Resolved to travel more in 2024? You're not alone. And you're in luck: It's a great year to get back out there.
In 2023, travel demand hit new highs as we experienced the first full year of “normal” travel since the start of the pandemic. That looks to continue into 2024. And with airlines adding more flights to more destinations, there's no shortage of places to go and ways to get there.
Now's the time to make your plans to start seeing the world – but you don't have to break the bank to do it. Here are some tips and tricks to help you travel more for less in 2024.
Book the Cheap Flight First
Most travelers decide on a destination first, request time off from work, and then start looking for a flight. But locking yourself into those dates will limit your options for finding a cheaper flight.
Instead, follow the Flight First Rule: Book the cheap flight first, then put the other pieces in place. Being flexible with your travel dates and waiting for a flight deal to come around can save you a ton on airfare – one of the biggest costs of travel. Flip your planning process around to save on flights, then use that extra cash on the actual trip.
Choose your location and maybe even a general time in which you'd like to travel, then fire up a Google Flights search and pick the cheapest days to fly – or better yet, just wait for a deal to come to you. Flexibility can go a long way toward lowering the cost of your flight. Just by departing just a day earlier or later than you initially planned or traveling during the cheaper shoulder season, you'll be surprised how much you can save.
A few years ago, I overpaid (by a lot) to fly to Hawaii because I set my dates, and then booked my flights. But for my most recent trip, I waited for a Thrifty Traveler Premium alert in my inbox for a cheap flight to Hawaii. It didn't take long: Just $350 from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Maui (OGG). I snapped it up and built my trip around those dates rather than the other way around.
Our advice? When you see a good fare, book it. You have a 24-hour window after booking to determine whether you can make the trip work, or cancel it for your money back. The federal government requires airlines to fully refund any fare for flights to, from, or within the U.S. within 24 hours of purchase – so long as they're booked directly with the airline.
If your schedule is set in stone, set a Google Flights price alert to track flight prices and get notified when prices drop. But our general rule of thumb for saving money on travel still stands: Book the flight first, then figure out the rest of the details later.
Search for Airfare with Google Flights
There's one tool that can't be beat when it comes to finding the cheapest flights: Google Flights.
Google Flights is a powerful search engine tool that helps you narrow in on the flights you want, and avoid the ones you don't. Nearly every airline lists its fares directly on the platform, allowing you to sort through flight schedules and prices on hundreds of thousands of tickets – including taxes. It also pulls in information on additional fees to avoid basic economy as well as baggage fees.
You can use filters to see only the flights you want to book, and you can even set Google Flights price alerts to track fares and book when prices drop. If you're not sure where you want to go, the Google Flights Explore map will show you the cheapest places to fly from your home airport.
Read our master guide to using Google Flights
At the very least, Google Flights should be your first stop for every flight search in 2024. After that, you can always check other online travel agencies (OTAs) like Kayak or Expedia to see if you can find an even better deal, and decide if the savings are worth it.
Get Notified About Cheap Flights
I've resolved to work smarter, not harder in 2024. If you feel the same, let us do the work for you to travel more for less.
The easiest thing you can do is subscribe to our free daily newsletter, with all the tips and news you need to save on your next trip. You can also sign up for alerts for cheap flights that we'll send straight to your inbox. But if you're ready for all the best domestic and international flight deals from your home airport, saving travelers $250 to $500 or more on each flight, it's time to get yourself a Thrifty Traveler Premium membership.
Thrifty Traveler Premium is our top-of-the-line flight deal notification service. Sign up and you'll immediately start getting the best flight deals we find every day sent straight to your inbox to destinations across the U.S., along with Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia, and more. You can set your preferences to receive alerts for all airports (we cover 200-plus cities in the U.S. and Canada) or just your home hub.
Check out the rundown of some of the best fares we found in 2023, including nationwide flights to Europe for under $499 roundtrip, flights to Chile and back for $520, and an incredible mistake fare flying United business class to London-Heathrow (LHR) for just $899 roundtrip. And we're already seeing great fares for trips in 2024, like spring break domestic flights for under $100 roundtrip and flights to Italy as low as $395.
Got points and miles you want to put to use, too? Thrifty Traveler Premium members also get award alerts to use their points and miles, whether they want to fly economy for fewer miles or use points to fly at the front of the plane in first or business class.
Not sure? Read up on how Thrifty Traveler Premium works!
Start Using Points and Miles to Fly for (Nearly) Free
Credit card points and airline miles can open doors to travel more affordably, but only if you know how to use them. Whether you want to fly first class, finally cross off that bucket list trip, or just travel more in general, this is the year to start learning and leveraging points and miles.
You can earn points and miles by taking flights, staying in hotels, and making purchases online through shopping portals. But the easiest way to earn a lot of points and miles quickly is to open a new travel rewards credit card.
Many cards offer huge bonuses of 60,000 points, 100,000 miles, 150,000 points, or more if you hit a minimum spending requirement within the first few months of being approved. Then, you've got a stash of points to put toward travel, whether you use them to book flights through a travel portal or transfer them to your airline of choice.
Some of our favorite travel rewards cards are the *venture x* and the *chase sapphire preferred*. I opened the Capital One Venture X Card a few years ago, then used that bonus to cover an expensive, last-minute $450 flight to Washington, D.C.
Read our guide to getting started with travel rewards cards. It'll teach you the basics of how to get started, which credit cards out there might be the right fit for you, and give you a few recommendations for building up points and miles.
Just remember: Credit cards are serious business. You shouldn't open one if you can't afford to pay it off right away. Make payments on time, and always pay in full – never carry a balance. And if you already have credit card debt, pay it off before opening a new credit card.
We know the world of points and miles can be daunting. But we're here to help you out.
Keep An Open Mind
We all have a list of places we're dreaming of visiting someday. Actually taking the trip is often another story.
I keep a list of my dream destinations on the Notes app on my phone, so when the right Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal alert hits my inbox, I don't hesitate: I just book it. I've also set up Google Flights price alerts for places I'm interested in. For instance, I'm hoping to travel to Montreal sometime this year, so I've got alerts set up for a few different time frames to notify me when prices drop.
But the key to finding cheap travel is not limiting your options. At Thrifty Traveler, we've seen flight deals to places we'd never considered traveling to before that have earned a place on our lists – or already become our favorite destinations. From cheap fares like those to the Seychelles Islands off the coast of East Africa to the Faroe Islands to Ketchikan, Alaska we found in 2023 – sometimes it's best to let the flight deal lead you to your destination.
Being open-minded when you travel can also help you save on everything from flights to hotels and more. Traveling in the heart of the summer will rarely be cheap, so you may want to aim for the shoulder season instead. We find tons of flight deals for travel in May to early June and late August through October.
I've got several places in mind I'd like to visit in 2024, but I'm keeping an open mind to other destinations (and other seasons) I wouldn't have previously considered.
We're looking forward to another big year for travel in 2024. You should be, too.
By heading into the new year with the right tools and tactics, you can see even more of the world while spending less in 2024.