How to Book Cheap Plane Tickets
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
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.
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.
Dare to be impulsive. Good deals rarely last for long.
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.
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).
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.
If possible, travel very early in the day (unless you value your sleep too much).
Travelling in the middle of the week will often also save you some cash.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.