How To Find A Cheap Flight

I’ve written about this previously back in 2014 and wanted to update the post with a few additional tips for my readers, I hope this is helpful for saving some cash to spend on fun things for your trip rather than giving all your cash to a big company before you even leave home!

Airfare prices can be the most costly single thing on your trip however, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom and there are a bundle of cheap ways to travel now. I’ve listed some of my top tips to save time, money and a bunch of stress on your next trip!

Plane-Wing-Taken-Out-The-Window-Adventurer-Stacey

Why Are Airfare Prices So Unpredictable?

As Richard Branson said in his autobiography (which I loved – every entrepreneur should read it!) airlines operate on small margins and it’s a hugely competitive industry. The airline wants a full plane and enough money from each passenger to pay overheads and make a little profit. Airfares can change from day-to-day with the cost of fuel and the demand on tickets fluctuating. I’ve watched many a flights price move up $200 in a week then down $200 the next week.

The following are my top tips to getting the best deal on your next flight!

Timing

Planning your travel in the shoulder or off-season will save you a bundle – I’ve flown Melbourne to Amsterdam return for AUD$1,200 when my friends paid $3,000 for the same flight only a few months’ later. I could have got the ticket cheaper again if I’d been available to fly a little later (for AUD$1,000).

Know What You Want To Spend

Part of being a budget traveller is having to stick to a budget. If you know you have $300 to spend on that flight and you’ve seen tickets this cheap before, don’t settle for the $600 ticket because you’re scared that will go (unless you’ve got real reason to think it will) sometimes waiting for a sale is well worth it. I’ve had to do this while booking flights around Asia before and although it was a bit nerve-wracking, I ended up paying what I wanted to pay in the end!

Be Flexible

Although I wouldn’t suggest flying on national days and missing celebrations often it’s good to have a bit of a window to fly in where possible. If $100 would make a big difference to your trip, would saving that little bit by booking your return leg two days’ after you thought you would make a difference to your trip?

Travel For An Event

More of an aside often we want to travel for an awesome event or festival however, we don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. When planning my St Patrick’s Day trip, I booked several months’ in advance when sale fares were available and booked my ticket to be arriving in Dublin 8 days’ before St Patrick’s Day itself. Although I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone it suited me fine. I wanted to re-visit some parts of Ireland that I’d liked the last time I was there and knew that would be enough for me to be over jetlag and onto a normal time table for the event!

Something else I often see is people booking flights into a nearby city and traveling overland for an event, this can save big money too!

How Far Away From My Trip Should I Book?

Booking flights in that golden window of time when airlines are trying to fill their seats but not so near that they know they have you and prices will go up – usually about six to eight weeks before ensures the best prices. Don’t believe me? Visit any budget travel agents website and see when their flight specials are for, you’ll usually find them about eight weeks away or sometimes a little further away if the off season is coming up.

How To Search

I use Skyscanner to search for flights and have for several years’ now. I like that they don’t charge commissions and also give you the price that you will pay, not the drip price. Drip pricing is when an airline markets their flights as being super cheap – say, $6 then there is a tone of non-optional extras that may turn your $6 flight into a $106 flight, costing you sometimes the same amount of money as the more honest and often better to fly with airlines. I often search around three months (should I know I’m traveling three months away from a trip) and then repeat that search periodically, as well as watching budget travel agents’ websites to know when the airlines are having their sales!

Although I have not set up an email notification in ages often this is a preferred method of savvy fliers. You can do so with either Skyscanner or Airfare Watshdog. They’re easy to set up and could save you a pretty penny, if not a lot of your time.

Return Is Often Cheaper

When traveling around South & Central America last year I found that return tickets were often cheaper than booking a one way ticket. I saved around $800 from booking return flights rather than one-way flights and not taking the return leg.

Booking A Connection You Don’t Intend To Take

I don’t advocate for this as it’s something I’ve never done and don’t want to be responsible for your getting into trouble with an airline if you’re found out. However I wanted to mention it as this works well for people who’re happy to travel with just carry on luggage. Basically you want to book a flight to one city and it’s expensive for example, you want to fly to LA but its $800 for an LA flight and to fly to San Francisco via LA will be $600, you book the flight through to San Francisco, get off in LA and don’t take your connection. Be weary though that you won’t be able to take a return leg of a ticket like this. To find more info online if you’re interested this is called hidden city ticketing.

Places To Look

Although most people think they will find the cheapest tickets on budget airlines in economy sometimes the best deals (in regards to value for money) can be with traditional airlines or even in business class. When one considers that to fly budget they will get nothing for their money they will be purchasing basic things like the use of a blanket for the flight, a meal and a drink sometimes the price difference is even less than expected. A friend of mine too, booked a business class seat for his Melbourne to London flight for little more ($300) than a economy class seat and admitted to drinking the difference in Dom Perignon and having the best service and seating on the plane to boot! Checking business class before you book is a great idea!

