(Or.... how to spend the same amount on more flights!)
Buying airplane tickets is unlike any other purchase we make. The reason is that the price we pay varies more than any other thing we buy. You might pay $1,200 for a flight and sit next to a person who paid $375 for the same flight.
If you travel a lot, or far, it's a worthy investment to learn how to pay less. Because you can pay a lot less for the exact same "product."
But learning how it all works can be super complicated and time consuming. So I have two simple pieces of advice for getting the lowest airfare.
First, read this wonderful post on CheapAir.com, which is information based on the very good CheapAir.com 2018 Annual Airfare Study. It focuses on when to buy, which should help you maximize your chances of grabbing the best airfare.
The second piece of advice is to use Google Flights, which builds in intelligence about airfares, and even makes predictions about when and where to get the best flights.
The most basic use of Google Flights is that you can enter the departure and destination, then get a list of flights from least to most expensive. You can then fiddle with the airports, timing and so on to troubleshoot getting the best flight.
One tip for using Google Flights is to be vague about the arrival city. If the flight is long and the airfare expected to be expensive, choose the entire country. Google Flights will show you all the airports in that country with their cheapest flights. That means you can choose the arrival airport based on the price of the ticket.
Once you arrive, you can take a train or bus to the destination of your choice. By taking a $20 bus, you might save $2,000 on the flight.
Same goes for the departure city. We once took a bus from Marseille to Venice in order to depart from the Venice Airport and save more than a thousand dollars on the flight.
You don't have to know everything in the world about how airline pricing works to get the best fare. You only need to know everything in the world about Google Flights.