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Hot Tips for Buying International Flights for Your Family: 250+ Flights Later

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Last Updated on March 15, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Travel addicts like us constantly daydream about where to go next and what kind of deal we can get on our flights. Flights tend to be the most expensive part of an international trip, especially for a family. With most international flights across an ocean clocking in at $500, on average, that adds up quickly for a family!

We traveled full-time as a family of seven for almost three years and took dozens of flights from the US, to Asia, to Europe, to New Zealand, and back. In fact, in our rough estimate of flights, our family has taken around 250 flights and traveled over a million miles combined! We know what it is to fly!

Booking flights is a constant battle in trying to find the ideal dates, the correct route, the right arrival and departure times, and all at the right price. But we are happy to share some of the many tips and tricks we’ve learned along our journey.

Checking out which day has great deals on international flights

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Opinions shared are my own, and I only endorse products I support. By clicking on any of the links below, I may get a small commission if you purchase at absolutely no additional charge to you. I appreciate your support.*

Timing Is Everything When Buying Flights for Your Family

Ultra Planner vs. Last-Minute Flight Purchasing

Being on either extreme of the calendar is key when purchasing international flights. Airlines typically release flights for purchase 9-11 months in advance, so if you can book flights right when they release you’ll often find better prices. Conversely, there are good deals to be found at the last minute too.

Buying well in advance can help cut costs for sure. However, be prepared that your flight details will likely change (at no cost to you) if you book early. Airlines regularly change flight patterns closer to the flights, or the flight times might change by a few minutes or a couple of hours.

On the flip side, buying your flight anywhere from 7-21 days before you want to depart can also help you snag some good deals. However, don’t wait too long! If you wait until less than a week before the flight departs to book, costs tend to skyrocket. This leaves you in a bad place when it’s an emergency situation.

We recently had a flight change schedule by about 9 hours (delayed). Unfortunately, we had booked our connecting flight separately, and now we were going to miss the second flight. This left us sitting at the airport, booking our family on a new flight and boarding just a couple of hours later. To top it all off, the new flight was three times the cost of the original flight. However, we didn’t have much choice, as we had investments in the second flight, the rental car, and the hotels at our destination. If we had canceled these reservations at the last minute, it was unlikely we would be able to cancel without monetary penalties. Airlines cash in on these types of urgent, last-minute situations.

Flying as a family of seven is no joke. Planning is the key!

Fly on Wednesdays

The day of the week makes a big difference in the costs of flights. Everyone wants to maximize their weekends, and flying on Sundays is the most expensive. Saturday flights can be slightly cheaper, but Wednesdays are usually the best day to depart or arrive.

Airlines Prices Fluctuate: Buy on Tuesdays

Airlines are constantly changing the prices of flights based on demand, even several times a day! However, we’ve found that many airlines offer discounts on Tuesdays, sometimes even for flights that same week or weekend. Try to buy your flights on a Tuesday and see if it makes a difference! We also recommend not purchasing flights on the weekend, when demand is high.

Flexibility on Dates

Several sites, like Google Flights and Skyscanner, have a price matrix that will show you the costs of your desired flight for the entire month or more. If your travel dates can be flexible (which can be tough with work and school), check different dates for savings.

Skyscanner has an option to choose “Whole Month” to compare prices on a matrix. You can easily switch months to compare month-to-month prices too.

Traveled to France in December to see some lovely châteaux

Use Predicting Software

There are several software options out there for tracking and predicting airline prices, and you can set alerts for certain routes. Some of these include AirHint and Hopper. Use these as a starting point, but just remember that these are not the laws on airline prices.

Google Flights can also offer a price guarantee on select flights booked through Google Flights. While I’ve never seen this option myself, you can learn more here.

There are also airline deal sites, like Going (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) and Next Vacay, but these only apply to flights from the USA. If you are close to a major hub airport in the United States, it might be worthwhile to check out these services. In order to use these sites, expect a nominal yearly fee (usually $49).

Fly on the Holiday

When it comes to big holidays, like Easter and Christmas, flying on the actual holiday can make a huge difference in flight prices. Unless there is some kind of delay or weather occurrence, you might have lighter traffic in the airports as well.

Checking out other airports to consider

Other Tips for Booking International Flights for Your Family

Consider Other Airports When Booking Your Flights

If you are lucky enough to live within driving distance of several international airports, be sure to check all of them. Sometimes, even driving 2-4 hours away can save hundreds of dollars.

Alternatively, you can find a cheap flight from a big hub and then book a separate flight to connect to that hub. While this can save big money, it can come with significant risks. If either flight is delayed, the other flight might be affected, and neither airline will care about your plight. Use caution with this one.

Having been to 48 countries, our troupe knows the drill of flying internationally

Clear Your Cache

Airlines, like all retailers, use cookies on your browser. This provides them with unique info about you and your spending habits. They 100% use this info to their advantage.

Have you ever been looking at flights and have it reset (either refresh or time out), and suddenly the price is much higher?! Nothing is more frustrating. You need to be CAREFUL when purchasing flights not to click back or refresh. When I am buying flights, and I need to change something, I will stop and wait at least a day or two before returning to purchase. Better yet, a week. Cookie laws vary, but they are much shorter than they used to be.

You can help solve this problem by either clearing your cache (which unfortunately can also erase any saved passwords, depending on your browser) OR using an incognito window.

