Get your study abroad plane tickets without breaking the bank.  You know what you’re doing. You’re going to study abroad in Thailand and learn about elephants, master international business while studying in London, or perfect your Spanish conjugations as a student in Ecuador. And since you’ve already pledged a serious chunk of change to cover the costs of your program fees and deposits, it’s no surprise you’re starting to feel a financial strain. Now, it’s time to book your study abroad flights, and yet again, your purse strings are feeling tugged.

view from airplane window

That window seat is extra 👌👌👌 thanks to cheap student flights.

That’s why we want to help you find cheap flights for students studying abroad.

Study abroad flights can be expensive, but there are secrets to help you find the cheapest flights abroad, even on a student budget! This article is the first step to getting a seat on the next plane to your dream study abroad destination. Read on to learn proven strategies that will increase your chances of finding cheap flights for college students! Heck yeah!

Best ways to find cheap study abroad flights

Unfortunately, student discounts on flights don’t grow on trees. You’ve gotta put a little work into it, and truth be told, time is your friend. You don’t want to be that guy trying to book a ticket two weeks out from your trip ($$$$$). Instead, make an action plan at least three months out and adhere to these tips to book cheap study abroad flights.

1. Flight alerts are your friends

Make an AirfareWatchdog alert for specific flights and destinations, which will get you deals sent straight to your inbox, instead of spending hours looking for an affordable flight. AirfareWatchdog also has a fantastic search feature – use it! You can also set up flight alerts with Kayak or Skyscanner. Whatever floats your boat (er, plane!).

[25 Tips for Better Air Travel]

2. Use travel credit cards (or your parents’!)

Are you using a credit card? Are your parents using a travel credit card? Hopefully they are and make sure you’re getting some kind of travel rewards! These programs assign certain points values for specific expenses—sometimes they vary based on if they’re food or drink versus gas or shopping. Oftentimes, if it’s a travel-related expense, you’ll earn double points! This is good news in the long run because more points = more ways to save money.

rack of clothes
Start putting all of your regular purchases on a travel credit card & watch the points roll in!

The trick here is to pick an airline that you want to fly regularly, or at the very least operates to your study abroad destination (otherwise it won’t be that helpful in finding cheap study abroad flights!). Build up loyalty and ongoing points to cash in when you’re booking your flights abroad and back.

Check out Cards for Travel for more details and talk to your bank about travel rewards cards. On the bright side, there are many credit card programs out there that will allow you to earn points that directly apply to future airfare purchases! Woot!

3. Join frequent flyer programs

Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam—names you probably have never heard of, but you need to know. These airline alliances are what will get you miles that you can use for cheap or even free tickets for your next adventure abroad. 

Sign up for a frequent flyer program under each alliance and research which airlines are part of which so you can start accruing miles. These are helpful because it can be a little difficult to be loyal to a particular airline, especially as a student. When you just want to find flights for students studying abroad—no matter which airline—having a membership with each alliance will serve you well and can help alleviate some costs.

[8 Affordable Summer Study Abroad Programs for 2019-2020]

4. Earn miles through surveys OR airline newsletters

If you haven’t figured it out yet, racking up airline miles (through points or frequent flyer programs) are one of the best ways to improve your odds at finding low cost student airfare. Another tried and true strategy for more rapid points accrual? Surveys!

There are more ways to get miles than actually flying or having credit cards. Doing online surveys from E-miles should be your go-to. It may take a little longer to get a big number of miles but spending just 15 minutes a week doing a few surveys can earn you miles to use for your next trip. As well, if you sign up for newsletters from specific airlines, you’ll likely get insider tips on more ways to earn points—straight to your inbox.

You CAN find cheap study abroad flights. If you really put your mind to it and focus on your dream adventure, it will happen.

5. Shop from airline portals online

You might not know it, but there are lots of shopping portals from different airlines that you can use to get miles for your next flight. Example: MileagePlus Shopping from United Airlines. Next time you (or your mom and dad) have a general purchase to make online, check to see if the airline frequent flyer program you signed up for has a shopping portal that has that item for sale! 

flight taking off into sunrise
What’s YOUR game plan to find the cheapest abroad flights?

Oftentimes, these online portals will include a downloadable plug in search that can be added to your browser (this makes it easier to know if an item is available for sale or not). So, instead of doing a Google search—or Amazon—for your travel guide or backpack, check the online portal instead. Costs the same, but you’ll collect WAY more points!

6. Timing is E V E R Y T H I N G

Think of it this way: When are travelers most likely to be buying plane tickets? Avoid shopping at those times. 

  • How many weeks prior to travel? Many people wonder how far out to wait to buy study abroad plane tickets from their departure date. The consensus seems to be three months before intended travel. If you want to play the dangerous game of buying a week before you fly, you can try and maybe get lucky if the airline is trying to fill last minute seats.
  • What time of day? People tend to shop in the morning before work and in the evening after work. Alas, many student deals for flights (or deals in general) will pop up in the afternoon between noon and 3 p.m or in the laaate evening, like after 10pm.

In my experience, three months is a little much—there doesn’t usually seem to be much change between one to three months in advance of your trip so don’t discredit that last minute trip idea! Unless you hate long haul flights and middle seats, that is.

7. Know that they’re tracking your searches

Don’t be weirded out, but your browser and the airline search engines are DEFINITELY tracking what you have searched for in the past. This could mean a few things—1), your preferred flight path automatically populates the search tool. But also, 2), They’re dis-incentivized from lowering the price visible to you for the flight they’ve deduced you want. Some say that airlines actually raise the prices of that search path since they know you want it. 

[7 Ways to Study Abroad for Cheap]

How to be secret about your pending flight plans? Do additional searches in an incognito window to see fresh, up-to-date search results, free of the influence of your past browsing history. In short, if you want to find discount flights for students, you best do it with an anonymous browser.

girl taking photos
As soon as the wheels have dropped from your flight abroad, you’ll know the run around was worth it. 🛬🛬🛬

8. Use websites designed to find the best cheap student flights

Kayak? Orbitz? Expedia? Skyscanner? There are some really cool platforms out there that aggregate many different flight websites all together, so you have more to choose from. Even Google flights has upped its game in recent years, quickly climbing as one of my go-to resources for finding low cost airfare. My trick is to look it up on Google first, then conduct additional research (incognito!) on individual airline websites. (You don’t want to be stuck with hidden fees, do you?). 

Then, I’ll cross-check my findings with other platforms (like Skyscanner) and finally, give the following student travel websites a call 👇👇👇:

It’s helpful to do your own research first so you come more prepared to the table AND so you can relish in all of the sweet, sweet savings they can hook you up with. 

Next stop: Cheap study abroad flights, baby!

student flight discount tips
Start your semester abroad off right: Fly there cheap with student flight discounts!

Now that you know the inside scoop, you’re well on your way to cutting your costs to study abroad (here are eight more proven ways to lower the cost). Finding cheap study abroad tickets isn’t rocket science—it just takes a little conscious effort, patience, and a little willingness to game the system and EARN THOSE POINTS! 

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