Travelers always ask me the same question when it comes to airfare, “what website do you use to find the best deals?” Truth be known; I always use something different. I don’t have a particular strategy. I try a bunch of various websites and narrow things down to the cheapest airline or airlines. Once I find the cheapest airline that is going to my preferred destination, I will spend a lot of time trying different dates, and different possible cities to fly into to get close to the place that I want. My belief is that if you want to save money on airfare, you need to invest 2 or 3 hours of your time and you must have patience! It is entirely worth all the effort in the end.
Providing that you are somewhat flexible with your dates and destinations you can stand to save a lot of money. One might think that I’m foolish because I sometimes can spend up to 3 or 4 hours searching for a good deal on a flight. But when you think about it, if I save $400 or $500, then break that 4 hours down into an hourly wage. My time could be calculated at over $100/hr in savings. I would much rather play around with a bunch of different flight search engines for 4 hours to find a good deal rather than work my regular job for a couple of weeks to pay full price for my airfare. I think you just have to except the fact that it might take a bit of time to search for the right price to the right place. It is a lot of fun once you see how much money you can save by putting in just a little bit of effort.
My Big Secret!
I think the big secret to finding a good deal on airfare is time, patience and flexibility! If you can find the three of these key things within yourself, then you should end up with a decent deal. The first step in finding cheap airfare to any destination is to pinpoint that countries particular discount airline or airlines. Most countries will have one or more discount carriers. Once you identify which one it is, you can do a more thorough search.
1) First Do A General Search To Find The Discount Carriers.
I will do my first couple searches with a general search engine like Skyscanner, Cheapflights.com, Flighthub.com or Expedia. Many different travel websites can sort through a lot of different airline web pages at once. They all kind of run with the same concept; find the cheapest price out of all the different possibilities. I don’t think that any one cheap flight website is better than the other. My theory is that if you try two or three different search websites, you should be able to find the cheapest airlines flying to your preferred destination.
2)Search The National Discount Carrier.
Once you get your best price results, click on the itinerary section and find out which airlines are offering the cheap fares. You will often find that most countries will have 2 or 3 thrifty airlines serving all the major cities, and bordering countries. I prefer to buy my ticket directly from the airline’s website instead of from a flight search website like Skyscanner. This way if I have questions, or if I want to make any changes to my ticket I can deal directly with the airline that I’m flying with. Most people buy from a flight search website like Skyscanner, and Expedia because they are convenient and trustworthy. Sometimes these flight search websites can have lower prices for flights than the actual airline’s website, so it’s good to always cross reference your searches.
How I Do My Search.
Once I find the national carriers that serve the destination that I want to travel to I will check their websites to see what major cities that they fly too. I find that it is sometimes much more economical to fly into a different town and take a bus to my destination from that point. It all depends on your time flexibility and budget.
For example, I wanted to go to Jericoacoara in Northern Brasil from Rio De Janeiro, and I wanted to find the most logical way to get there. The usual way to get to Jericoacoara from Rio De Janeiro is to travel to Fortaleza first then take a shuttle(5 hours) the rest of the way. When I checked prices for the bus from Rio to Fortaleza, I found that it was 46hours, and cost $130 USD. I didn’t fancy spending two full days on a bus, so I tried searching for cheap airfare. I started my search with Skyscanner, Cheapfligts.com and found some good deals. Best of all I found out who the most affordable Carriers for Brasil were; Azul Airways, and GOL Airways.
Next, I did a search on the GOL Airlines website, and I found that the best deal was a flight that went from Rio to São Luis instead of Fortaleza, so I bought it. The cheapest flight from Rio to Fortaleza direct was $200 USD at the time. Flying to São Luis meant that I would need to take an extra bus, adding 5 hours more to my journey, but I saved $50 USD and two full days of bus time off my life. The other plus point with this option was that I got to see more places; São Luis, and I managed to squeeze in another fantastic national park along the way. Sometimes being flexible with your destinations and time frames can enhance your adventure.
No Frills Airlines
Another great way to save money is to use “No Frills Airlines.” These airlines typically sell the “Bare Fare” tickets. What is “Bare Fare”??? “Bare Fare” is just the flight ticket and a seat. “Bare Fare” means nothing is free with your ticket except usually a personal item like a small carry-on bag, or laptop. After you choose your “Bare Fare” ticket, you can add the stuff that you need to the total fare like a bigger carry-on bag, a checked bag, food, express check-in, more leg room, print your boarding pass, insurance, or check-in at the airport.
These airlines put in extras seats to reduce prices so expect to be cramped up in your seat. The good news is that you can save a ton of money and the flights are not usually more than an hour. You can save money by reducing the size of your luggage, by booking early, by checking in online and printing your boarding pass at home.
I used both of these airlines during my last trip to South America and saved a lot of money. I used SpiritAir for part of my journey home to Canada.
The more flexible you are, the more likely that you can cash in on the best deal. I needed a one-way fare from Colombia back to my home city of Edmonton in Canada. Traditionally when you fly internationally, it’s cheaper to buy a return ticket than a one-way. So when you do a search try both a one-way and a return option.
When I did my first primary ticket search for this trip, I found that a flight from Bogotá, Colombia to Edmonton, Canada was $900 USD one-way, or $850 USD return. Neither of these options appealed to me, so I decided to buy my flight in segments. Buying tickets in parts is a bit riskier because if one airline is late, or cancels then, you will lose everything. For this reason, I spaced out my flight times a bit more.
I bought a one-way “Bare Fare” flight with Spirit Air for $170 USD from Cartagena, Colombia to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and a 0ne-way flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Edmonton, Canada for $230 USD. I had two options when I spaced out these flight times. I could have had an hour in between flights, or 12 hours. I chose the 12-hour option because if the Spirit Air portion were late, I would lose the WestJet portion of my trip. Spirit Air wouldn’t be able to rebook my Westjet leg if something went wrong because the airlines are not affiliated, and I bought the tickets separately. If I bought my entire flight itinerary from Expedia or a similar website, then I could have my flights rebooked for free if something went wrong with one of the legs of my trip. However, there was no option on Expedia or and any of the other general search website to get these flights together at that price.
If you do the math, I saved $450 USD because I bought my flights separately. And for the 12hour layover, I simply stayed in the Fort Lauderdale airport for the night. But if I wanted to stay at a hotel near the airport I could have gotten a room for about $100 USD. Getting a hotel wouldn’t have set me back much considering that I had an extra $450 USD in my pocket to work with.
My Last Trick!
Try searching for flight prices using a different currency, preferably from a country with a developing economy.
This strategy can be a hit or miss. Some airlines including AirCanada will allow you to change your flight price to a foreign currency. Sometimes this will put your search into a market of a country that has a slower economy. Some airlines charge their customers according to how much they can afford, and how well the economy is in a certain demographic area.
Last year I tried to buy a one-way airline ticket from Rio, Brasil to Edmonton, Canada and found prices in the range of $1100-$1200 USD one-way. I changed my search criteria to a return flight and I changed the currency to The Brazilian Real instead of USD. The price of the fare changed drastically to just under $500 USD return. These simple adjustments in my search saved me $700 USD and also gave me an option to return back to South America for my next trip.
So there you have it! Those are some of the little things that I do in order to make flying affordable. I hope to make this topic into a category and provide more information on how to save money on airfare. Unfortunately for Canadian travelers, the airline industry in Canada is heavily protected so competition is scarce and finding a good deal is not really an option. However, WestJet is planning to start a “No Frills” “Bare Fare” airline next year. So fingers crossed!
If you have any questions regarding this post or anything regarding travel then please leave me a message in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping in today!