Seattle to Miami — in USD, the price was around $385 per ticket, but when I switched to Bangladeshi taka, the price was roughly $378 per ticket. So I would have been able to save around $13.
Keep in mind this isn’t likely to work 100% of the time, and you won’t get huge discounts with this method, but every little bit still helps. You can also use a VPN (like ExpressVPN) to spoof your location if the flight booking site you’re using doesn’t allow you to switch currencies.
10. Use Loyalty Points to Save Money
Loyalty programs come with cool rewards, such as discounts or even free flights (when you accumulate enough loyalty points) — many airlines have their own rewards programs, and some credit cards provide loyalty programs with airline-related rewards too.
For example, United Airlines has a loyalty program called MileagePlus. It rewards you with miles (which never expire) on your purchases — you can later use these miles to pay for flights, hotels, airport dining, and more.
11. Try to Find Mistake Airfares
Airlines or online travel agencies sometimes post the wrong prices, which are much cheaper than what they would normally charge — this generally happens due to human error, currency conversion issues, or technical glitches.
Mistake airfares are usually “discounted” anywhere between 75% and 90%, so you can usually save up to a few hundred dollars on them. Finding them mostly comes down to luck, but you can improve your odds by using a flight search engine like Secret Flying, which sometimes posts error fares. You could also try using a flight deals-finder like Scott’s Cheap Flights, though keep in mind it’s a paid service.
Please remember there’s always a risk that the airline won’t honor such tickets. Sometimes, they will cancel them and provide you with a refund and maybe a voucher. Though, most of the time, an airline company honors mistake airfares, as it might cost it more to correct the fare, and its public image might also take a hit if it rescinds the deal.
12. Get a Hidden City Flight
Sometimes, it’s cheaper to take a flight that connects in a city you want to go to instead of flying directly to that city. Basically, you take the flight that connects in the city you want to visit and just hop off there.
I tested this and can confirm it’s true. I was able to find a connecting flight on Skiplagged (which is good for finding hidden city flights) that was cheaper than a direct flight on Kiwi. Basically, I would have saved around $36 by taking a flight from Seattle to Miami with a stop in Las Vegas than flying from Seattle straight to Las Vegas.
I strongly recommend only taking carry-on luggage for such flights — once your luggage is checked, it’s very likely that it might go to the final destination.
Also, there’s a chance that you might not be allowed off the plane if the same plane is continuing onward to its final destination.
13. Book Connecting Flights Yourself
For transfer flights, consider booking separate legs. It can save money and sometimes make long waits (like those 10-hour layovers) more bearable.
Here’s my testing method: I searched for a flight from Toronto to Sydney, which had a transfer time of over 10 hours in Vancouver. I then searched for separate flights from Toronto to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Sydney. By booking them individually, I could have saved approximately $676, which is substantial. All I had to do was extend my stay in Vancouver for a few days, easily covered by the money I would have saved on the Toronto-Sydney flight.
Do not plan tight layovers, which are only hours apart — there’s a chance you might miss your connection. Only use this tip if you’re okay with adding an extra destination to your trip.
14. Take Advantage of Schedule Changes
Should there be alterations in your flight schedule or outright cancellations, you often have rights to compensation. Beyond a refund, the airline might also offer you a better flight option, especially if your original choice was based on price rather than convenience.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best VPN for getting cheap flights?
ExpressVPN is my go-to option for getting cheap flights in 2023 — it comes with servers in 90+ countries, so you can connect to tons of locations to try and save money on flights. In addition, the provider’s apps are extremely simple to use, and it also comes with industry-leading security features.
What’s the best VPN server location for cheap flights?
My colleagues and I saw the best discounts with servers in lower-income countries, such as Algeria, India, and Egypt. We usually saw flights that were at least $50 cheaper that way.
But you might also see cheaper flights with server in the same country as the airline you’re flying with. For example, I looked up a flight from New York to Paris run by Air France while connected to servers in France, the US, Germany, and the UK — I saw the cheapest flights while connected to the French server.
Just keep in mind that there’s no server location that can consistently provide you with cheap flights — a lot of factors influence the price, so you just need to test different countries until you find the best savings.
Can I get cheap flights with a free VPN?
You can try, but I don’t really recommend it — free VPNs usually limit you to very few server locations, so you can’t test different countries to see which ones provide the best savings. In addition, I also don’t like how some free VPNs lack essential VPN security features, have very slow speeds, and have buggy apps.
It’s honestly better to get a paid, affordable VPN, like ExpressVPN — it has servers in tons of countries (including many lower-income locations) and always provided my colleagues with discounts on flights in our tests.
Is it legal to use a VPN to get cheap flights?
Yes, as VPNs are legal in most parts of the world, and using one to get discounted flights is not against the law. That said, some countries ban VPNs, so I strongly recommend researching your local laws to make sure it’s 100% safe to use such a service.
Why are flights cheaper in some countries?
There are tons of factors that influence the price of flights, such as:
- How wealthy the country is.
- How expensive it is for the airline to operate flights to or from a country.
- How popular the flights are in your country.
- How popular the destination is.
- If you’re traveling during high or low seasons.
- Political events or changes that take place in a country.
- If you’re located in the same country as the airline you want to fly with.