Travelling is great, right? The feeling of exploring a new place, making your mark on the world, creating everlasting memories; but have you ever been snapped out of the daydream of white sandy beaches because you are baffled with the process of finding the best and cheapest flights?
You are not alone.
Millions of people travel each year. The industry is booming. Whether you are chasing the sun for a summer holiday, chasing the snow for a winter get-away, or finding the best deals to take the family to Disneyland, there are always considerations to take into account.
Next time you have your phone out and are ready to call the local travel centre to have them find you the cheapest flights, follow this protocol until you’ve SMASHED IT and found the best deals.
S – Search Engine
When you go to the local car yard, you don’t just buy the first car that takes your fancy, do you? Of course not! You shop around, get some quotes and find out what has the best deal. The travel industry is the same, but there are some handy websites which do all of this for you, right from the comfort of your own lounge chair!
We personally turn to Skyscanner every time we look for flights. This handy website looks up airlines who fly between your searched origin and destination, then rates them as cheapest to most expensive. You can also browse for dates which include the whole month, so you can juggle and find which is best for you.
Give it a go here, you can also filter many other options so you know you have the best deal.
There are another couple of websites we have used in the past that have come up trumps, they are:
Incognito tabs also work wonders. Most search engines collect cookies – an online memory – which hikes prices the more you revisit the site. Search like a ninja and avoid the hidden traps.
Remember, once your search engine has spat out a few deals, the shopping doesn’t stop there, next go straight to the airline’s website and search for the same dates and see if the price is any better direct from the website.
This might sound like a bit of work, but who doesn’t like to save hundreds of dollars?
M – Mailing list and Social Media
Gone are the days of snail mail, which takes a few days to reach your mailbox.
Things are lightning fast in the world of the internet, and that includes the latest travel deals or flash sales.
Most airlines will put out 24-48 hour sales to get impulse buyers to fill up their seats, but unless you are checking these airline websites daily, it is easy to miss. That is why there are a few websites which will notify you of cheap flight deals right then and there.
Make sure you follow your favourite airlines on social media and join their mailing list to get the most up to date deals!
A – Airline
Choosing your airline can be as confusing as choosing the healthiest greek yoghurt in the dairy aisle. Do you want comfort, service, baggage cost, safety, or a combination of all of the above?
- Some airlines will be more comfortable than others. Generally speaking, the more expensive airlines will have more leg room, offer you pillows and blankets, and have a TV screen in the back of a seat. In saying this, most long-haul airlines these days offer the above, but you never know who is going to recline their seat in front of you to cut into your leg room.
- Budget airlines are great to get from A to B, and depending on the time of the flight, you might not want a meal anyway. Most airlines have a menu that you can order food from if you do get peckish, but just remember, this will cut into your savings you made booking the cheap flight in the first place. Longer haul airlines generally will include a meal, but no promises that Gordon Ramsay will be the chef on board.
- As for baggage, airlines are good in the fact that most will offer you a cheaper ‘seat only deal’ where you can just carry a bag on, and you are good to go. For an extra fee, of course, you can buy checked baggage – if you are going down this route, just make sure you play the game and don’t bring a bag heavier than the maximum allowed, or else your credit card is in for a shock, and not a good start to any holiday.
If you are packing light, check out our tips on packing your bags like a boss.
S – Stopovers
Sometimes you just want to get to a place as soon as possible, but there are massive savings to be had if you have the flexibility to add a stopover. For example, at the current time of writing, you can save about $300AUD making a short stopover in Cairns, on the Melbourne – Tokyo leg.
It is also worth researching if you can fly a budget airline for a short haul, before getting an international connection to your destination.
The silver lining here is that you can have the opportunity to explore a new city for a night or two, or a short transit which, at worst, will give you the opportunity to try a skinny latte in a new place before heading to your destination.
H – Have a Frequent Flyer programme
If you are flying frequently, it is definitely a good thing to sign up for a frequent flyer (FF) programme, which is normally free. You can even connect your account to certain credit cards, and earn FF points while doing the weekly grocery shop!
There are a lot of ways to earn bonus points which will help you travel smarter, cheaper and longer. There are plenty of books out there to learn how to hack these programmes (legally) to maximise your points. From there, it is all about converting your points into flights, airline lounge passes and even accommodation.
E – Early bird gets the worm
They say booking anywhere between 8-10 weeks before a flight is an optimal time to find the cheapest flights. We are not so sure about this, as flights tend to jump around a lot due to various reasons. We would recommend booking early, but definitely no later than 4 weeks before your flight, as this is the time that the online algorithms will start to kick in and creep prices skywards.
D – Destinations and dates
Simply, the BEST way to find the cheapest flights are to have no fixed date that you need to travel, AND no fixed destination you want to go.
To do this, go to one of the above search engines, filter the search for ‘see whole month’ (in the month you want to travel, of course!).
Even if the only decision you’ve made is what country you want to go to, you can just type in the country, and it will take you to the cheapest airport.
If you really do not care where you end up, leave the destination blank and play Russian roulette – who knows, you might get sent to Moscow on the cheap!
I – Ignore the ‘experts’
A lot of people call themselves experts in the field of travel.
We have quite a bit of experience behind us, having travelled to over 65 countries over the past few years, but still don’t call ourselves experts.
You will be fed a lot of myths from people who have travelled, from saying that incognito tabs don’t change anything (see above, in our experience they do), to recommendations for the day of the week which is cheapest to book your flights!
Recently, we attended a travel expo and went to a travel company for advice and booking of our flights for an upcoming holiday – the fact that they came up with flights $100 more than we could get online made us wonder actually how much can travel agents save you, compared to the good old DIY travel – to note, we got them to price match plus a bit more, so are happy with the outcome.
T – Time your dates
Like anything in the world, there will be peaks and troughs. We see this on the stock exchange, our favourite sports teams, and even at the beach when trying to catch a wave.
The travel industry is no different in that there will be busy seasons (peaks) and low seasons (troughs). If you want the cheapest flights, you will need to go to a summer destination in winter, not during school holidays, not during any festivals, not during the weekends, and definitely not around Christmas or New Year. Sounds tough?
If you just wanted to visit old Aunt Betty who lives in the countryside, that might be fine, but just take the above into consideration.
- Want to swap a surfboard for a snowboard? Great, fly to the southern beaches of France during Winter and get a train up to the mountains.
- Got kids? Consider taking them out of school a week before school holidays.
- Need to visit family for Christmas? Cut your losses, and just make sure you bring a well-knitted throw for old Aunt Betty.
There are a lot of ways to save a buck or two these days. It is worth doing your research and shopping around to make sure you don’t miss out on any savings.
At the end of the day, it is better to have more money in your pocket to spend on your holiday, right?
Let us know how you go, happy travelling!