How to find cheap flight tickets is the number one mission for all travellers. Because the more you save on airfares and accommodation, the more spending money you have at your destination.
When I was a travel agent, it was simple to get a list of all the airfares. We had access to a database displaying all airlines and airfares. I could check from lowest to highest prices.
However, the good news is that you can find your own cheap flight tickets on the internet yourself. It’s easier than you think.
Below I share 7 hacks on how to find the cheapest airfares. These are tips that I use myself.
Similar to my travel agent databases, everyone now has access to free online airfare databases. These are third party websites that show prices for a select number of different airlines. They earn a commission from the airline if you purchase a ticket from their website or by clicking on a link.
The advantage of using such websites is that you can compare many different airlines fares on the one webpage. Therefore, it saves you from jumping from one airlines’ website to another.
The main disadvantage is that most of these third party websites will have attached higher amendment and cancellation fees compared to purchasing from the airline directly. Read an earlier blog for more details on how to avoid high airline change fees.
Once I’ve chosen the airfare I want, I tend to book the airfare directly on the airlines own website. To book the cheapest flight is not always in my best interest. I prefer the flexibility and lower cancellation/amendment fees as I do tend to change my itinerary at times while I travel.
TG Tip: Don’t want to use a third party website? Why not check out this comprehensive list of low cost/budget airlines, listed by country.
One way to keep in the loop of cheap flight ticket deals is to sign up to airlines newsletters. By booking a hot deal when it is released, you will always be travelling at the cheapest time.
I’ve signed up to all my favourite airlines I normally fly with, including budget/low cost airlines. Then I’m always in the know when they release a special. Plus you get to know when you’ve actually got a good deal because you can compare it to previous prices you’ve seen advertised.
If you know in advance where you’re travelling to, you can do the following:
Or, some travel groovers prefer to choose their holiday destination based on the current airfare deal released. So sign up to ALL the airlines and third party airline websites newsletters – be pleasantly surprised!
If you don’t have the time to check airfares every day for new specials, try Skyscanner ‘s cool Airfare Alert system. You simply set up email notifications of your desired airfare/destination. Then you receive an email every time there is a drop in price.
I used this service while booking flights for my parents to fly Toronto to Vancouver earlier this year. Prices were at CAD400. I created the price alert and about 2 weeks later I got an email that showed airfares dropped to $250. Well worth the wait!
TG Tip: If you're the type of traveller that makes spontaneous travel decisions and therefore has to book at the last minute, then remember to check out Expedia's Last Minute Deals
Continuing from the Skyscanner example in previous section, you have an option to scan for the lowest airfare within the month.
So on your airfare results page, just above the Get Price Alerts button is the words “Show whole month”. Click on that and view the cheapest price for every day of that month. Great for travellers who are not restricted to a particular travel date.
Some airlines release airfare deals on certain days or times. For example:
Virgin Australia offer Happy Hour airfare sales every Thursday from 4pm-11pm
Jetstar has a Friday Fare Frenzy. Sign up to their newsletter and you will receive the email on Fridays.
Ryan Air does something a little different. You can select your budget (the maximum you want to spend) plus your departure city and it will show you all the destinations that fit under your budget.
Go and check out your favourite airlines websites and be familiar with any weekly spot special times (happy hours!). Or Google ‘airline name special airfare deals’.
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International airfares tend to be divided into 3-4 main airfare seasons.
Then you have special events slotted in anywhere inbetween, such as festivals and major sporting events (grand finals, World Cup soccer, Wimbledon tennis, Grand Prix). The airlines and hotels always like to make a quick buck on such occasions.
TG Tip: if you prefer to travel during the summer months, you can save money on your airfare by flying out on the last day of the Shoulder season.
Other non-peak periods I have found are on weekdays. Especially for domestic travel – within one’s country. With such short flights, travellers like to do weekend getaways, so Saturday and Sundays can be quite popular. So the airlines will take advantage of that and hike the prices.
The busiest weekday is Mondays. It could be because people are travelling back from a long weekend getaway. Or it could be because of business travel – popular day for professionals to fly out to business meetings/work trips.
Again, scan for the lowest airfare over a period of a week or two to discover the cheapest days. Just like the Skyscanner example in section 3 of this blog.
TG Tip: Routes with more airline options will have cheaper fares and more deals. More competition always leads to more specials. If there is only one airline flying the route, don’t bother waiting for any deals!
I’ve been seeing a few reports lately on how travellers have saved money by purchasing the airfare in the local currency.
This only applies to routes where the origin (the FROM city) is not in your country. So this means booking a return airfare as two separate bookings – from your city to your destination and then the return flight in a separate booking. Or perhaps you only need to book a one way flight anyway.
For example, you live in London but you want to buy a one way fare from Johannesburg to London because you used your frequent flyer points to get a one way ticket to South Africa. Normally, when you view an airlines website, it will grab your IP address and change to your country’s website version (ie. airlinename.com.uk). This is so that it can show prices in your own currency (ie. British pounds).
However, if you change it to the country’s local website (by changing the website extension from .uk to .za) so it can display in local currency (ie. ZAR – South African rand), you may find a cheaper price. Even after converting it from ZAR to GBP at your banks exchange rate.
Another hack is to change the language of the website to the local language. Here’s how one couple saved money by changing the language settings of the airlines website.
Take note that it doesn’t happen in every situation but it’s always worth checking.
So incorporate at least one of these tips and you will save money on your next flight booking. Write in the comments below if you have other tips that helped you find cheap flight tickets in the past.
A travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.
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