Keep An Eye Out For Deals

You can sign up for email newsletters with your favorite airlines or budget travel agents however, I am a huge travel nerd and I list deals through my email newsletter! I list deals mostly for those traveling from major hubs in North America, Europe and the Antipodes (Australia and New Zealand) and am always seeking out more great travel deals, so if you want me to be doing all the hard work for you, sign up for the weekly email newsletter in the right-hand side bar now.

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Did you like this post? Found it useful? Please list your thoughts and if there was anything important that’s been left out in the comments below!

Cheap Airfare Myths

I’ve heard a few myths over the years surrounding how exactly you get a cheap flight and wanted to share those with my readers who might have heard the same things and be unsure of how valid they are. Most are either misguided or out of date. The important thing to keep in mind however, is they won’t save you money right now.

Plane window with ice - Adventurer Stacey

Budget Airlines are ALWAYS cheaper than non-budget: Not true. With drip pricing where the airlines advertised price is not the price you pay due to non-optional extras and inflated and unavoidable credit/bank card fees, not having things like luggage and basic refreshments as part of your fare and even the personal costs of feeding yourself and changing your life around uncaring airlines often budget comes out a lot more expensive and a bigger hassle than non-budget.

Book Early in the morning/In the afternoon/On a full moon: I’ve heard them all and I’m sure you have too. In all my time travelling I’ve not found a consistent time of day that is cheaper for every flight, destination, international or domestic. It varies on supply and demand like most businesses. If the airline has a lot of empty seats, they will be desperately trying to fill them and drop their prices (they often advertise these price drops), if planes are filling up, airlines push up the prices because they know that demand is so high they can afford to.

Book on a Wednesday or a Sunday: This is one that can sometimes be true, at least more often that the first myth. It’s good to play with dates a bit when booking as the supply-and-demand travel industry will have some patterns (like many American’s visiting Las Vegas on the weekends). But again, it’s not a hard and fast rule and I wouldn’t rely on it when booking, just take a look a few days around the date you’re booking if you can and see your options. If you don’t have that flexibility, don’t worry about it. It’s your holiday after all and not meant to be stressful.

Book last moment: Please don’t do this. The best time to book is six to eight weeks from when you fly for international flights or even longer for multi-stop or round-the-world tickets. If you leave your booking to the last moment, the airline knows you need to fly then and will have their prices higher.

The best advice I can give people is to know your own price and keep an eye on flights. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for deal alerts on Skyscanner either. Many of us are time poor and cannot do all the price hunting that these guys have made a business out of. Utilising someone else’s hard work is the best option I feel.

What’s the best, funniest or oddest myth you’ve heard around cheap flights? Please share in the comments below.

How to find a cheap flight

Although in the past I have spoken about my own bad experiences with cheap airlines, it’s possible to get a cheap flight without having to resort to cheap airlines – if you plan ahead.

Plane window with ice - Adventurer Stacey

Planning your travel in the shoulder or off-season and not when there is a festival or event will ensure cheaper travel.

If you are planning your travel to attend a festival or event however, be sure to check out alternate ways of getting there besides the obvious direct flight. You might want to fly to another nearby airport and take a train or bus to the festival or event which often can save you a heap of money.

Booking flights in that golden window of time when airlines are trying to fill their seats but not so near that they know they have you and prices will go up – usually about six to eight weeks before ensures the best prices. Don’t believe me? Visit any budget travel agents website and see when their flight specials are for, you’ll usually find them about eight weeks away or sometimes a little further away if the off season is coming up.

I usually use skyscanner to search flights, they don’t charge commissions and also give you the price that you will pay, not the drip price. Drip pricing is when an airline markets their flights as being super cheap – say, $6 then there is a tone of extras that you do not have a choice about paying for that may turn your $6 flight into a $106 flight, costing you sometimes the same amount of money as the more honest and often better to fly with airlines. When you do decide on a flight you’d like to book, click through and they will bring you to the airlines website so you can book through them (which means in theory if you want to change or cancel your flight later, then you can do it without having as many issues as you do when there was a third party selling to you).

Sometimes it’s also a good idea if you know a little while in advance you want to fly to set up an email notification with either skyscanner or Airfare Watshdog who tend to be the more traditional choice. They’re easy to set up and could save you a pretty penny, if not a lot of your time.

My Air Asia experience and why I never recommend them

Plane window with ice - Adventurer Stacey

It was only a few days before Christmas and I was flying home on what would have been a pretty dull Air Asia flight from Bangkok then storms/terrorism/bat weather/no free space to land/possible Godzilla-related turbulence had us unable to land in Kuala Lumpur airport where I’d get my connecting flight to Melbourne, Australia. As we were unable to land for an ever changing reason then had to land at a nearby airport where we had to refuel, there were problems with that. Then we had to take off, more problems. With all the delays in the air and at the second airport I was wondering if I would ever see the world outside of this tiny aeroplane.

When I asked the flight crew about my connecting flight they responded by asking me who the other Australians were on the plane (being from such a multi-cultural nation, I’m able to recognise other Aussies despite our many different ethnicities, of course). When I told them I didn’t know they said they would call the people on the ground and get them to hold my plane for ten minutes, which is all I needed to get home. The flight crew went into the back of the plane and giggled amongst themselves, playing some sort of game with an invisible ball before returning to me and letting me know it would all be fine. Really, how can you know that? Did the invisible ball call ground control for you?

