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    My Google Flight Hack Strategy to fly anywhere for $700 or less

    As much as I love travel, the cost of flights and getting to the places I’d love to explore has skyrocketed! For most other would-be travelers in the world, the price of flights has likely become one of the biggest hindrances to hopping a plane tomorrow and wandering the world pleasurably. 

    If you’re a nomad, free to wander the world slowly by bus and train, that may not be a terrible problem for you.  However, if you suddenly need to book an intercontinental or you’re trying to book a flight from your home country to Southeast Asia, South America, or Africa, these prohibitively costly flights can be a massive inconvenience.  Rest assured, there is a way around the pricey flights airlines normally try to trap you into.

    After 7 years traveling, I have never paid more than $500 for a flight, and here I’ll share with you how you can book your flights cheap too.

    In this post, I’ll share my process for booking flights that saves me 50% or more on flights.  I’ll also share my 9 hacks for booking cheap and even free flights. 

    Ever dollar saved is one more dollar to travel on.  Let’s get to this.

    Important Note: Use incognito mode, clear your cookie cache, and use a VPN

    Unfortunately, the “trickstery” of Google has no limit in attempting to squeeze you towards a higher priced flight. This means that as you search, on the same laptop, in the same browser, Google will track your searches and adjust the results accordingly. As you search you will notice that the displayed flight prices are getting slightly higher, will make you more anxious and apt to buy a flight before you’re ready.

    Don’t fall for this digital manipulation.

    Instead, clear your cookies and go into incognito mode for each new search session, so that Google thinks you are a new customer searching for a flight for the first time. If you compare searches between incognito mode and searches while logged in after searching the same flight for weeks or months, you will likely notice a significant difference.

    Bottom Line: Search for flights and book in incognito mode.

    Second Important Note: For most US flights, you can cancel within 24 hours with no penalty. Use this to your benefit.

    First, if you misstepped and booked a more expensive flight without checking in incognito mode, no sweat. According to the US Department of Transportation, for flights booked more than one week in advance, airlines are required to give a refund if requested within the first 24 hours.

    Verbatim from the Department of Transportation on flight booking refunds:

    • For airline tickets that are purchased at least seven days before a flight’s scheduled departure date and time, airlines are required to either:
      • allow consumers to cancel their reservation and receive a full refund without a penalty for 24 hours, or
      • allow consumers to reserve a ticket (place it on hold) at the quoted prices without paying for the ticket for 24 hours.

    Source: The US Department of Transportation


    • My Full Google Flight Hacking Process
      • 1. Decide your start and end point
      • 2. Find the flight hubs closest to your departure and destination
      • 3. Compare prices between hubs
      • 4. Search for connecting regional
      • 5. Use the Google maps price calendar to find dates
      • 6. Purchase all of your flights
      • Extra Tip: Plan your travel out of flight hubs and “overland”
    • The Flight Hubs you Need to Know by Continent
    • Cheapest Times to Fly Internationally by Region
    • 9 More Cheap Flight Hacks

    My Personal Hack: Book intercontinental flights through cheaper “flight hubs” with my flight booking approach

    The Idea: International flights are cheaper when you fly out of and into major airports with generally low fees.

    No matter when you fly, each continent has cheaper flights leaving from “hub airports” and “hub cities”, while all other will be more expensive no matter what.  This price difference doesn’t matter much when booking regional flights, like Lisbon to Athens or Hanoi to Bangkok, as prices will only vary by $10 to $50.

    However, for international and intercontinental flights, ensuring that you are flying out of hub airports, like Tokyo, Bangkok, Istanbul, or Dubai, will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

    For instance…

    Flying from San Diego, California to London 2 months from today is $550

    Flying from Los Angeles, California, a hub city for flights, will only cost $266 on the same day

    Flying from San Francisco, California, another hub sity, to London on the same day is $245

    Just as well, each of these hub cities, like Houston, Chicago, and New York, are all hubs for cheap flights to specific regions and destinations. 

    San Francisco and Los Angeles are the cheapest airports to fly into Asia (Tokyo, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh City)

    New York is the cheapest city to fly from when traveling to Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East

    Los Angeles and Houston are the cheapest places to depart when traveling to South America

    Now, pair these hubs with the fact that regional flights (think, Phoenix to Los Angeles) are less than $100, and usually $50 to $75 and we have the opportunity for massive savings and cheap flights by selectively picking the legs of our trip, instead of relying on the airline search engines.

