10 Tips for Buying International Flights on a Budget

ies abroad logo
IES Abroad
January 27, 2020
An image of a plane's wing in the sky

Hey, jet setter! There's certainly a lot to consider when deciding to study abroad, and your mind is probably spinning just thinking about all the cool, exciting, and potentially stressful things you need to get done before you go. One of the most important parts? Buying the flights to get there, of course!

We compiled a list of helpful tips and things to keep in mind when buying an international flight. These guidelines help make sure that you begin your journey abroad in a way that is smart, both financially and logistically. There’s always going to be an element of the unknown when you’re purchasing tickets, but this list is a great place to start to minimize stress and maximize your budget.

1. The Price (Alert) Is Right

Once you know where and when you'll be flying, set an airfare alert on Google, or any other flight comparison website, so that you can follow flight prices and know when they will drop. 

2. KYA (Know Your Airports)

Review program arrival information in your predeparture guide (which IES Abroad provides you) to determine which airport you will need to fly into in your host country, and when. Some programs/cities have more than one option, so you can compare travel times and costs to determine which would be better for you. And the same goes for choosing which airport you fly out of, if your host city has multiple airports (like London, for example). 

3. Always Be Comparing

Although you might be anxious to book your flights, make sure you don't just buy the first one you see. Checking flights early and often to see what the prices look like is a good habit. KayakOrbitz, and Expedia, among others, are great flight comparison websites. 

4. Two Words: Student Discount

There are also some travel sites that offer discounts specifically for students. Also, make sure to bring your student I.D. with you when you travel—you'll be able to use it for discounts on more than just flights!

5. One-Way? That's O.K.!

Yes, this means that you'll have to buy two separate tickets, but it may be cheaper if you mix and match airlines. There are also flexible return flights, which let you choose your return flight at a later date. Just make sure that you read (and re-read!) the terms and conditions to understand any limitations before booking, and check in with your Program Advisor as this option may not be possible for your particular program or country. 

6. Timing Is Everything

Typically, you'll want to purchase international flights about four to six months in advance. Booking too early means you could overpay, and booking too late might limit the flight options in your price range. 

7. Break It Down

Certain airlines have the option to do a payment program, which is helpful for budgeting. If utilizing one of these programs, don't forget to read the fine print and see if you need to make a down payment, if they charge interest, or if there are penalties for missing a payment. 

8. Layovers Are Your BFF

Though this means more travel time, sometimes you can save money by adding a layover to your flight plan, rather than flying directly to your destination. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least an hour (ideally 2-3 hours) in between flights, so you can navigate to your connection and have some extra time if there are any delays. 

9. The Life-Changing Magic of Choosing Your Seat

Is a window seat going to help you sleep? Do you make frequent bathroom trips and want to be on the aisle? Are you really, actually, totally fine with the middle seat? Seatguru is helpful in choosing a seat that suits your needs and will make your flight a much better experience, especially if you have layovers.

10. Have Fun!

Yeah, we're going to end on a cheesy note. Booking flights can be expensive and stressful, so hopefully these tips help you get organized and stay mindful of what to expect in the process. Don't get too stressed, though, your flights are just a small part of the experience that you are going to have when you study abroad. Enjoy your trip!

Have more questions about travel, packing, or budget? Check out our packing list, and read advice from our student Correspondents have on how to budget once you’re abroad.

IES Abroad News

Read More

IES Abroad regularly publishes news stories, articles, student stories, and other helpful study abroad content. Stay up to date on the latest from IES Abroad by reading our recent posts.

View All IES Abroad News