How to find cheap airfares

For many, finding cheap airfares can be a daunting task. With so many travel booking websites out there, it is easy to end up lost, confused and spoilt for choice. But how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Use this guide for some simple tips to ensure that you’re getting the best price on your next flight. 

For the purpose of this guide I will be using the example of a return flight from Sydney to LAX. We are in the process of booking a trip in June/July which is a peak season and direct flights are already over $2000 each.

When to fly

If you have some flexibility with your travel dates, try and fly mid week. This is perhaps the oldest trick in the book. Also make sure you travel outside the major holiday periods for your departure and destination cities. 

What site to use

There are so many airline booking websites out there these days so which one to use? One of my favourites is kayak.com. It’s easy to use interface allows you to quickly get a feel for how much a flight would cost on a multitude of airlines. It also allows for you to search up to two days surrounding your departure and also nearby airports. Again, flexibility with your travel dates is the key. 

Kayak has now introduced a ‘price trend’ feature that even offers advice on when to buy based on previous pricing data trends. If prices are expected to fall it will advise you to wait. If prices are on the increase, it will suggest you buy. There is also a confidence rating so you can ensure the data provided is solid. 

Kayak Price Trent

Kayak Price Trend

Kayak’s price trend feature

What airline to fly

If your destination is not well known to you, check out the airlines that fly there first. Often some discount airlines don’t show in some airline booking websites. I like to check out the Wikipedia page for the airport and look at the airlines and destinations that fly there. For example, if I am flying from Sydney to LAX I would go here to find the airlines and destinations: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_International_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations

Occasionally, you’ll find an airline that you weren’t aware of and a slight re-routing or a stopover here or there can get you there for less. In my example above, you can fly from Sydney to LAX via Korea, China, Japan, New Zealand and even Fiji. After all its all about the journey not the destination right? 

Don’t forget the discount airlines

For those of us who aren’t too posh to fly a discount airline and are happy to do a little stopover, there is some real money to be saved here. Often, discount airlines offer promotional fares that are simply too good to ignore. In my Sydney to LAX example, if you are happy to fly Jetstar via Japan at the time of writing they are offering return flights to Tokyo for $567 per person. Add on a return flight to LAX for around $1000 and you’ve got yourself a cheap return flight to LAX from Sydney with a stopover in the amazing city of Tokyo. You may be thinking $1567 is not really a cheap return flight, but remember we are flying during the US summertime and a direct flight is over $2000. 

One word of warning with discount airlines and booking your flights on multiple airlines. You need to allow plenty of time for connections. If your arriving plane is late and you have to recheck your bags for the next flight, the departing airline is not going to wait for you and you essentially forfeit that flight.

Sign up to airline mailing lists 

Airlines like to look after their loyal customers and often the first time you’ll hear about a sale fares is via email marketing campaigns. Generally, these seats are limited so you have to act fast. So sign up for a few mailing lists of airlines departing from your city. You can always just delete the emails if you aren’t interested or better yet, find yourself on an impromptu cheap holiday to Thailand. 

Check out the airlines own website for booking

Don’t always rely on online travel websites like Expedia and Travelocity for the cheapest fares. Check out the airlines own site for their price too. Often, they will offer a slightly better deal as they don’t have to pay commissions to the other guys. That said, you can also get completely rolled booking direct with the airline so it is all about comparison of different sites. 

I hope these simple tricks work for you but at the end of the day its all about doing your research. Enjoy your next trip! 

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1 Response

  1. The Dude says:

    Thanks! +1 for Kayak! If you’re travelling around China, another good website is ctrip.com. Cheers.

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