    The Full Flight Booking Process when Flight Hacking

    1. Decide your start point and (approximate) end point
    2. Use the Google Maps Explore feature to check for the best flight hubs closest to your departure city and the best flight hubs closest to your destination city
    3. Compare prices on routes between hub cities, aiming to find the cheapest intercontinental route between major airports
    4. Use the Google maps price calendar to find the cheapest months and to fly on your chosen intercontinental route
    5. Confirm that regional flights exist from your departure point to hub 1, and from hub 2 to your arrival point
    6. Decide the dates for each of your flights, confirming price and availability
    7. Purchase all of your flights – your departure city –> Continental Hub 1 –> Continental Hub 2 –> Arrival City – on the airline’s website.

    Now, let’s walk through an example of the process

    My Full Google Flight Hacking Process

    Right now, I’m sitting in Buenos Aires planning flights from Buenos Aires Back to Bali.  So, for this example I will show how I could save over $1700 by hacking my flight, instead of booking as suggested on Google.

    1. Decide your start and end point

    In this example, I’ve already decided that I need to get from Buenos Aires to Bali, so let’s start!

    When I search Google Flights, the cheapest flight show is $2,687 one way, and I know there is something cheaper

    2. Find the flight hubs closest to your departure and destination

    For Buenos Aires, Argentina, in South America, I know that the continental flight hubs with the cheapest prices are Santiago, Chile, and Medellin/Cartagena, Colombia.  I know the cheapest flight hubs from experience, but you can click here to see the cheapest flight hubs by region.

    As I said before, we know that connecting through the west coast of the US will be the cheapest option when traveling from the US to Asia.  We also know that the flight hubs in the US that serve Asia are Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    Last, we know that flight hubs in Asia are Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, as listed in our list of flight hubs by region.

    Now that I know the major flight hubs in South America, the US, and Asia, I know the hubs that I will likely connect through and compare prices. I search for the following flights.

    Santiago to Los Angeles = $321

    Los Angeles to Bangkok = $369

    (Santiago to Los Angeles)

    (Los Angeles to Bangkok)

    Granted there’s a 2 day layover in LA, but honestly, I could use a little California sunshine.  However, if you do want perfect timing, either pop for a flight $100 more expensive to depart the same day or search for flights out of San Franciso and into Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, or Ho Chi Minh city.  Expanding the airport hubs you search for departures from and arrivals to will give a better chance of finding cheap flights on the same day

    But now that we have our intercontinental flights, its time to book your regional flights

    3. Compare prices: Check routes between other hub cities to find the cheapest route, or build in travel opportunities.

    For this route, I was lucky enough to find the cheap route – Los Angeles to Bangkok – on the first try.  But, I would also check Los Angeles to Bangkok, Los Angeles to Tokyo, Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, and San Francisco to all of those destinations.

    Also, I may consider Los Angeles to Tokyo, simply because planning in a month long layover in Japan is an excellent travel decision and a rich experience I can add via this flight for only an extra $50 before continuing on to Bali

    4. Search for regional flights connecting your departure and arrival airports to the hub airports

    Next, find the flights from your departure city to your first airport hub and from your final airport hub to your target destination.

    For this step, with regional flights, I highly recommend using not only Google Flights but also Momondo, Skyscanner as Momondo tends to have better coverage of flights in Africa and the Middle East, and Skyscanner does a great job covering budget airlines in Southeast Asia and South America.


    Luckily for us, regional flights are generally always cheap and very rarely fluctuate in price. For this stage, we simply search for the regional flights from our departure city to hub 1, and from hub 2 (or 3) to our arrival city.

    Buenos Aires to Santiago $136

    Bangkok to Denpasar, Bali $100

    5. Use the Google maps price calendar to find the cheapest months and to fly on your chosen intercontinental route

    Now that we know the cheapest route – from departure to hub 1 to hub 2 to arrival – we need to pick the exact dates.

    We select the best dates by looking at the Google Flights pricing calendar and choosing the regional and international flights that are cheapest and fit our schedule.

    For your regional flights, don’t be afraid to arrive a few days earlier that your intercontinental flight.  All intercontinental flights will be out of major cities – like London, Amsterdam, and Tokyo – so take advantage of the opportunity for a fun 2 to 3 day layover.