Google Chrome allows for incognito browsing windows, which allow you to browse without any tracking of your browsing history. It’s worth a try when shopping for a flight to see if it makes a difference. Do this by opening your web browser and clicking control+shift+N on a PC or command+shift+N on Apple. 

St. Bartholomew’s Church on Lake Königssee

Change Your Location

You can also sometimes manipulate the price of flights by changing your location (digitally) using a VPN service. Flights within Europe are less expensive when shopping from Portugal (our home) than from outside Europe. We like to try shopping while using Express VPN.

Be Flexible With Destinations

Both Skyscanner and Google Flights are excellent tools for buying flights. Both have the option to search for flights to “anywhere.” This is a great way to look for the cheapest vacation options for specific time periods, like spring break, if you don’t have a specific destination in mind.

Airline hub

Use Airline Hubs To Find Cheaper Flights

Each major airline has “hubs” that they focus on to consolidate their costs. If you fly through an airline’s “hub,” you will usually find that flights are cheaper. For example, we fly often to Denver, CO and Salt Lake City, UT. United has a “hub” in Denver, so we find that United flights are cheaper to Denver. However, Delta flights are cheaper to Salt Lake City, because Delta has a “hub” in that location. We also find that there are usually fewer connections to get to hubs.

If you want to understand this better, you can read more here. However, here are some of the major airlines and their hubs:

Alaska Airlines:

  • Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) – Primary Hub
  • Anchorage (ANC)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)

American Airlines:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Primary Hub
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Chicago – O’Hare (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York – Kennedy (JFK)
  • New York – LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Washington DC – National (DCA)
On to our next vacation with kids from Portugal


  • Atlanta (ATL) – Primary Hub
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Detriot (DTW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
  • New York – Kennedy (JFK)
  • New York – LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • Seattle/Tacoma (SEA)

United Airlines

  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) – Primary Hub
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Houston – Intercontinental (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington DC – Dulles (IAD)


  • New York – Kennedy (JFK)- operating base
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Long Beach (LGB)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • San Juan (SJU)
Heading to Rome for our Anniversary

Buy Two One-Way Flights

You can sometimes save money by booking two one-way flights instead of a round trip. This varies highly depending on location, but I was looking at flights this morning to India, and one way was around $700 versus $3000 for a round trip.

Be sure to pay attention to airports in this scenario… sometimes airports in the same city can be hours apart! You could miss your flight if you end up at the wrong airport and realize you need to depart from a different airport in the same city. We’ve been there…. London, for example, has FIVE international airports that are all 1-3 hours apart by car.

7Wayfinders went to Indonesia

Buy From The Airline Website Directly

While I always start with Google Flights to find flights, I always book directly with the airline. Avoid using booking sites like Kiwi.com and others. Their customer service is TERRIBLE, and they are not helpful if there is a booking mistake, a bag mistake, or anything else.

Booking with an airline directly will get you the best customer service help in case you need it.

Checking in can sometimes be tricky, especially with kids. Better to know your airport.

Other Indirect Ways To Save Money on Flights

  1. Luggage. Airlines make millions of dollars on luggage fees. Unless you have status on an airline, paying for bags can rack up quickly into hundreds of dollars depending on the size and weight of your bags. If possible, carry on only. If you need to check a bag, be sure to prepay, as baggage fees almost always lower when paying in advance.
  1. Bring snacks and a refillable water bottle. Airlines food not only sucks, but it’s also super expensive. Airlines can charge high prices because they know they have a captive audience, so get ahead of it and pack your own.
  1. Transportation to the airport can cost you, especially as a family. Plan ahead to find out the cheapest way to get to the airport and your location after your flight. Public transportation is often available and convenient in Europe for very little money. When using public transportation, always helps to pack light!
  1. Book child and baby rates when you can. Most children under two can fly as lap children for free or for a small fee. Often, you need to call the airlines to book this, but most airlines have discounts for children’s tickets. These vary from airline to airline (each has its own age brackets), so shop around.
Loving the views after skiing in Switzerland

My Additional Tips for Booking Flights

  1. Pay attention to layover times. These can make or break your travel days. I don’t like to book any flights with less than a 1.5-hour layover time. More time is required if you will be going through customs. Considering how oversold flights are these days and staffing issues worldwide, it’s not worth the risk of missing a flight.
  1. Watch arrival times. Many international flights are overnight, and you may arrive one or even two days later than your date of departure. Pay close attention to the overall flight time, what day you arrive, and how long your layovers are.
  1. Airline Reward Programs. When we were traveling full-time with our kids, we had no allegiance to any one airline. It was all about the cheapest flights. However, now that we are a bit more stationary, we’ve built up a rewards program on a major airline. This comes with benefits and drawbacks… sometimes we pay more for flights in order to get rewards. However, we also get the benefits of free luggage, better seating, and better customer service. Depending on your situation, it may be worth building up status in a rewards program. Pay attention to the airline hubs when picking an airline to be loyal to.

Flying is fun, especially with loved ones. Use our tips to book the best flights at the best prices, and count the many memories you will make on your travels!



Plan your international trip and get some great deals on tickets from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a family-friendly hotel wherever you are from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover the world while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while traveling internationally? Book a professional photographer from flytographer.

Capture your best travel memories abroad as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

Amazing 5-Day Scotland Itinerary for Families

Living the Magic of Harry Potter With Kids in Edinburgh, Scotland: Self-Guided Tour

What to Know When Visiting Athens, Greece With Kids


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