When I got to Kuala Lumpur I hurried to see if my plane by some miracle would be running late, it wasn’t. After being given the run around by every unprofessional member of Air Asia’s ground staff I eventually found someone to help me in the disabled assistance guys. By the time I got there, most of the other Aussie’s had found the right people who then said that oh no, they would re-book all our flights, just go check into a hotel somewhere. Go on, go. Everyone from my plane who’d been held up compared notes, we were all flying to different cities in Australia so how could they be flying us back at the same time tomorrow morning as they’d said they would? After some pushing, “We’re not leaving until we’re all holding our tickets” we managed to get tickets booked. I looked at the time, my parents would be still asleep in Australia but would be picking me up in maybe three hours, had I been on the correct flight. I managed to text them on my phone with dying battery to let them know the situation and not to pick me up.

Eventually, eventually, Air Asia’s staff got maybe half a dozen of us booked on planes. Mine was for the next afternoon but some peoples were for after Christmas (we’d all paid a premium to be home before Christmas, you can imagine how upset and angry these people were after hours of Air Asia’s shoddy behaviour and then being told that despite ripping them off extra money, they weren’t offering them the service they offered in first place also take into account that none of us had been offered food or water on the plane even with the delays). Those of us with booked planes were put in taxi’s going to – well, we didn’t know actually, which made it rather scary when in the early hours of the morning we were being driven through a seedy suburban neighbourhood with bars on all the windows. Eventually we pulled up at a run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere and all got out. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English but we thanked him anyway. Wasn’t his fault we’d been through this horrible saga.

The desk clerks knowing we were coming already had rooms ready for all of us. I was surprised Air Asia allowed such professional people to work with them. Maybe if they ever read this they will take that hotel off their list of acceptable places to send hungry, tired, ripped-off passengers.

I had my four hours sleep then went back to the airport with a taxi driver who did speak English – he was lovely! Talking to us all about Malaysia and inviting us all back someday.

I got on my plane and flew home, then offloaded the story onto my family who had been concerned and had told me that the official reason we were held up was a bag had left unattended and someone thought it was a bomb so no planes were allowed to land. But honestly, who knows that’s true when they’re flying Air Asia!?

Do you have your own horror story about a travel company you’d never recommend to your friends’? Please tell it in the comments below.

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey … REALLY!?

Once upon a time when I was being a slightly painful budget traveller, I opted for a cheap plane ticket I had a thirty-eight hour flight (including stop-overs). I also once endured a thirty-six hour journey in a land far far away (Siem Reap, Cambodia to Kho Tao, Thailand in one go for those who are wondering) which looked something like this:

tuk tuk>bus>bus>minivan>bus>minivan>fairy>walking.

Our backpacks finally being offloaded on Kho Tao was the best part of our 36-hour journey!

Our backpacks finally being offloaded on Kho Tao was the best part of our 36-hour journey!

I can’t tell you I enjoyed travelling consecutively for so long or with such a sore behind from rough roads and bad seats in countries where I spoke not a word of their language. I always thought the saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” was pretty bullshit.

I do accept that when in transit we can meet some awesome people and hear their stories. It’s probably the perfect time for it when you consider we’re stuck in one place with not much else to do But often, when I’m sweating profusely still wearing my backpacking Europe clothes in an Indonesian  airport on my stopover where they have a lounge set aside for westerners and “strongly encourage” you not to leave the lounge, that this is not a pleasant experience.

I think perhaps whoever made the statement about journey’s was not in transit, perhaps they were talking about metaphorical life. Perhaps they were trying to get us to focus on the small moments, not on the getting there and achieving something. Because it’s from that small stuff that we learn the most about ourselves and each other.

I was at home in Australia, hitchhiking to my favourite festival. It was summer (Australian summer is HOT!) we were travelling down a black tar road, me and a girl I’d just met who was giving me a ride. She was flicking a cigarette and I was staring at the road ahead. The heat had turned the road into water as humidity does. I turned to her and laughed. “Have you ever seen a more beautiful day?” she smiled back. Of course she hadn’t. I was here, I was totally present as was she. We were going to have the time of our lives at this huge hippy festival.

But how can I feel like that every day? Sometimes transit makes me feel utterly in the moment. Sometimes I just have no choice. How can I ensure I am present always? I want to be all about the right now!

Perhaps it was the culture I grew up in that taught me this concept of being bored as I was told by a westerner once who was trying to integrate himself into Lao culture. The hypothesis is that westerners have to do something to stimulate ourselves because being ourselves in the moment is not enough. Perhaps this is why I love travel so much. Why I miss the road when I’m not on it and why I find myself spontaneously laughing with strangers. This is what it’s like to be truly happy!

Perhaps I am interpreting this saying wrongly. But it still begs the question…

How do you keep yourself in the moment? Do you think life is about the journey or do you think whoever said that had fallen on their head at some point?