    Now, let’s see what our costs are

    Our “hacked” flight adds up to $1,761 flight savings

    Do you remember our original flight suggested by Google for $2,687 one way from Buenos Aires to Bali?

    Let’s see what our “hacked flight” totals out to…

    Buenos Aires to Santiago $136

    Santiago à Los Angeles = $321

    Los Angeles to Bangkok = $369

    Bangkok to Denpasar, Bali $100

    $136+$321+$369+$100 = $926

    Total flight cost booked personally: $926, booked flexibly within the next 2 months with multiple departure options.  Compared with $2,687 at its cheapest for the same one way flight recommended by Google that’s massive savings! 

    That’s a savings of $1,761.

    Put another way, that savings, from hacking our flight, is the equivalent of living in Southeast Asia, South America, or the Balkans for an entire month.  Not bad.

    6. Purchase all of your flights – your departure city à Continental Hub 1 à Continental Hub 2 à Arrival City – on the airline’s website.

    Last, we patch all of our flights together. 

    When purchasing your flight, I highly recommend three things

    1. Book directly with the airlines as often as possible
    2. Book with enough time between flights (hours or days) planning flight arrivals to be delayed
    3. Book with a travel awards and travel friendly credit

    Book directly with the airlines as often as possible

    Booking directly with airlines, instead of budget travel agencies, ensures that you can check in easily, and you don’t have a layer of nonsense to deal with between you and customer service. Also, if extenuating circumstances occur, you’ll be more likely to get assistance dealing directly with the airline than a third party

    Book with enough time between flights (hours or days) planning flight arrivals to be delayed

    The single downfall in this booking strategy is if a flight arrives late and you miss your next flight its on you. Unlike flights booked completely through a flight aggregator or a single airline, the airlines will not cut you a break if your previous flight arrives late.  So, to avoid issues, plan your flights with ample time between arrival and next departure.  I aim for 8 to 12 hours on “short layovers” but prefer days in a city to wander and let the jet lag wear off, as well as avoid missing a flight.

    Book with a travel awards and travel friendly credit

    Travel credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire rewards card, offer baggage and trip protection that will come in handy.  For instance, if you arrive to a city but your bag doesn’t, and you depart before your bag arrives, the credit card will pay for your essentials and replaced the

    Extra Tip: Plan your travel out of flight hubs and “overland” in between to save more money and improve your travels

    If you’re backpacking, nomading, and generally have time on your hands, planning to only fly out of airport hub cities, and take buses and trains to explore in between, could add adventure and savings to your travels.

    This example, of flying from Buenos Aires to Bali, came off the top of my head because it is simply where I’m at now, and where I’ll be in a month.  However, that route – Buenos Aires, to Chile, to LA, to Bangkok, to Denpasar – leaves A TON of beautiful travel opportunities on the table.

    Flying out of Buenos Aires, which notoriously has a costly airport due to taxes and few flights from major airlines, is a terrible idea.

    Additionally, between Buenos Aires and its nearby travel hubs of Santiago and Sao Paulo, there are so many beautiful side destinations.

    Between Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, one could easily hit Montevideo, Colonia, Porto Alegre, and Florianopolis.

    Between Buenos Aires and Santiago, the globally renewed wine country of Mendoza and Maipo Valley are very worthwhile stopoffs.

    This shows that not only does flying out of Buenos Aires leave cash savings on the table, it leaves travel opportunities on the table.

    How: Start and end travel in flight hub cities

    Instead, if I want to save money and improve the travel experience, I could follow my travel rule of starting and ending my travel legs to fly out of airport hub cities (like Sao Paulo or Santiago), and travel bus and train to explore the cities in between.

    What does this look like in practice?

    Well, next month I actually won’t fly from Buenos Aires.  Instead, in my last month in Argentina, I’ll take a beautiful comfy bus to Mendoza and spend a week in the wine country (the bus is ~$30).  Then, I’ll take another bus into the wine country outside of Santiago (Maipo Valley) and spend a week there.

    Then, I will fly out of Santiago, but I won’t fly into Bangkok.  Instead, I’ll fly from Santiago, to Los Angeles, to Tokyo, and spend an entire month in Japan.

