Airfares are often the biggest expense of overseas travel. They’re also price-volatile. But one thing’s for certain: The passengers beside me, in front of me and behind me aren’t paying the same for the same ticket.
Know where you’re going and who can take you there
Start by researching every Airline that can whisk you to your destination. Subscribe to their mailing lists, download their apps and you’ll be the first to know about their sale fares. Many also offer tools to help find and notify you of cheap seats. For example, JetStar has Price Radar, a system that will alert you when your destination drops to a price you’re happy with.
Strategise how far out to book
A recent study suggested 54 days in advance is optimal. You can safely disregard that. Prices are generally controlled by demand, not time. So book during times of low passenger volume and avoid high seasons, school holidays etc. If you must travel during busy holiday periods (e.g. a long weekend), travel a day earlier or a day later and take advantage of cheaper flights either side.
Flexibility wins the cheapest seat
If you want the “super sale” fares, the ones typically discounted at more than 50%, you’ll need to be flexible and prepared to travel with sometimes a few weeks notice. Be on the lookout for distressed inventory sales. Don’t lock in time off with your employer in case you need to shift your travels by a week or two.
If you want to find the cheapest day to fly in a month (or even year), Adioso is one of the few Travel Aggregators that allows you to do this.
Be wary of Travel Aggregators
Travel Aggregators (OTAs) can be helpful, but they don’t always deliver what they promise. OTAs bring together hundreds of flights and (supposedly) find you the best price. Problem is, many of them are missing the Airlines that really matter to me (the low cost ones). Some low cost Airlines don’t want to pay commissions to OTAs. Therefore OTAs don’t list them.
Additionally, many of the “super sale” fares aren’t extended to OTAs. They’re carrying standard fares most of the time.
Lastly, some OTAs try and keep you on the same carrier for your return flight. Don’t be tied to one Airline, be prepared to return on a different carrier if you can get a cheaper fare.