Most people think travelling is expensive. While that may be somewhat true, there are A LOT of ways to keep the costs down and still explore many new frontiers. The exception to this is often with flights, especially here in North America and respectively in South America where the budget airline industry is severely lacking. The flight alone can often make up the largest portion of your travel expenses but fear not, there are ways to make even this expense more friendly on the wallet.
Use Flight Search Aggregators
Don’t use sites like Expedia and Orbit. Often times these sites are owned by or work in conjunction with the major airline companies so there is some bias or favoritism in what they show you as the “best deal”. Instead use sites like Kayak, Skyscanner and Momondo that search many locations and flight companies to truly find you the cheapest deals. While I have not used Momondo yet, I have used Skyscanner a couple times and have used Kayak extensively booking over 60 flights with it in the past year alone. It is my first recommendation to anyone when asked where I use to find and book flights.
A Note About Kayak
For my Canadian friends, remember to use ca.kayak.com because the flights quoted on the regular old Kayak.com are in USD so while it may seem like a great deal, you always have to watch out for the currency being quoted in. I’ve made that mistake a couple times.
Booking on Tuesday
This is another little tidbit of info that could save you a few dollars on your next flight. Typically, and this has been my experience too, flights are cheapest to book on Tuesdays, especially early in the morning on Tuesday (think 3AM)! It’s definitely not always the case but is something worth keeping in mind when you go to book that next flight.
Be Flexible on your Destination
I know it isn’t easy to always be flexible on the destination but keep this tip in mind anyways. A lot of major cities have smaller airports outside the city apart from the major one. These airports have cheaper landing fees so are often utilized by budget airlines such as RyanAir and EasyJet in Europe. While it may be more convenient to fly in to the major airport of the city, the cost savings of flying a budget airline and arriving in one of these smaller ports can often mean the difference in hundreds of dollars to the flight cost.
Another thing to keep in mind with these smaller airports is that they are not always the most accessible of places and it can be rather expensive and time-consuming to get from the airport to the city center as opposed to the major airport in the city so it’s another cost to keep in mind when trying to figure out where the best value lies.
Regarding flexibility, try to be open to other cities/countries/destinations entirely. This is easier said than done but again depending on where and when you want to fly, doing so can be a huge relief on the bottom line.
One way to find these cheaper destinations is to use the explore feature on Kayak (http://www.ca.kayak.com/explore/). You type in your home airport and it shows you various destinations and their flight cost from said airport all displayed nicely on a map. Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights/) has a similar (and better) explore feature as well that is worth utilizing.
Flexibility Proof of Concept
An example of being flexible in your itinerary is this. In December I flew from Indonesia to Australia. I wanted to be in Sydney for new years but also wanted to make it up to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef. The obvious route was to fly from Indonesia to Sydney (because Sydney being a large hub is cheaper to fly to from Indonesia than Cairns) and then grab a Jetstar flight up to Cairns and back to Sydney. However, after hours of grueling research it turned out to be cheapest to fly from Indonesia to Brisbane (about half way between Sydney and Cairns), spend a day in Brisbane then fly to Cairns. Then, from there, rather than flying direct back to Sydney it was cheaper to fly all the way to Melbourne at the south of the continent, spend a day there and then fly to Sydney.
Sure, there was one extra flight in there compared to the most obvious route and this may not be the most ideal situation for many but hey, I got to visit two more Australian cities in the process and still made it to everywhere on my original itinerary saving nearly $200 in the process. This just goes to show how a little flexibility in your schedule can go a long way to the budget and to the overall experience!
Travel in Off Season
Another way to take advantage of flexibility to save some dough is travelling in off season. Flying at Christmas time, new years, march break and during the summer months command higher prices (and for good reason). If you want to save money flying, try to avoid doing so during these peak times and fly during off-peak months instead.
Make Your Own Stopover
It was sort of highlighted in the example above, but planning your own individual legs of a flight journey rather than just accepting the airlines stopovers can also result in huge cost savings. It is not the most common budget saving tip but it is definitely one that works.
As another example, in early December 2014 I flew from Helsinki, Finland to New Delhi, India. Now, searching on Kayak had the lowest price for such a flight at ~$550. So, getting creative, I decided to book my own stopover in Dubai rather than taking the airlines stopover. Norwegian Air (another budget airline in Europe and one that has WiFi on board!!!) fly’s to Dubai for pretty cheap around $200. I then spent a day in Dubai (well I went to Abu Dhabi for that day instead since I had been to Dubai previously) as part of my own planned stopover and then flew with FlyDubai to India for only $150. All in all, scheduling my own stopover cost only $350 to get from Helsinki to New Delhi saving about $200.
This definitely isn’t the most common or talked about method for saving on flights but as the past two examples show, it works great!
Use those Miles!
While i’ll try to stick with talking about methods I have used, I feel like I should mention one of the more common tactics to save on flights which is to use air miles. Having a great travel credit card that earns you points on every dollar spent can be a great way of building points and getting cheaper (or FREE!) flights especially if you are like me and put everything on plastic anyways so it is easier to track spending. There are numerous stories around the web of people getting flights for free including first class flights and around the world flights just by accumulating and using their miles.
Use Budget Airlines
Okay okay, so here in North America we don’t really have true budget airlines but if you are travelling around, say, Europe or Asia then by all means use the budget airlines as much as possible.
If you’re in Europe, you’ll want to check out RyanAir, EasyJet and Norwegian Air for flights as little as $10-$15, in Asia I love flying with Air Asia and Tiger Air where you can fly from somewhere like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore for a mere $20 one-way and then in Australia JetStar is a cheaper airline to utilize.
These airlines don’t always have the most frequent flights to certain destinations but when they do fly, they are unbelievably cheap. For example, RyanAir may fly from Tampere, Finland to Barcelona, Spain only twice a week depending on the time of year but when they do fly it costs maybe $50 or less. The trick to using these airlines is to plan your travels well in advance so you can schedule around these limited flight dates each week and really get the best bang for your buck!
Other Cheap Flight Deal Sites
Some other resources I continue to monitor and use to find cheap flight deals are the websites secretflying.com and theflightdeal.com. In addition, for my fellow Torontonians, there is this Facebook group, YYZdeals, that lists cheap flight deals from Toronto: https://www.facebook.com/groups/yyzdeals/. These three sites always have a ton of insanely cheap flights to and from various places and are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
For anyone looking to travel but dreading the cost of flying, I hope these tips have helped! Now get out there and go explore!