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In this post, our friends at Skyscanner.net impart their extensive knowledge and experience on how to find a cheap flight to many destinations all over the world. You can follow Skyscanner on Twitter, Facebook or download their app on your mobile for even more great flight booking tips.
When you can stay in a hostel in Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris or just about any major world city for a couple of pounds per night, it’s natural to feel remorseful about forking out several hundred pounds for a flight. Booking engines such as Hostelworld have made us more savvy about what’s out there; the ability to compare all of the hostels in a city for example is only a click away. Likewise, flights (the bread and butter of Skyscanner) are something that every savvy traveller compares before booking. But is that enough or are there other considerations which could affect the cost of your flight.
I’ve done a little research on this and so can honestly say yes. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a handy and hopefully educational guide to finding cheap flights to any destinations, whether it’s domestic or long-haul.
Most importantly, be flexible
Travel hackers, flight ninjas, whatever you want to call them, have one common tool in their belt which enables them to find really cheap flights – flexibility. It’s a very obvious one, but the differences in cost, when booking a flight to Australia for example are incredible.
You’re unlikely to find a cheap flight to Australia in December. That’s the time when all of the Australian backpackers you shared a dorm with are heading back home to spend Christmas with their folks. On the same plane as them are hundreds of other travellers who want to spend New Year’s Eve watching the fireworks in Sydney Harbour.
The travel companies know this and no matter how far you book in advance, you’re not going to find a spectacular deal.
The tip: When you’re planning your trip – to anywhere – take a look at the events calendar for the year. In the case of Australia avoid sports events like the Ashes, even the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand have all raised Australia flight prices in the past and anything like that will do so again in the future.
Use the ‘Month’/’Year’ View
One of my favourite features of the Skyscanner interface (which powers Hostelworld’s flight search) is the ability to look at prices over either a month or a year.
Look at when’s cheapest and drill down from there. If you notice a particular day, or a couple of days are particularly expensive it’s a good sign that there’s an event happening around that time.
The tip: Again it’s about flexibility but avoid focusing on visiting a place on a particular day or even a month. Search across a whole month or year to see when’s cheapest and plan your trip from there.
Be Flexible about where you fly From/To
I live in Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic city to live in but often it can be terrible for flights, pricewise at least. When I fly, I often find myself flying back into Glasgow, Newcastle or London if the flight is further afield. It usually involves a train journey back up to Edinburgh but if there’s a considerable price difference it can be worth it.
Likewise when I’m going away anywhere I’m willing to fly into a secondary airport (Barcelona Reus as opposed to Barcelona for example) and make the remainder of my destination by train, bus or even a domestic flight.
The tip: Be flexible with your airports. If you’re using Skyscanner for example, or the flights interface here on HostelWorld you can select to fly from or to a country as opposed to a city. It requires a little geography sometimes but that’ll always end up serving you well in the future.
Book Well in Advance
This is mainly a tip for long-haul flights but it applies to short-haul and domestic as well. Book well in advance; at least six months in advance for long-haul flights. Prices generally aren’t going to go down after that.
Ryanair, on the short-haul European side can be an exception, as sometimes – along with other airlines – they’ll have a flash sale if the seats haven’t been filled but in general, and especially if you’re flying close to a major holiday or event, prices won’t get any cheaper in the six weeks coming up to the flight.
Long Layovers Are Unlikely to Work Out Cheaper
You might think that everyone who’s flying long-haul is rushing to their destination and wants the shortest possible journey. Well, that’s where you’re wrong (or I was at least). Most people, including myself and probably you as well are hoping for a stopover. That way you get a chance to see another country that you might not have already visited.
Long layovers (e.g. a couple of days) generally don’t work out cheaper, so if your main focus is cost, bear this in mind. If your main focus is seeing the world however, weigh up the cost of the layover with the chance to see another city and compare what it would have cost you to see that place on its own. Swings and roundabouts.
RTW Tickets Can Offer Great Savings
Although they do have some limitations, round the world tickets (RTW) offer considerable savings if you’re planning on visiting numerous places, particularly across multiple continents. We’ve researched these in the past before, and found that the best time to depart using a RTW ticket, pricewise, was between April and June.
So while not usually suitable for a one-way trip, if you’re planning on going around the world, do estimate the cost of buying single flights against a RTW ticket.
Don’t just stick to airline names you recognise. I only flew to New York for £200 return which is dirt cheap by anyone’s standards. Mind you it was off-peak as it were and I flew with Qatar Airlines, an airline I – at the time - had never heard of and many would reject for that reason.
In our hostelworld.com travel blog we bring you all the latest company news and information on new additions to the site including podcasts, videos and more. You'll also get inside information on a variety of destinations across the globe as they're visited by our travel editor and writers.
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