Ok, we have all seen them, generic posts by Digital Nomads about how they can travel for next to nothing – or better yet – nothing ! But…are these really as easy as they seem? Are these really the tips we need to be taking? To be honest, they all say the same: Book in advance, go incognito, use your air miles, fly in low season. Er hello ?! Yes thank you I am more than aware of these factors!! And just how likely is it that us as budget travellers are going to rack up enough air miles to get even a half price flight let alone a free one?! If like me you just pick the cheapest flight, chances are you aren’t going to fly with the same airline more than 2 or 3 times, so wouldn’t even get enough points to pay for your water on the flight. And if you do fly frequently with the lower cost airlines, again you are going to need to fly A LOT with them to be able to use this in your favour. What we really want are genuine ways to get to your next eagerly awaited destination at a lower price, and more to the point: realistic ways. And luckily, I may have some of the answers for you…
- Flexibility is Key – but think outside the box
It is true, flexibility could be your saviour when it comes to finding a cheap flight. But take this to a whole new level. Open your eyes and see opportunities that are presented to you. So you have a flight half the price but twice as long – check the layover – most of the time it will be long enough for you to get out and explore. Be flexible when it comes to maybe flying somewhere out of your way just to then get a flight a 3rd of the price onwards. Use Skyscanner’s excellent monthly feature and check which day has the cheapest option.
2. Know your hubs
Depending who you are flying with and where; each hub/HQ will vary. But I can tell you that 9 times out of 10 by buying a flight direct to Kuala Lumpur, and then a completely separate flight to your final destination will save you up to hundreds of $$. 1st example – I was flying to France last year for Christmas with Ben’s family. We had already planned to be in Bali beforehand, so a flight from DPS – Paris CDG was around $750-$900 each. So with our trusty research skills we booked a flight from DPS – KUL at $90 each inc. baggage. We decided to stay a couple of nights in KL but the prices were averaging the same all that week so it was easy for us to do that and not miss out. Then from KUL – Paris CDG was an outstanding $330 each with Vietnam Airlines the 1st leg, and Air France the 2nd. It included a 12 hour layover in HCMC at night, not ideal but actually we slept like babies – and for free ! We really landed on our feet on this one, 5 star service and I can’t rave about both these airlines enough, probably the best value flight of my life. 2nd example – preparing for our month long trip in Sri Lanka, we were flying from Auckland, NZ. Direct flights were about $600 each. AKL – KUL $335 each. KUL – CMB $85 each (by the way on this leg I flew with Malindo Air – which I honestly would recommend anybody to fly with if you are looking for a low cost airline. The service is incredible, they are now my go-to instead of Air Asia who in my opinion are shocking). True that this is not a massive saving, but if you can save it – why not?! It gave us another fantastic day in KL where we spent the whole day having fun at the indoor theme park and eating amazing Indian food. And with everything included, food, transport and the theme park – we didn’t even spend the difference in the saving!! Afterwards we planned to go to Thailand. Surprisingly, this is not a well trodden route. And even though it was out of our way, and an extra 6 hours travel, it was way cheaper to go back to KL! So we took CMB – KUL at $145 each, this time we only had 5 hours to wait. So by the time we got our bags, checked in for the next flight, had a coffee and food it was already time to board. Then KUL – KBV (Krabi) was only $56 each! For reference direct from CMB to KBV would have been around $380-$450 each. As you can see we spend a lot of time in Kuala Lumpur. But in the life of a budget traveller, these things have to be done 😉
Ho Chi Minh Airport is another good one when flying on to major airports. And I have never experienced myself but I am pretty sure that for European hubs it is Amsterdam.
3. Go Direct
I have found that this generally only works with budget airlines, and not the more expensive ones like Emirates, Qatar etc (as for some reason these are always way higher on their direct website). But for the likes of Air Asia, Malindo air, Jetstar and other budget airlines by going straight to their website you may save yourself an extra couple of dollars. Because a lot of the time when you find an Air Asia flight via Skyscanner, it takes you to their website anyway, but you obviously have to pay the third party fee.
