I flew to Paris for $480 and was shocked when I saw my seat

Yahoo Lifestyle is going to Paris Fashion Week on a shoestring budget, and we’re taking you along with us. Every day for a week, we’ll give you tips on how to pack, where to stay, and how to enjoy the French capital without breaking the bank — or forgoing any of the fun. Follow us on Instagram for daily stories. Today’s lesson: how to find a cheap flight.

It’s early evening, and the sun is setting on Newark International Airport in New Jersey. I’ve got a 15-pound duffel bag slung over one shoulder and a seven-pound purse on the other, zigzagging my way through crowds of confused travelers.

I can’t complain too much — the overnight flight to Paris was a great deal by most standards. My ticket, for an economy seat on United Airlines, cost $385 base, plus travel insurance and other fees, which amounted to a total of $480.

Related: A ‘terrifying’ Paris hotel led me to this $90 Airbnb — and I’ll never look back

But after the flight itself, I’m a total convert. Not only was my flight, which departed on a Monday evening, chock full of empty seats, but my three-seat row was occupied by a single, satisfied customer (guess who?).

I’m a writer for Yahoo Lifestyle, chronicling what it’s like to head to Paris Fashion Week (PFW) on a budget. If you’re a visual learner, I’ve been updating my Instagram stories, too (@hautetakes). To those in the industry, PFW is the last, hellish leg of Fashion Month, a four-city tour upon which models, editors, bloggers, and buyers — eager to get an up-close look at next season’s trends — embark.

The thing about Fashion Week is, it’s an expensive, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses marathon of rendezvous after rendezvous, dinners, and runway shows. It might leave green-juice-chugging fashionistas fatigued, but their wallets mostly intact, thanks in large part to brand-sponsored trips.

Among the biggest expenses for a trip to Fashion Week is, of course, the flight itself. That’s why Yahoo Lifestyle, as part of its Paris Fashion Week on a Budget series, set out to ID the insider tricks for flying to the French capital without paying a premium.

Set up price alerts 

You’ll read that you should book your travel on some random weekday, or book your flight exactly eight weeks in advance of your trip. But the best way to find a flight deal is to set up a price alert using a travel aggregator site or search engine.

To do that, narrow down a range of dates you can travel on. Keep your dates as flexible as possible — often you’re encouraged to fly a day earlier or later than you anticipated, which can save you money.

Be flexible

Consider flying out of an airport that may not be closest to your home, but may offer a better deal. I live closer to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, but for this trip I flew out of Newark International Airport to save more than $200.

And don’t get conned into a budget airline’s sticker price. What might seem like a too-good-to-be-true flight probably is — the hurt comes later, with excess baggage fees and hidden costs.

Don’t dismiss a redeye

While the cons of taking a redeye flight are obvious (for what you save in money, you sacrifice in comfortable sleep), there are some advantages.

Overnight flights can be less crowded, so you may score a seat upgrade free of charge. At the very least, you might end up with a row to yourself, as I did. The feeling of paying for economy seating but enjoying business-class space is oh, so glorious.

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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.