Being somebody who transitioned from a flight attendant to a full-time digital nomad, the question often comes up “What is the cheapest way for me to get around?”
Today, I thought I would serve up a few of my tips, tricks and strategies to help you find the best deals on flights when you find yourself in one of these stick situations. I’m not going to kid you – if you want to find the really good deals it will involve some time and effort on your behalf. Searching for a good deal involves research, and generally anywhere offering to ‘cut the corners’ for you will go on to charge a fee.
However, once you understand the process, researching for cheap flights is a simple process that any body can follow.
Step 1: Check out Skyscanner to See the Big Picture
My first (and usual) port-of-call would is Sky Scanner. It is a great resource for comparing flight prices around the world and although not always inclusive of all the tiny low-cost carriers, gives you a great base of operations to figure out what kind of price range you are looking at.
Within Skyscanner, I choose my starting point and my ending point. These values depend on what I am trying to achieve.
- If I am just looking to get out of where I am, say for visa purposes, I select my destination as ‘everywhere’
- If I am to get to a specific country (but not worried about which city) I would pick something like ‘Thailand (all airports)”
- If I need to get somewhere very specific, then I would enter the city or specific airport in the destination.
A note about airports:
If you are trying to get somewhere specific, it might be worth scouting around for different airports. Many large cities have a main airport as well as a secondary airport that homes many of the low-cost airlines.
It is worth to weigh up the pro’s and the con’s of the different airports, keeping the following points in mind:
- The flights into these airports are often cheaper due to the budget airlines that use them, however these flights often operate at odd hours of the night. Check the time of day that the flight is operating to save yourself the additional cost of nearby accommodation when you arrive
- These airports can be quite a distance out of town, and don’t always have a handy bus or train service. If the airport doesn’t have public transport, or your flight arrives outside of the transport hours then the cost of a long distance taxi might outweigh the price benefits of the flight.
- When searching for a destination, make sure you have chosen the city as all, rather than the specific airport to get an idea for what airports are operating. For example, if you enter in Bangkok it may default to Bangkok (BKK) which is the main airport. If you want your search results to include the cheaper airport (in Bangkoks Case it is DMK) then make sure to search for Bangkok (any).
Step 1: Filter Through Your Options
Once you have your results handy, now you can filter them. This is a chance to wipe-out any options that involve multiple layovers, or excessively long flight times. On the flip-side, if you are quite happy with a tiki-tour around Asia or some airport time to catch up on reading then you can see how opting for these less desired options can reduce flight cost.
You should have in front of you, depending on which destinations you opted for:
1. A list of the cheapest countries for you to fly to ordered by price
2. A list of the cheapest cities to fly to in your target country destination
3. A list of the cheapest airlines to take to get to the city you need to get to.
Step 3: Contrast and Compare Flights
Now is a good time to do your research. Any good researcher knows that you should never rely on a single source. You should now have a good idea of what your basic options are from your previous search, so now it’s time to take a look for any ‘missing pieces’.
a) Find your ‘Top 3’
These are the three matches that suited you the best. The best price, locations, number of layovers, whatever it was that suited you best. Go to the airlines own website and search for those exact flights. Put in the same origin, destination and dates.
Note: If the Airline carrier offers it, make sure to check the option that says something like “Search for dates on either side of this” or “I’m flexible on dates, show me the cheapest prices”.
Compare, compare, compare.
When to fly?
Generally, mid-week flights are cheaper than weekends. Off-season for a place is cheaper than peak. Think about what might be happening where you are going to fly that might hike prices up and work around it.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly, unless they fall in a particular ‘blackout zone’ such as public holidays, special events or school holidays.
Right: You have more info. Did you find an even cheaper flight 2 days out of your original flight? Note it down for all of your top 3 results now.
b) Find alternate airlines
Sky scanner does it’s best, but it doesn’t always include some of the extra small, extra cheap carriers. Use google, wikipedia and other flight-finding resources (check out my resources guide at the end of this article) to see what low-cost carriers are operating and and out of your country of choice
Run into any small, low-cost airlines you don’t recognise? Go to their websites and repeat the searches from step a using the information from the cheapest destinations & dates you have uncovered so far.
Step 4: Book Your Flight
Now you should have all the information you need, and hopefully a suitably cheap flight in mind to book.
Before you book:
Don’t book through a third-party, if possible make your booking through the airlines website itself.
Although against airline policy, and with some strings attached, booking a connecting flight that stops-over in your destination can work out cheaper than flying there directly (don’t ask me why – it’s just how it is)