    Santiago à Los Angeles = $326

    Los Angeles à Tokyo = $313

    Tokyo à Denpasar = $130

    (Santiago to Los Angeles)

    (Los Angeles to Tokyo)

    (Tokyo to Denpasar)

    So, by planning the beginning and end legs of my trips in hub cities, I cut the cost of traveling from Buenos Aires to Bali from

    Santiago à Los Angeles = $326

    Los Angeles à Tokyo = $313

    Tokyo à Denpasar = $130

    Total = $769

    Plus, I get to enjoy a month in Japan, paid for by the savings from my flights!

    So now that you know the strategy, of making flight hubs the key to how you book flights, let’s make the process quicker for you by giving you the flight hubs around the world that you need to know.

    The Flight Hubs you Need to Know by Continent

    Now that you know the approach of booking your own flights through the major hubs, here are the hub airports by region that you need to know

    North America Flight Hubs

    • Los Angeles
    • San Francisco
    • Vancouver
    • Toronto
    • Houston
    • New York
    • Chicago

    South America Flight Hubs

    • Santiago, Chile
    • Bogota, Colombia
    • Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Europe Flight Hubs

    • Lisbon

    Middle East Flight Hubs

    • Istanbul
    • Dubai

    Asia Flight Hubs

    • Tokyo
    • Bangkok

    How to find more cheap flight hubs around you: Google Flights Explore

    Flight prices are dynamic and though a large airport near you may have cheap flights, they might not be convenient and you may need more options for hub airports to plan through.  To find more large hub airports, simply hop on Google and use the explore function.  By searching from any destination to anywhere, the prices will show you the cheaper hub airports for the region.

    To do this, go to

    Then, enter a departure destination (ideally in the region you want to fly to or from) leaving the arrival blank.

    Now, hit “explore.”

    Within the map that pops up, the cities with the lowest costs listed are the cities of the hub airports you’ll want to use to plan.

    In this example search, I used Istanbul as the departure airport to find hub airports in Europe.

    As a result, we can see that Athens, London, Vienna, Rome and Zurich are all viable hub airports, and will be the cheapest to fly from Europe to North America, Asia, the Middle East, or Africa.

    Doing the same check for hubs in Europe with Dubai as our departure airport, we find Rome is a very good hub departure/arrival destination.

    Now that you have a baseline strategy for picking where to fly from for cheap flights, let’s help you figure out when to fly for cheap flights.

    Cheapest Times to Fly Internationally, by Region

    The following is a list of the months with the cheapest intercontinental flights, based on the departure point and destination:

    North America to Asia: April, May, September, October

    South America to North America: February, March, April, May, early June, late October, Mid November, early December

    Europe to North America: April, early May, September to January

    Europe to the Middle East: April, May, June, July, November, Early December, January, early February

    Europe to Asia: April, early May, early September,

    Europe to Africa: May, July

    Asia to the Middle East: March, April, May

    What Next: Pair this flight hacking strategy with my 9 best flight booking tips

    My Google Flight Hack Strategy is basis of how I travel hack (in addition to hacking points) and enough to help you get between continents cheaply.

    However, there’s nothing wrong with packing a few more tools in your toolbox.

    Be sure to read my next post detailing my other cheap flight hacks and point hacking strategy, but for now, add these 9 cheap flight hacks.

    9 More Cheap Flight Hacks

    1. Search for flights departing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturday as they are generally cheaper
    2. Do not book (purchase flights) during the weekends, as airlines increase all flight prices during the weekends
    3. Use incognito mode and clear the cache, so that airlines aren’t aware of your search history
    4. Use a VPN and set your location to a cheaper country, to receive cheaper prices for the same flight
    5. Use multiple flight engines
    6. Google Flights (Good for searching)
    7. Momondo (Good for finding OTA flights, and flights in more rural destinations)
    8. Skyscanner (Good for booking)
    9. Join travel hacking flight newsletters to be alerted to flight price glitches (Dollar Flight Club, and Going – formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)
    10. Search for flights on aggregators, but book directly with airlines sites as often as possible
    11. Have your overland travel begin and end in major airport cities
    12. Look 4 months in advance and ideally a year in advance to see when the cheap flights are to your region of choice, and see if you can plan your schedule of cheap flights for the year based on low seasons

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      About A Brother Abroad


      Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.