I feel like this is the millionth blog post on how to book cheap flights for less money but I keep meeting people that ask me how I can afford my many flights and what secret tips I have. So I thought I’d share my wisdom with you. But to be fair, I have gained a lot of my experience not only first-hand but through scouring the internet and would like to give special credit to ytravel and World of Wanderlust. Enough of the talking, here are my essential travel hacks.
Imagine you’re on a secret mission trying to find the best deals. In this day and age this proves to be really tricky. From IP addresses with location over to currently open tabs and other indicators of your shopping preferences, there are a lot of places on the internet that get to know you pretty well, whether you like it or not. So what if they found out you want to book a flight? They would certainly want to both encourage you as well as get your money. Preferably more than you’d be willing to spend.
Now guess why every time you check for the same flight the price is rising? Is that a coincidence? Nope. That’s a marketing strategy to deter you from cheap flights. Here’s where your incognito browser window comes in handy. It doesn’t safe your history and is therefore ‘fresh’, showing the standard and not ‘personalised’ prize.
This is really logical but if you want the best price you better not have a set date you want and need to travel on. Instead, go for the flexible date option and compare prices. Also, think outside the box and try to find an alternative location you have not considered but would suit you just as much. Don’t forget about your own country or neighbouring ones. They are not less attractive just because the masses haven’t paid them enough attention.
If you are dead set on one place, you might miss out on other deals or places that are generally cheaper. Why not look at current offers or find out about the general price budgets of certain destinations? Or type in your departure airport and see which suggestions pop up and thus which place offers cheap flights? A good place for this is kayak.com.
Make sure your airport of choice actually offers the connection and airlines you want. It is a wise choice to not focus on one airport but check out nearby ones as well if there are any. However, don’t forget to calculate in the price for transport back to the city because more remote airports have higher transport prices.
Compare Sites and Prices
There are many, many sites out there that aim at helping you find cheap flights. But some of them are more helpful than others and I have tried a few myself over the years, always eager to get as cheap as possible to use the money for more travelling. My favourite site by far has been Swoodoo, but another popular international site is Skyscanner.
Such site locate great deals with a multitude of airlines and even give you the option of running your search through other sites as well – to compare some more. They don’t offer the option of booking through them but link you to the respective sites. It is not necessarily advisable to book it through their suggested booking page, however. Here’s my second tip: find a great price and remember the airline to take a look at their page. They might have even cheaper deals.
This one makes more sense for those that prefer one airline and fly very often. Collecting miles can provide the happy traveller with great rewards and air fares but can sometimes come with an entry fee. Watch out for special offers, such as the one with Woolworths and Quantas at the moment where they offer free membership, for instance. Sometimes you can get double points during promo campaigns as well.
Either way, the best idea for getting cheap flights is always to sign up with newsletters and follow on social media. They have great offers and sales, which you might not otherwise find by browsing their website. You will also get to know their special days, such as Thursday for Virgin Australia.
There are three times to consider when booking: the time you book, the time or which you book and the day and time on which your flights go. The worst times to fly are Sundays. Instead, choose Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. More important than that, however, is booking in off season. Avoid peak times due to the ridiculous prices and the impossible crowds. One more hack is one I highly dislike myself. I have to say it though. Forget the lie-ins and step on the plane super late or insanely early in the morning. Just don’t forget to check airport pick up times and connections before booking.
Don’t rely on last minute deals! Generally, booking between 6 and 8 weeks in advance is the best time. However, this varies depending on booking location as well, which makes it even more tricky. For the US Buzzfeed found out that the best times to book cheap flights are months in advance. From there to closer destinations, such as domestic, Central America, Caribbean and even Africa the best timing ranges between 3 and 6 weeks. To get to other continents, such as Asia and Europe it’s 9-10 and for South America 6 months.
Flying from Germany to Turkey and the Canaries, planning 5 weeks ahead from January is your best bet while a week is enough for the Caribbean, according to travelbook. Be aware that prices change three times daily, so check in often to spot cheap flights. The best time might actually be between 12 and 1pm, lastminute.de found out. Your best bet is to know months in advance when and where you like to go so that you can monitor the price developments and get the price when it seems good (don’t wait for “the best”) – or it increases again.
Combine and Make Use of Stopovers
Especially if you are looking for longer stays and definitely with round trips, combining several one way tickets is the way to go. It is always worth it to still check whether a return flight might be a cheaper option, but sometimes you can squeeze in another destination for not much more money or even the same price.
I booked my ticket to New Zealand with a 6 day stopover in Hong Kong with no additional cost. Airlines are offering multi-stopover options but even in the cases where there would be a higher cost, you can apply a simple trick. For necessary layovers, you can extend the hours of your stay to up a day and not get charged for it (check the visa requirements to avoid a bad awakening). This way you get an included day trip and get overall cheap flights.
Writing this blog post, I found out that the Australian travel agency Flight Centre boasts a lowest flight price guarantee. I need to check that out as well, but asking in travel agencies or even checking out foreign sites can be such a prize saver. For instance, Japanese travel agencies are supposedly really competitive and offer insane deals. Check out Expedia Japan, for instance.
Seek inspiration on your destination’s website, which might list offers and companies you have never heard of and that didn’t pop up in your search engine. Especially the low cost carriers can hide away like that and thus keep cheap flights out of your reach.
Take Advantage of Your Age
Are you under 25 or still a student? This can give you some sweet discounts, such as with STA Travel. And maybe you can even get a nice seat with lots of leg space when you’re older without having to pay an extra fee. Just ask nicely at the check in counter (unless you have checkd in online beforehand).
Bonus Tip for Cheap Flights
Did you know that different prices will be displayed depending on which browser you are using? I didn’t want to believe it but actually saw a 30 Euro difference between firefox and internet explorer the other day when searching for cheap flights. So my advice to you is to use internet explorer in the private mode for your flight booking.