If you like saving money but don’t enjoy deal-hunting, plane tickets are probably among the things you least enjoy buying. There are helpful tools like low-fare alerts, cheap-flight search engines and rewards programs that help you save money on airfare, but oftentimes, finding a low-cost plane ticket feels more like a product of luck than skill.
Because air travel can be expensive and is generally booked with a credit card, it’s crucial to set and stick to a budget when making flight arrangements. Otherwise, you can find yourself bumping up against your credit limit or stuck with a credit card bill you can’t afford, which can really hurt your credit. To see how your credit card use affects your credit standing, you can check two of your credit scores for free with Credit.com.
Flight prices change constantly, but we wanted to compile a list of some of the cheapest flights out there, so with the help of Liz Manning, a consultant for Frosch Travel, Credit.com put together this list of some of the least expensive flights departing from U.S. locations.
10 Insanely Cheap Flights
The search for these flights was conducted in August and includes departure dates through the end of the year. Fares were valid at the time of the search but will vary by availability and travel dates. Prices listed include round-trip coach-class fare and taxes for one adult passenger.
10. Philadelphia (PHL) to Boston (BOS)
$121.20 per person
You can skip the roughly 300-mile drive between the largest cities in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and pay about $120 for an early morning flight on US Airways. However, if you’re the touristy type of traveler, driving would allow you to swing by New York City, and if driving across Connecticut is on your bucket list, a road trip between Philly and Boston offers the opportunity to do so. Otherwise, you’ve got a great, affordable option in air travel.
9. Cincinnati (CVG) to Daytona Beach, Fla. (SFB)
$119.50 per person
Cincinnati to Daytona Beach doesn’t sound like a hot route, which is perhaps why it’s so cheap. However, students at the University of Dayton (in Dayton, Ohio) would probably kill for such an inexpensive way to make the annual Dayton-to-Daytona pilgrimage. Because this search only included fares through the end of 2014, it doesn’t include the price of traveling to the massive beach party in May, but this Allegiant Airlines flight would be a heck of a bargain for a cash-strapped college student. (Really, the route is Cincy to Orlando Sanford International airport, which is 47 miles from Daytona Beach, and since Cincinnati is 55 miles from Dayton, there would be some driving involved.)
8. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (FLL) to Orlando (MCO)
$98.20 per person
Perhaps you just can’t handle a 3 1/2-hour car ride between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. You need to be in Disney World ASAP. It’ll take you less than an hour and less than $100 to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando on Spirit Airlines, which could be worth it to avoid tolls and traffic on the Florida Turnpike, not to mention fueling your car (though gas prices in Florida aren’t terribly high on a national scale). Keep in mind you get charged for extra for many perks — including water — on Spirit, plus there’s the whole airport security thing, but if flying is your preferred method of travel, you can get from south to central Florida for less than $100.
7. Washington (DCA) to Charleston, S.C. (CHS)
$96.20 per person
This is a pretty good deal, especially if you dislike driving. You trade an 8 1/2-hour drive across three states for a flight that lasts an hour and 38 minutes on US Airways.
6. Las Vegas (LAS) to San Diego (SAN)
$82.20 per person
Why drive through the desert when you can fly over it? It’s a quick jump across the Mojave with Spirit Airlines — and it’s an affordable way to shuffle between enjoying the Strip and visiting giant pandas.
5. Chicago (ORD) to Kansas City, Mo. (MCI)
$78.20 per person
Driving across the Midwest might not have road trippers super excited to hit the road, so paying less than $80 for a flight over the farmland with Spirit Airlines is a decent alternative.
4. Minneapolis (MSP) to Chicago (ORD)
$76.60 per person
Escape the brutal cold of Minnesota for the slightly less brutal but still frigid Chicago winter, or perhaps it’s a jaunt to see the Vikings play the Bears. Either way, Spirit Airlines makes it a cheap trip.
3. Denver (DEN) to Sioux City, Iowa (SUX)
$76.20 per person
Unless you need to visit most of the major cities in Nebraska, you might as well fly between Denver and Sioux City, via Frontier Airlines. Otherwise, it’s a 9-hour drive (and then some).
2. Dallas (DFW) to New Orleans (MSY)
$70.20 per person
Dallas is a major city with plenty of attractions, but New Orleans offers a lot for someone looking for a brief escape. On a route with Spirit Airlines, such a trip can cost as little as $70, before additional services.
1. Marion, Ill. (MWA) to St. Louis (STL)
$64 per person
Marion, Ill., is a city of roughly 17,000 people in southern Illinois, about 120 miles from St. Louis. It’s a likely route for St. Louis residents attending Southern Illinois University. Additionally, attractions near Marion include a lake and wildlife preservations.
How to Find a Bargain Flight
To find the low-fare flights on our list, Manning used flight search engines including CheapOair, Fare Buzz, Expedia and Travelzoo, in addition to her own resources as a travel agent. She said bargains are mostly found online, but buyers also need to be flexible in their travel preferences when their primary goal is to save money.
“Know that you’re going to have to pay for the little extras, so travel light,” Manning said. “Typically, but not always, the least expensive days to fly are Monday, Tuesday and Saturday. Thursday and Friday are the most expensive days to fly.”
Generally, the earlier you book, the better, especially with high-demand travel dates (you can only buy tickets as much as 330 days in advance), and if you wait until less than three weeks before your departure date, you’re not going to get a good deal. Regardless of your strategy, you have little control you have over flight expenses, because they’re difficult to predict.
“The toughest question I get is ‘Do you think I should buy this now?'” Manning said. “I don’t know. It could go down tomorrow. It could also go up. … There’s no logic when it comes to airline pricing. The airlines, they’ll tell you differently, but I’ve seen so many random things.”
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Image: Ingram Publishing