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The truth is, District Flight Deals doesn’t cover all your travel needs.
If you're on our email list, we'll alert you when we see flight deals from DC, but unfortunately, we don't have enough time to help our subscribers plan their specific trips.
So, what should you do if you need to book a flight right now? If you don't have the luxury of flexibility in when you travel and where you travel to?
This article is a short guide to finding the cheapest flights available when you have specific travel needs. While there are dozens of online travel agencies (OTAs) and booking platforms, we're only covering the ones that give you the highest impact for your time searching.
Basically, this process has three parts:
It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet so you can track all your different flight options throughout this process.
You can think through part 1 on your own, and we’ll dive into exactly how to do part 2 in a second, but first let’s cover Hopper.
Hopper is an app that uses “AI” to analyze millions of rows of data about past flights and project if your flight will increase or drop in price in the future.
Their website doesn’t have this functionality, so you’ll have to use a smartphone and get their app.
While even their model makes mistakes sometimes, predicting future flight prices is incredibly difficult to do, and their best guess is likely better than yours.
If you’re not familiar with Skiplagged, it’s a flight search engine that also finds hidden-city fares. What’s a hidden-city fare?
Say you want to fly to Destination A. Because of the way airlines price their flights, it might be cheaper to buy a ticket to Destination B, with a layover in Destination A, and simply walk out of the airport during your “layover”.
This seems to be legal*, but airlines don’t like it, because they get less money. They can cancel your return flight, so it’s worth noting that it’s risky. If you’re really risk-averse, only do it on your return flight every once in a while with any given airline.
In addition to finding hidden city fares, Skiplagged also shows Southwest flights, something most search engines don’t do.
Pro Tip: If you’re ever looking for Southwest flights from all three Washington, DC area airports (DCA, BWI, and IAD), search on Skiplagged using WAS as your origin airport code. Skiplagged will return results for all three airports. On Southwest’s website, it’s only possible to search from one airport at a time.
I’d recommend searching for flights on both Skiplagged and Google Flights, as they each have features the other lacks.
Google Flights Advantages:
Using either tool, the process is the same.
Let’s say you know you want to go on vacation during the first week in June, but you'd be happy with cheap flights from DC to anywhere.
Again, Skyscanner is a good option for this scenario.
Set your destination to “Everywhere”, and input your specific dates. Then click “Search flights” and you’ll be taken to a page with flights to various destinations (ordered by price).
Keep this open in one tab, and start a search on Google Flights Explore Map page in another.
The Explore feature of Google Flights allows you to input your dates and get a map view of the various flights available (not sorted by price, but filterable).
These two engines, Skyscanner and Google Flights Explore will give you some great options for finding your next trip. Unfortunately, neither allow you to filter out certain airlines (Spirit, Frontier, etc.). That’s part of what District Flight Deals helps do (we review every flight and make sure it’s actually reasonable before sending it).
Again, after finding a flight (or flights) that might work for you, input the route info into the Hopper app, and make a decision about booking.
As you can see, different tools work better for different situations. To summarize, here are the platforms to use in different cases:
Finding flights can be a tedious process, but this article gives you somewhere to begin. If you have any questions about the various tools and platforms, send us an email.
We wish we had the time to help you book your specific trip, but to be most helpful, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for crazy cheap deals and send them your way when we see them.
Using our deals works best if you can be flexible about your destination and your dates, but we may just see something that works for your specific travel needs. Just sign up if you’re not on the list!
Want to help your friends find cheap flights? Share this article so they can sign up or use the tips!
*Not legal advice.
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