Flight Lines


(photo by birdlike)

How do those in the know find the cheapest flights on the web? Sure, it can be a time consuming process but it can knock hundreds of dollars off the cost of a trip. Last year, on a round-the-world trip, I was able to save $500 by craftily booking my own flights rather than going with the package quoted by the travel agent.

How do you do it? Take some clues from this little hint list.

1. Look, look, look!
People get the cheapest airfares by knowing where to look and starting to do so well in advance of their departure. Compiling a list of which airlines fly to where you want to go can help in the flight search process as you can then search them individually.
The web is full of flight search engines that will do the hard work of comparing flight prices for certain routes. There are specific engines depending on which country you live in, but generally they offer up the same results. Some of my favourites are Expedia, BestFlights, Kayak, Travel, and Webjet.

2. Be flexible
With your travel dates, that is. Weekends are notorious for times when prices are more expensive. If it doesn’t really matter to you when you fly, check out prices for several days around your ideal departure date and find the best deal.

3. Wait for it…
Air lines have sales all the time and, if you have time on your side, it’s often worth the wait. Many flight search engines and individual airlines have newsletters that will tell you when sales are on, so if you’re holding out for a specific fare, sign on up!

4. Cover all bases
Willing to get the cheapest flight at all costs (not including actual dollars)? Direct flights are not your only option. Oftentimes booking two flights via a large air-traffic hub (such as Frankfurt, London, LA, Sydney, or Atlanta) will end up being cheaper than heading straight there, so search for flights that take you through the hub. For example, booking three separate flights from Perth to Sydney to LA to Austin will undoubtedly be cheaper than Perth to Austin, because the first options goes via hubs.
Last year, to get from Cairo to Perth, I booked two flights: Qatar Airways took us from Cairo (via Doha) to Singapore, where we hopped on budget JetStar to take us home.

5. Consider the extras
As with cheap accommodation, sometimes the hidden extras may sway your decision. Is it worth paying an extra $50 to purchase a direct flight rather than one with stop-overs, or for a airline that serves free meals, or a flight that gets in at a convenient time at a closer airport?  Different people have different priorities, so find a balance that works for you.

6. Book it
When booking your flights make sure you aren’t paying unnecessary fees that are bumping up the price and do make sure that taxes are quoted in the fare. If you’re searching via a flight seach engine, they may tack on a service fee at the checkout that you wouldn’t have to payif you booked directly with the airline.
That being said, these agencies sometimes have deals that will not be publicised on an air lines own website, so if the over-all cost is cheaper via the search site – book it.

Don’t forget:

  • Sometimes budget airlines will make you pay extra for checked baggage, adding extra cost.
  • In fact, budget airlines usually have a lower luggage weight limit than others which can be an issue.
  • Some cheap airfares are non-refundable and non-transferable, so be prepared to deal with these consequences.
  • If you’re changing flights, allow plenty of time to make your connection.
  • Figure out how you will get from the airport to your accommodation before you arrive.
  • Beware the budget airline that takes you to a budget airport miles and miles from the city.

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