Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Book Cheap Plane Tickets

Flying ASKY through THE SKY.

Your travels are are far too important to leave for someone else to arrange.


Who am I to come up with such arrogant nonsense? I am a hardcore traveller and I travel more than most. Travel matters to me, and being in control of the travel experience is essential in order to enjoy it.

I don't want to end up having to get up at 04:45 because a random travel agent has decided that the 06:35 flight to Paris is 'the right one for me' in order to connect to Tokyo. Especially not when I will get to my destination faster, cheaper and at a more convenient time by flying via Frankfurt at 10:10 or via Munich at 11:55. Or why should I fly by a One World airline where I do not have a frequent flier card when I have Star Alliance Gold Card which ensures fast track rights and lounge access? And of course I prefer the friendly, service minded and visually appealing cabin crew of airline A over the nasty, stuck-up and service avoiding ones from Airline B.

Then again, price always matters. Just remember that your time has a value too. Let's say that itinerary A takes 22 hours while itinerary B takes 16. How much are each of those 6 additional hours worth to you? A fair comparison might be your hourly wage. Do not forget to add the return trip either.

Here are my tips to make sure that I find the best deals on flights.

12 pieces of advice

Why would you ever want an aisle seat over Bolivia?
  1. Subscribe to newsletters from all airlines that are relevant to you. That means those that fly from an airport near you or to a country you would really like to visit. This is usually how you first get notified of great deals. It can save you hundreds of dollars.
  2. For long distance flights, do not only search from your home airport. Also try to search from hubs in other countries. Airlines have different offers from different countries and you may save a lot of money. Then buy your return ticket from your home airport to that hub separately.  
  3. Dare to be impulsive. Good deals rarely last for long. 
  4. Travel to untraditional destinations, i.e. not to Spain or Egypt over Easter. 'Everyone' else will be looking for the sun at those mainstream destinations. Go for a different sort of holiday or travel to more original beaches. Less demand = lower prices. 
  5. Use a search engine that covers many airlines. Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia and Momondo are some of the best (and no, I didn't get paid for including any of those).
  6. Remember to double check price and travelling times on the airline's own website afterwards (I did not get paid by the search engines above to say that either).
  7. Take advantage of transits and stay a day or two extra. If you do this on both your outbound and return journey you will all of a sudden have had three holidays in one. And again, the trip may cost less.
  8. If possible, travel very early in the day (unless you value your sleep too much).
  9. Travelling in the middle of the week will often also save you some cash. 
  10. Read up on geography and history as well as political and economical ties. Most countries in South America do for instance have historical ties to Spain. That means a lot of direct routes and hence competition to and from Barcelona and Madrid from various airlines. Just remember that Brazil is 'Portugese,' that Surinam is 'Dutch' and that Guyana is 'British.' 
  11. Find out which airlines that can take you to your dream destination. Not all of them will show up in your preferred search engines, but require that you book with them directly online or via the phone. Wikipedia's airport entries are usually quite accurate for info on who flies where. 
  12. Try to book a return ticket even when you are going one way only. Some airlines offer cheaper tickets for a return flight than for a one way flight. Strange, but true. You will then use only the outbound flight, not the return one.

Competitors in Barcelona. 
Please do dare to try different destinations than you and your family or friends usually travel to. France is for example the most visited country in the world, so travelling there is as unoriginal as it gets.

These days almost all tickets are electronic. Luckily. Some airports do however require that you have a ticket print out, with the reference number on it to even let you in to the check-in area. And some countries require a printed proof of your return journey before you are let into the country or even allowed to board the plane. And of course, you will need relevant visas and in some cases vaccination cards to avoid being denied boarding or entry.

No roaming

Just remember to switch off the data traffic roaming before you go abroad. Roaming charges can really kill your budget and eliminate everything you saved on finding cheap tickets. Remember that many of your apps will sync or use data traffic automatically without you knowing. I only use Wi-Fi spots for data traffic outside Europe. To update my statuses on social media right then and there isn't worth a hundred dollars.

This also relates to your maps. Do update the Google Maps or similar map service for the area you will visit before leaving your country. Or wait until you find a Wi-Fi spot. Then again, you may need the map to find it.


67 comments:

  1. I would like to suggest that there is another way to save on buying an airline ticket. Last year I noticed that there is a time period before the flight that the price of the ticket hits a "sweet spot". It was 6 weeks for the ticket I was buying. The ticket starts higher in price, then drops until about 6 weeks before the flight and then increases in price again. I suppose that may vary dependent on the demand for the ticket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good advice! I also liked the "airline newsletter" tip above. That's one I hadn't heard before. Interesting.

      In the spirit of sharing resources we found helpful for getting good prices, I thought I'd share a website I found recently: http://anyonecantravel.com/

      Delete
  2. Good luck WITHOUT a TRAVEL AGENT when your flight gets cancelled or delayed and you can't get through to the Airline. You sure can get right through to YOUR Travel Agent on the phone who has access to ALL alternate options for you. OH WAIT! I forgot. Most Travel Agents refuse to issue Airline tickets anymore!! Why, you say? Because the Airlines are our most difficult vendors to work with. We do not get paid by the Airline for our service to you in issuing the ticket, keeping up with schedule changes and reissuing the ticket per the Airline's requirement and forbid if you leave off one letter advising the ticket was reissued because of THEIR schedule change as they will send us the TRAVEL AGENT a bill!! Yes, please go online and book your Airline tickets and save me the headaches. I am busy working with other clients planning WITH THEM their dream vacations. Happy Flying!! (Travel Agent and former Airline employee also)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your insight! I am not claiming that you are a bad travel agent, as I have no idea who you are or how good you might be. I have however used enough of agents that are way below par. Way. Below.

      Oh, and a few very good ones. How would you suggest that people find good ones and what to look for?

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    2. YES, INDEED.

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  4. Great blog Gunnar, and i fully agree with what you've written above.
    Hadn't thought of looking at the hubs directly when searching for tickets myself, but that could be a very nice addition to my search plan for my next trips. I've also used wikitravel more and more the last years which gives a different insight of the different cities/countries than wikipedia and there are also nice lists on "how to get there"

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