4. Payment options
You may think that this is ridiculous and would not save you a lot, but if you have been booking flights for the last 4 years like me, I can guarantee you will be pissed off when you get to the final page and you see that your *final price* has increased – just to pay for it! Yep, again, you may think its a small fee. But these airlines love to take you for everything. Jetstar charge you $8 AUD per passenger per flight for a booking fee. Air Asia really depends on your flight, it can be anything from $8 – $16. I recently booked a flight back to Europe and the card fee was $58.64 !!!!!!! I realise that they are budget airlines and they have to add on wherever they can to make up the cost, but come on !!!! This is one of my serious pet hates! It’s extortion, but anyway! There are ways around it! 1st option – paying via Paypal has a 0 fee (usually). 2nd option – most airlines now offer you to pay them just like you were paying me for something. You basically just need to log onto your online banking, get their account details and just pay like a normal transaction. Remember to always put a reference, flight number is best, something to prove that you have paid for this flight on both ends of the transaction. And again, this is at zero cost.
Just another little tip: make sure you the website you are on is your own countries’ domain. Or at least the country where your payment will be coming from, and always try and pay in your own currency as then you can avoid the conversion fee by your bank.
This is one of the major expenses that I could do without! I definitely need to make the switch to hand luggage only ! Your baggage allowance comes in at a total. Therefore if you are only allowed 20kg each, and you have 22kg but your partner has 10kg – save money by only paying for 15kg worth of a second bag ( I think this is the lowest you can pay and check in)! It may only save you $6-$10, but thats your sandwich at the airport 😉 and if you do it every time you fly it will soon save you a bit. Also make sure you prebook your bags as I can guarantee it is cheaper than doing it at the airports!
Generally long haul flights will have this included in your price anyway. But for those awkward too long for short haul but too short for long haul flights – pre booking a meal is the cheapest way to go. Air Asia – offer $3 meals when you book your flight including a drink and sometimes a mini dessert, and once you get on the plane they are anything from $5-$12.
Now that you have some of my tips, I am going to let you know my process when it comes to booking a flight. * disclaimer: I am a flight planning fanatic, therefore sometimes I will spend over an hour browsing skyscanner, momondo etc for the best deal or even next opportunities. BUT it doesn’t have to take that long, I have got a lot better over the last few months !
Step 1 – Open Icognito, check Skyscanner by just using only the countries I am flying from and to. Then I can find out which airports are the cheapest.
Step 2 – Select relevant airports and scan the whole month. But also looking the month after and before to see the difference. You would be surprised the difference just a couple of days either side can make!
Step 3 – Check if it is cheaper by deconstructing the flight! E.g using your hubs! Check each leg of the flight and add up the total inc. baggage & tax.
Step 4 – Once I have found the flight most comfortable to me, I then go onto check other sites to see what they have to offer for this flight: Momondo, Kayak, Budgetair & Expedia. Most of the time I find that Momondo is the cheapest of the lot, although a couple of times I have managed to get an awesome deal via Budgetair.
Step 4 – Then! Once I know my flight, date, airline etc I go onto the airlines website to see their direct price. This is also good as sometimes the airlines offer your extra baggage for a lower price than the 3rd parties.
It is time consuming, but it pays off more often than not. I have always been really pleased with my flight purchases and happy with the deals I have got.
I have heard a lot of people saying that to book on a Tuesday/Wednesday is when the airlines offer their cheapest seats – but I have never found this to be the case. You can book on weekends and still get the same price as if you check on a Tuesday morning. Also with the time frame between booking and actually taking the flight – I haven’t ever noticed a significant amount of time to leave. People say 6 weeks is the perfect spot, but I have booked anything from 2 weeks up to 2 months in advance. So don’t take this too literally, you will always find a good deal. Airlines want to sell the seats as much as you want to grab one.
If anybody has any other amazing tips and hacks please let us know in the comments 🙂
Happy flying !
Things you may need to know about this blog:
Prices are quoted in NZD NOT USD. (as this is where my money is coming from at the minute so is relevant to my rate of exchange)
All of my flight prices INCLUDE baggage, tax and any other cheeky extra they add on. These are always the final price that we pay per person.
These are all tips that I have just picked up along the way, and based on my experiences and obviously are not always guaranteed to work for everybody. But I would say the majority of the time they will ;D