One of the most frequently asked questions by travelers is: “Should I book my flight now – or could the price still be lower?”
Airline ticket prices are dynamic—they’re influenced by the number of seats available on each flight, the time of year, demand for a location (eg whether it’s a special event like the Olympics or the World Cup), oil prices, the number of flights on each route, and more—making it making it almost impossible for the average traveler to predict whether certain airfares will increase or decrease.
While you can surf the web until you find a price you’re willing to pay (or just book and hope you can rebook your flight later if the fare drops), it can be easier to let price alerts do the heavy lifting for you on behind the scenes.
Here’s what you need to know about price alerts, how they work, and how to set up price alerts so you can get the best flight deals when they appear.
What are price alerts?
Price Alerts are optional alerts that you can set up using flight search tools like Google Flights, Kayak, Hopper and Skyscanner. They use algorithms to track your chosen flight routes and travel dates and will notify you by email (or push notifications if you’re using an app) when the price changes. Or if you’re flexible (say, you want a cheap spring break flight but are less concerned about where you’re going), some websites will track various destinations for you (posting good deals randomly or for multiple specific destinations).
How to set up fare alerts on Google Flights
Google Flights is one of the most popular flight search tools for a reason. It allows travelers to see numerous flight and airline options, book tickets and even compare flight carbon emissions. You can also filter by how many stopovers you’re willing to make, which airlines you want to fly, and if bags are included.
To track flights (either a specific one or all flights on a specific day), enter your departure and arrival cities as usual, as well as the dates you want to fly. After you click search, you’ll notice that a toolbar appears below the information you enter (and above the list of departure flights) with options to track prices for the specific days you selected or any dates. Clicking on either of these will sign you up to receive email updates on price changes for that flight.
It’s worth noting that Google Flights doesn’t capture all deals — it doesn’t capture any fare information from Southwest Airlines, for example (that’s because Southwest prevents third-party websites from displaying its fares). You also don’t buy the tickets directly through Google Flights – the site sends users to the airline’s website or another third-party site that sells flights.
How to set up fare alerts on Skyscanner
Skyscanner, a website that pulls prices for flights, hotels and car rentals online, works in a similar way to Google Flights. After you’ve added your dates and preferred route (although you can also click “Add nearby airports” to get results for other airports in the area; Google Flights has this option, too), you’ll be taken to the results page. It has a “Get Price Alerts” button at the top left of the screen. You must create an account with Skyscanner to participate in the price alert email. Normally, if your flight is within 100 days, Skyscanner will email you a daily update. If it is further out, notifications come once a week.
While Skyscanner has the option to search for flights “Everywhere” (meaning it will search for the lowest fares to any country at the time), the functionality does not work with price alerts. If you want to monitor multiple destinations, you need to set alerts for all of them. Fortunately, Skyscanner will combine your searches into one email, making it easier to compare prices (and save your inbox from being overwhelmed).
How to Install Fare Notifications on Kayak
Kayak does a great job of compiling a list of the cheapest flights, hotels, and rental cars for a specific date or date range. For flights specifically, it can also track prices to help you get the best deal.
You first need to create an account with Kayak to receive the notifications. Then, after you’ve searched for your destination and added dates, you’ll be able to click “Track Price” on the page that lists all the flight options. The tracking button is in the upper left corner, and above it you’ll find Kayak’s advice on whether to buy now or wait (based on its predictions of whether fares will drop in the next seven days
Regardless of whether the price changes or not, Kayak will send you daily ticket price notifications unless you change the notifications in the settings section of your personal profile (in the upper right corner of the website). You can also monitor your notifications by visiting your watch list, which is also located on your profile page.
What’s particularly cool about Kayak is that it’s the only one that lets you set flexible price alerts. So say you want to fly from Los Angeles, California to Bali, Indonesia, but don’t care when, you can select “Flexible Dates” and then further select “Anytime” to be notified when the price drops below average.
How to set up fare alerts on Hopper
Hopper, a flight price search and booking tool, not only notifies you when prices drop, but notifies you if it predicts that fares may increase.
To set an alert, you need to visit the Hopper website or download the app. On either platform, you need to select “Flight” and fill in where and when you want to go. The next page will show the current flight price and Hopper’s prediction about whether you should buy now or wait for a better price. If it’s the latter, there will be a ‘Watch This Trip’ button in the middle of the page – this will allow you to opt-in for email updates or push notifications for the flight or flights you’re watching.
Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights isn’t technically a price alert for a single flight or destination; it’s a newsletter service that sends domestic and international offers to your inbox. But it’s a good way to save money on travel if you’re open to exploring a new destination based on a great flight deal.
In each email, the Scott’s Cheap Flights team includes information about what deals they’ve unearthed and how you can score cheaper fares (they also share how much these flights typically cost).
Scott’s Cheap Flights has three versions of its service:
- A free version, called Limited, where you get a selection of international Economy Class deals for up to five airports of your choice, delivered every month
- Premium version, which costs $49 per year and includes international and domestic offers on cabins from up to 10 airports. It also provides blunders (when an incorrect, lower fare is accidentally listed on an airline’s website) from your home airport, as well as weekend travel deals.
- And an Elite edition, which regularly costs $199 per year and includes the same benefits as Premium and offers for first, business and premium cabins from an unlimited number of US airports
From November 21 to 28, 2022, you can save 51 percent on a Premium Membership ($24 per year, down from $49) or $25 off an Elite Membership ($174 per year, down from $199) at Scott’s Cheap Flights Mega Sale.