Making plans is the first step of your holiday and the point where the excitement starts. It is also the first step to budget your trip and most of the times the costs to get to/from your destination are the main part of it – especially if it is a long-haul flight. By following only a few simple steps you can decrease your costs on flights easily – here is my checklist on how to book the cheapest long-haul-flight.
1) The Destination
Obviously the first question to ask is: Where do you want to go? The more remote the destination you pick is the more expensive it is, too.
Between the continents there are certain “highways” you can to take: a lot of airlines offer flights regularly for the same connection so you have cheaper prices for flights with a big competition between the airlines. You can find those highways easily by using a flight search engine which let you compare prices (see number 7 below).
Some example highways are: Spain-Argentina/Chile/Peru (“spanish connection”), England-USA (“english connection”), France-Senegal (“french connection”), Portugal-Brazil (“portugese connection”)…
- find the “highway” which covers the main part of the track between your origin and your destination
- if you have to use a flight afterwards check if there is a cheaper way of transport because mostly the non-highway flights exceed the budget though they are much shorter than the highway flight
2) Airports to choose
After defining the highway we would like to use it is now time to pick the right airport. This is not that hard because you mostly just have to follow the simple rule: the bigger the airport, the better.
- pick the largest airport available for your place of origin and your destination
- if the big airport is too far, check if you can find a connection with a low-cost-carrier(budget airline like Ryanair, JetBlue) to cover the distance – use the list of low-cost-airlines to find a low-cost-carrier
3) Best date for Destination
The time is one of the most important criterias that influence the price of your flight. If you fly in high-season the prices will explode compared to low season because the weather is much better – if you choose a timeframe at the edges of the low season you have the chance to make the best deal.
- checkout the low-season at your destination and pick a date at the end/beginning of it
- checkout the national holidays and vacation dates – try to avoid these and the days around them
- same goes with anniversary
- write down the timeframes
4) Best date for your place of departure
If you followed the simple steps before this is easy, too. Moreover you know the certain vacation & national holiday dates in your country better than the ones at your destination.
- pick low-season dates by avoiding the national holidays and vacation dates (try to find an inverse vacation calendar for you country)
- compare the dates with 3) and identify the matches
- write down the timeframe(s)
- identify the days that are not on the weekend – wednesday is the best day because most people fly on the weekends
5) Best time to book
This one is really important too and one of the most discussed parts of the booking process in the internet. I try to keep it short and simple: if you fly with an international airline that is not a low-cost-carrier you should book your flight at least between 8 and 6 weeks before departure, if you book later than 6 weeks in advance the chance the prices are raising are pretty high.
- use your notes and start over with checking prices
- do not book immediately – check prices every once in a while
- book in the timeframe of 6-8 weeks in advance
- consider: if you like to fly with a low-cost-carrier do not stick to the mentioned timeframe because here the rule is: the earlier the better!
6) One-Way vs. Return vs. Multiple
Sometimes buying a one-way ticket is a pretty good thing but if it comes to prices it is not – so it is always better to book a return or a multiple ticket. Why? Airlines are cooperating in alliances and so service charges, fees etc. will be less when booking another ticket for returning to your continent of origin even if you fly from a different city back home. Another disadvantage of one-way tickets is the visa problem: for some countries it is required to have a flight back home when crossing the border (e.g. Peru, New Zealand…). So if you want to have it cheap but also like to keep the felxibility just do the simple trick of booking a return ticket with an airline that is flexible in changing the flight afterwards (have a look at the Terms & Conditions!) – so you have the required confirmation when entering the country but you still have the possibility to change the date of departure and maybe even the passenger.
- try to book a return or multiple destination ticket
- if you plan to cover long distances at your destination, too: use the chance to also book these flights with the multiple option (but also compare prices with local low-cost-carriers) because they are much cheaper for the same reason
- have a look at the terms & conditions and book the ticket that offers the best deal between flexibility and price (only if needed!)
7) Search Engines
There are tons of tools and services you can use to find and book your ticket. The problem is that there is not THE one serach enginge you should use. I simply recommend to compare the prices with the mentioned engines below and then pick the one that offers the best price for your special case. Keep also in mind that most of the engines do not cover low-cost-carrier (i guess the reason for that is that they would not get a good commission from the other airlines).
- Cross check differents plattforms like: kayak.com, momondo.com, skyscanner.com, itasoftware (ITA flight search by Google), fly.com, tripadvisor
- Check low-cost airlines individually
- have a look at layovers in between – maybe it's better to take a more expensive ticket to keep the layover short (consider that you will also spend money at the airport for food and stuff the longer your stay is)
Here you have it – of course there are more tips out there but i tried to keep it as easy as possible. Happy booking and have a nice budget trip afterwards!
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