By Rachel Bicha
Score a student discount on international flights! It’s every college student’s dilemma: you want to travel the world, but you’re living on a ramen noodle budget. Australia’s on your bucket list, but your bank account has barely enough money for you to travel home for the holidays. You’ve been dreaming of a graduation trip to Europe, but your part-time job is paying for all of your books and meal plans at the cafe. So what’s a broke adventurer to do? You’ve probably heard some tips, such as booking tickets on Tuesdays, booking late at night or only searching in incognito mode. While those hacks might help some of the time, they’re not foolproof either. Thankfully, there’s a few secrets to finding very cheap student flights—and all of them are things you can probably do right now.
The first step: if you’re a student, you do not have to pay full price for flights! Get ready to get student discounts on flights, and even hotels and tours. Want to get cheap student flights to Europe or Asia? Start with a student travel agency, like StudentUniverse to find discount flights. Then, keep scrolling for even more tips for finding cheap student flights.
How to book cheap student flights
1. Book your tickets with a student agency.
This is step one. You already get student discounts on food, movies, skiing and more. Why not get student discounts on travel too? StudentUniverse works directly with airlines to get exclusive discounts for college students, usually up to 30% off your flight. Even better? Student travel agencies are resources for all kinds of travel—hotels and tours, too. Plus, StudentUniverse always has sales and extra discounts around the times of year when you need flights: back to school, study abroad, spring break and more.
2. Start looking early.
Sometimes the early bird really does get the worm—especially when it comes to cheap student international flights. Start looking for your flights at least a few months in advance, if possible. Even if you’re not ready to book yet, you can start getting an idea of the cost of your fares. That way, when you see a good deal, you’ll know and you’ll be ready to book it. When you start looking early, you can also take advantage of promo codes and sales.
3. Use the flexible search feature.
If you have some flexibility with your travel dates—say, with a spring break trip or during summer break—definitely use the flexible search feature to find cheap international flight tickets for students. Toggle on the “Flexible” search instead of “Exact” and your search results will include a chart showing prices for nearby dates. Sometimes you can save hundreds of dollars by leaving or returning a few days earlier or later.
4. Watch for sales.
Most airlines have sales year-round, which means that if you start searching early, you should be able to snag a sale to book your tickets. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to watch for sales, as well as around major holidays. You can also start following your favorite airlines and travel companies to get notified of current and upcoming sales—signing up for emails will get all the sales delivered right to you, making it extra-easy to book cheap student flights. And be sure to follow on social media too—sometimes there are flash sales or giveaways shared on social channels that aren’t announced elsewhere.
5. Consider booking two one-way trips instead of a single round-trip.
This is not universally true, but it’s sometimes the case that two one-way flights are cheaper than a single round-trip flight, especially if you’re booking a multi-city ticket (i.e. returning from a different airport than you flew into). When you’re trying to find cheap tickets, it’s definitely worth a try! If you’re hitting up more than one city on your itinerary, you’ll save yourself money in the long-run by not having to make your way back to the original city you flew into.
6. Use airline miles.
Even if you don’t fly often enough to earn a free flight, joining frequent flier programs with your favorite airlines will add up over time—especially if you’re flying any long-haul international flights. It takes awhile to accrue enough miles, but this strategy can help you book very cheap student flights over time. Many airlines let you use points for other travel-related expenses, like upgrading your seat or buying snacks or Wi-Fi on the plane. Keep in mind that even when you book through a student travel service, like StudentUniverse, you can still add your frequent flier number to the reservation and earn points.
7. Take advantage of shoulder season.
What is shoulder season, you ask? Shoulder season is the period of time right in between peak season and off-peak season, and it varies by destination. For example, in Europe, peak season tends to be summer, since many people are free for traveling and weather is ideal. Winter is off-season. That makes spring and fall shoulder season. The best parts of shoulder season: weather is usually mild (not too hot or too cold), there’s less tourists and tickets will be cheaper. In the South Pacific, like Australia and New Zealand, November and December are shoulder season, meaning this is the perfect place to go for an end-of-the-semester or pre-holiday trip.
8. Take a red-eye flight.
Getting a cheap flight isn’t just about when you travel, it’s also about when you literally travel—that is, when your flight leaves. Early morning or red-eye (overnight) flights are usually the cheapest, because they’re considered “less-ideal” travel times. As a result, they’re usually cheaper. Other perks? Early morning flights are less likely to get delayed. Red-eye flights give you extra time in your destination (since you’ll fly when you would have been snoozing anyways) and will also save you the cost of a hotel room. Double-win.
9. Watch prices, not destinations.
It’s easy to have your heart set on a dream destination—New Zealand, Paris or Bali, maybe. But you’re more likely to find cheap college student flights if you’re flexible on your destination. If you want to head to New Zealand for the adventure, consider Costa Rica, another huge adventure hotspot. Finding flights to Paris expensive? There’s several airports in Paris—see if you can find a good deal into another airport. Or fly into London and take the train to Paris from there. The key is being flexible and being willing to think outside of the box when it comes to what your final trip will look like.
A few more tips to find cheap college student flights, broken down by destination
Already know where you’re going? Check out our tips for finding very cheap student flights around the world.
Cheap student flights to Europe
- When is the best time to book flights to Europe? If you’re looking to head to Europe in the summer, try to buy your tickets by March, as fares usually tend to rise in late March/early April. Other good times to head to Europe? Winter break. It’s off-season for Europe, so prices tend to be cheaper.
- Consider flying a discount airline to secure cheap student flights to Europe. If you don’t have much luggage and don’t need a lot of frills, discount airlines can sometimes have amazing deals. At the same time, don’t count out larger airlines—they can run bigger sales, so you can often score a cheap flight to Europe during a sale period, too. Bottom line: be flexible with your airline, and be sure to check several so you can be sure you’re getting a good deal.
- Try flying into a different airport or city, then take a train or a budget flight to your final destination. It’s often cheaper to fly into popular cities in Europe that have more flights and routes—cities like London, Paris, Barcelona and Rome.
Cheap student flights to Australia
- When is the best time to book cheap student flights to Australia? 3-6 months in advance tends to be a good rule if you’re coming from the US. Keep in mind that seasons are reversed in Australia than in the US or Europe, so winter is peak travel for “summer” trips to Australia (and often more expensive). If you’re studying abroad in the Land Down Under, see if you can fly in a bit early. It’ll give you time to get adjusted and save you money, since it’s usually cheaper to fly in right before peak season starts.
- Flights to Australia are usually much cheaper from the West Coast than the East Coast. If you have a cheap way to get to a major west coast airport, like LAX or SFO, you can often score a super-cheap flight to the South Pacific directly from there.
Cheap student flights to Asia
- When it comes to Asia, the earlier the better. If you’re traveling in the summer or over winter break, book your tickets at least 2-3 months in advance—and start looking before then, even if you’re not quite sure about your travel dates yet. If you can, try traveling during off-season to score a cheaper flight.
- Watch for a sale. When you’re looking for cheap student flights to Asia, a sale can save you literally hundreds of dollars. If you have Chinese social media accounts, like WeChat or Weibo, follow StudentUniverse for weekly fare alerts and deals. Or sign up for emails with your favorite airlines and travel companies to get alerted about current sales and promo codes.