The 3 biggest expenses when it comes to traveling are flights, accommodation, and food. Flights are usually the largest upfront cost of travel and we'd all rather be spending that money on delicious local cuisine, or having some crazy cool experiences - but unfortunately, we've got to cough up the cash.
The good news is that it doesn't have to be that expensive. In fact there's endless ways to reduce flight costs by 40% to 90%. You just need to know where to look, when to buy, tips on reducing a tickets price, and how to go about traveling. We're going to go through all the ways you can find cheap flights in this guide today.
There are a few things we're going to cover;
- Apps for price comparison - Skyscanner and Google Flights
- Email lists for cheap flights and pricing errors
- Packing and luggage tips to reduce flight cost
- Timing for purchasing the flights and arriving at a destination
Price Comparison - Skyscanner and Google Flights
This is the single best way to reduce your flight cost. Skyscanner and Google Flights have flight comparison on lock down and if you're attentive, and do thorough searches, you can find some of the best deals you'll ever see - better than a flight agent or email list.
My favorite features:
- "Your City" to "Everywhere" search - You don't have to have a place in mind, you can search "Everywhere" and cycle through dates that work for you to find cheap flights.
- Price graph for flight date comparison - At a glance you can look at an entire year finding the cheapest months and days to fly.
- Price change alerts for specific destinations - You can set up notifications via email for specific destinations you want to go to, so you don't have to be checking constantly.
These are my favorite but there're other little features that make the whole experience even better. So let's get into these.
Your City ➡ Everywhere
You can pick any city on the app, and then choose 'Everywhere' to get a list of the cheapest prices for each country, from least expensive to most expensive. When you tap on one of the countries, you'll see a list of cities and the prices for each. If the prices are too high you can change the date and search again.
This is particularly useful when you need to get to a certain region, but you don't know what the best option is for flying in. It was using this feature that I found that the best way to get to Europe from Asia would be to fly out of Bangkok into Germany - these are some of the cheapest routes I've ever come across.
So instead of thinking, "I need to get from Chiang Mai to London," think "I need to get from Asia to Europe." You'll likely find much cheaper options, and get to do mini travel sessions along the way.
The Price Graph
This is for when you've figured out the specifics. You know the 2 cities you want to travel to/from and now you're looking at the best times/dates/airlines. You can punch in where you're leaving from, your destination, and you can select/browse particular months. When you do this, you can scroll through the price graph to find specific days where it's cheaper.
A few things to watch out for:
- Often there's more than one airport or major city, so check each of them individually for the same dates i.e. Paris to Tokyo & Paris to Osaka
- When you see that there's 'no data' for particular days, make sure you tap on them to check anyway as this will run a search for that day - who knows, it could be the cheapest one.
- Once you see the cheap flight, check to see the details. You don't want 3 layovers totaling 26 hours to save $50.
- Some flights with connections will have what's called a 'self-transfer' (example above) which means they're 2 separate flights (not a joint ticket). At the transfer airport, you need to pick up your check-in luggage if you have any, and you need to go through customs into the country, and then you need to check back in for the second flight - these can be a hassle and you need to make sure your passport can get you into that connecting country. But they can be cheaper and I haven't had a problem with them.
- Some flights you can book directly through Skyscanner, for others you might have to book directly through the airlines or agents website - in this case, it's always worth punching in the locations and dates straight on the airlines website to see if they can be even cheaper.
Price Change Alerts
This is when you can't find a cheap enough flight for when you want to leave. It's especially useful when the trip is more than 4 months away. You can put in a few example dates and routes, and activate price change alerts where you'll be emailed if anything changes.
When you type in a route, the notification icon to set up an alert will be in the bottom left corner (the bell icon with the +).
Doing this will save yourself from constantly looking at prices and if anything goes down, Skyscanner will email you straight away. I've booked many flights in advance using this method.
- Make sure you set up a separate email inbox for these alerts as you'll have many routes and it can get spammy - all worth it for the sweet sweet deals.
- Make sure you set up multiple routes and dates so you can cast your net wider and get a better deal.
Cheap Flight Email Lists
There's a wide range of 'Cheap Flight Deals' type email services both free, premium, and freemium. These do have their places for the more passive traveler or holidaymaker. You can sign up to one and have cheap flights delivered to your inbox - this works particularly well if you're not actively looking to go traveling and would much rather jump on an opportunity when it presents itself.
These services get all their data from places like Google Flights and Skyscanner too but are intended for people who don't want to put in the time or effort to do the searches themselves. I prefer to find my own as I can tailor it specifically to my own needs and don't have to make concessions on dates and airports.
If you only have a certain amount of time off work, or you're going on a longer journey and are hitting multiple destinations - this might not be for you.
Packing and Luggage Tips
What you take, how you pack, and the backpack you have will all affect how cheap you can fly. Check-in luggage costs quite a bit and if you've got multiple flights during your trip, this adds up big time.
My recommendation for every traveler is to go carry-on luggage only - and it's 100% doable.
This style of minimalist traveling will allow you to save on luggage fees, and take cheaper self-transfer flights because you won't have to pay it twice. It also has added perks of getting straight off the plane without waiting for bags, being much lighter, and getting around without a hassle.
The best bag for this is the Osprey Farpoint 40, full review below.
And as for what you should take to make this possible. There are a few essentials.
- Packing cubes to sort your clothes
Amazon link: https://amzn.to/36mpuOu
- Thin quick dry shirts for compact packing
Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3alp0Lz
- Merino wool shirts, and thermal wear so it still fits for colder weather
Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2sBxixO
- Travel towel so you don't have excess bulk
Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2s92EeC
Here are some other essentials for carry-on only travel in general:
I saved $500+ on my last backpacking journey because I chose to travel in this way. That's the price of 1-3 extra flights - it's possible to do for your trip as well and you should absolutely give it a try.
Travel Timing and Planning
Every region you'll go to will have their tourism high season and low season. High season is when the bulk of tourists visit and prices will be inflated to varying degrees - low season is the opposite where it'll be cheaper.
Depending on where you're going and what you're planning on doing, you can time these seasons to find cheaper flights for your destinations.
- In Japan and South Korea between September and December avoids spring/summer, cherry blossom season, hiking season, holidays, and ski season - the temperature is cool and prices are low.
- In Thailand, the tail end of monsoon/wet season is in September/October, so flights are cheaper and you avoid the worst of the wet season.
- In Australia, you'll be able to get flights mid year for cheaper as it'll be winter in the southern hemisphere, but you could go to Queensland so you'd still get beach weather and could enjoy what other countries would consider summer/spring.
The best tips for picking the timing is to first consider what you want to do and then consider if you can do that at the tail end of the high season, or tail end of the low season - this way you get the perks of both, and hopefully the cheaper flight as well.
Obviously if you want to go during cherry blossom season in Japan or festival season in Europe for example, this is going to be more difficult. Make sure you do your research and book flights accordingly.
Hope that helps you find some cheaper flights,