How to find cheap flights and where to look for them
After you’ve picked a destination for your next big getaway, your first thought is probably about finding a cheap flight to get you there, right?
It’s a sad truth that Aussies face not only long flights to reach a lot of the hottest worldwide destinations, but also expensive ones. So to help you snag the best possible deal and arrive at your destination with more than a few dollars to your name, we’ve rounded up the top tips from travel experts on how and where to score cheap flights.
1. Book early
The early bird gets the worm! While some people swear by finding cheap flights at the last minute, Rosie from Mosaic Travel says that “generally speaking, the earlier you book, the cheaper the prices are.” She says that while you can get lucky booking last minute bargains, limited availability usually means higher prices.
2. Stay flexible
We’re not talking about folding yourself into those cramped economy-class seats. Being flexible with your flight dates can make a big difference to what you pay, says travel insurance provider Fast Cover, so make sure to check flights on the days either side of your preferred dates.
3. Take time off work
You might be inclined to fly out on the weekend - so you don’t have to take annual leave, or dash off to the airport at five on the dot. But it could cost you a premium. “If you can manage to book flights during the week, you can snare airfares that are a quarter of the price,” TravelOnline.com.au tells us.
4. Embrace inconvenience
While everyone else is tucked up in bed, you could be catching a 4am flight for next to nothing! Denise Dean from TravelManagers.com says flying at the times of the day which no one wants (which usually means dragging yourself out of bed in the small hours of the morning) can save you big bucks on airfares.
5. Weigh up the value of that cheap ticket
Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels points out that a cheap price tag is not always the blessing it first appears. For example, does that ticket include luggage allowance or an in-flight meal? “It’s silly to save $50 on an airfare with a basic airline when you will need to spend $70 to take your luggage and eat on the flight.”
Similarly, you may decide your time is more valuable than a few extra dollars. “I won’t save $100 but cost myself an extra 10 hours in flight time. But maybe I will save $500 for an extra 2 hours of flight time,” Melissa says.
6. Buy insurance first
Ok, so this one’s not strictly about finding cheap flights, but it’s still important! Your travel insurance cover usually starts from when you buy your policy, so make sure you buy it before you purchase flights. That way, your plane ticket is covered under the cancellation benefit of your policy if something unexpected happens and you don’t make it off the runway.
Where to find cheap flights
If your dates are flexible…
Globetrotter Emma Lovell says Scott’s Cheap Flights is her latest discovery for finding rock-bottom airfare prices. “My friend always goes to exotic and random places and that's how she gets it. I'm looking to save $300 on flights to Nepal this year and we're keeping our eye on deals for the Philippines,” she says. “As long as you're flexible with your dates, you can get any deal.”
If you live near multiple airports…
Melissa from Thrift Family Travels lives halfway between Brisbane and Gold Coast Airports, and says that can save her a bunch when shopping with skyscanner. If you’re in a similar position, you just need to tick “add nearby airports” when you search for flights, to find the cheapest possible option.
If you don’t have a destination in mind...
Not sure where you’re off to, but desperate to sooth your wanderlust? SpendingHacker suggests heading over to AirfareWatchdog. You can run a search from your departure city and choose “anywhere” as a destination, then find the cheapest flight around. Perfect for adventurous souls!
Ready to take off? Be sure to head over to our travel insurance section to choose yourself an affordable policy to keep your travels safe. If you want some insider tips on how to get the most bang for your buck once you arrive in your destination, take a look at our Best $20 I’ve Ever Spent series.