The cost of flying is one of the highest (if not the highest) costs when it comes to traveling. But there are ways to find cheap flights, both from the US and while you’re abroad, especially if you’re a student or youth (under 26). If you know what tools to use and what to look for, you can find cheap flight for study abroad. Keep reading for those tools and tips.
Find cheap flights to your study abroad destination
Your most expensive flight during your study abroad semester will definitely be the one to and from the US. But there are ways to get that cost down and to find cheap flights for your study abroad semester.
Get student discounts on flights
If you’ve never heard of StudentUniverse, head to their site and bookmark it. StudentUniverse offers discounted airfare to college students, and the discounts can be HUGE. They are especially useful if you need to fly into a city that doesn’t have an international airport and will therefore need to layover, as you can save hundreds of dollars when booking with a student site. STA Travel is a similar company, so check airfares on their site too.
The reason that STA and StudentUniverse are able to get student discounts with certain airlines is because the airlines are banking on the fact that you might become a long-term customer.
Don’t believe you’ll save money on your study abroad flight? I’ve personally saved so much myself by booking through StudentUniverse, but I tested it for you too. I searched for a roundtrip flight from NYC to Florence, Italy (which has a very small, regional airport, with flights that are usually very expensive). I chose the option of only one, non-overnight layover (direct is impossible) on the same dates. The cheapest option I found on Skyscanner was $1,120, but on StudentUniverse it was only $784 — a $336 difference.
Timing is everything
Generally speaking, the earlier you can book your study abroad flight, the better the price will be. But fares do fluctuate, so as soon as you know what date you need to arrive to your study abroad destination, create a fare alert (sites like StudentUniverse and Skyscanner let you do this). You’ll then receive emails when the cost of flights for your chosen dates increase or decrease significantly, telling you to hold off, or to purchase your tickets.
At the end of the day, don’t wait too long to book your study abroad flight. Besides saving money, you’ll probably just be relieved to know that it’s booked, and you can now begin your study abroad countdown clock.
Watch those baggage fees
In the last couple of years, quite a few “discount” international airlines, like Norwegian and WowAir, have popped up with great deals to cities all around the world. This is great for budget travelers, but for study abroad students, you might not end up saving that much money in the end due to the baggage fees, which can be as much as $80 per bag per flight. These budget airlines always charge extra for checked bags, and if you’re bringing one or two pieces of large luggage, the price will increase significantly, especially when booking a roundtrip ticket.
So be sure to check the fine print to see what you’ll be charged extra for before you booking your international flight for your study abroad semester.
How to find cheap flights while studying abroad
When you’re studying abroad, you may decide to fly to other destinations for your weekend travel plans. If that sounds expensive, don’t worry– the rest of the world is much better than the US at having lots of budget airlines to choose from to get you from point A to point B. They aren’t perfect, in fact budget airlines can be incredibly frustrating, but you’ll save big money on your study abroad flights than if you were to book with a normal airline.
Which sites to use to find cheap flights while studying abroad
It’s best to check a few different flight comparison sites to see if you can find differences in flight prices before you book anything.
For study abroad students looking to travel within their study abroad continent, I recommend checking Skyscanner and Kayak. In many cases, they’ll bring up similar results, but sometimes they don’t. I once was about to book a flight from London to Los Angeles on Skyscanner for over $1,000, and then at the last minute I checked Kayak. I snagged a flight for $666 that wasn’t showing up on Skyscanner.
Watch out for the extras
As mentioned in the section above, just because a flight on one airline is $30 cheaper than another doesn’t mean it’s the one you should book. Keep an eye out for these infamous, often over-looked extras when trying for find cheap flights for study abroad :
• Transfers – Some budget airlines fly into airports that are up to two hours outside of the city center, so you’ll need to purchase a train or bus ticket to get anywhere close to where you’ll be staying. Plus, you’ll add a ton of travel time onto your trip.
• Baggage – Budget airlines charge for checked bags, and sometimes even for carry-ons. Know what the baggage policy is before you end up having to pay more for your luggage than your actual flight.
• Boarding pass – print it at home, or have it on their app, or you may be charged extra for the airline to print it at the check-in desk.
• Food and drinks on the plane – budget airlines don’t even give you free water. Make sure you fill up your own water bottle before boarding the plane.
• Seat choice – if you and your friends book your tickets separately, you won’t be sat together, and the airline will charge you to choose your seat, even at the check-in desk.
Still not sure about flying budget airlines? Our guide to surviving budget airlines while studying abroad will help.
More tips for finding cheap flights for study abroad
Is flying the best option?
When I studied abroad and was not as savvy as I am now, I didn’t question flying to just about every destination I visited on the weekends during my semester. Looking back, there were a few times where it would have been cheaper to take a sleeper bus or high-speed train. Keep in mind that when you fly somewhere, you have to be at the airport two hours early, which adds a lot to your travel time. So even if you found cheap flights, it may make more sense to bus it or train it, for various reasons.
Before you book any flights for your weekend travel, use Rome2Rio to see what other options you have for getting somewhere.
Sign up for mailing lists for cheap flights for study abroad
Be the first to know about flight sales and special deals from the budget airlines that operate out of your study abroad city by signing up to their email list. As soon as you see a good deal come through, book it quickly! You can also sign up for a service like Jack’s Flight Club or Scott’s Cheap Flights to find deals for your international flight or ones when you’re studying abroad.
Being flexible will save you a lot
The number one rule for finding cheap flights for study abroad is being flexible. There are multiple ways to do this…
Being willing to be at the airport at 4am for a 6am flight means you’ll get the cheapest tickets of the day. Same thing for the last flight of the night too.
Being able to shift around your departure day, even if by just half a day, can mean a huge difference in price. Flights on Fridays and Sundays tend to be the most expensive, as everyone wants to get away on a weekend when they’re not working, so if you can depart on a Thursday instead, you’ll save.
Layovers on short flights can be super annoying, but if Skyscanner is telling you you’ll save a ton of money by doing one, it’s worth it.
I hope this helps you save lots of money on your study abroad flights so that you can spend it on other much cooler travel things. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for finding cheap flights for study abroad.