After getting approved a Visa, the next thing you’re going to prepare for is booking your flight. With a ton of choices like budget airlines, promos, and reward programs you’ll definitely be saving a lot of cash with this one. I have traveled a lot, and one of the things that I don’t want to splurge on is a plane ticket, so I make sure that I get the best deal out of my hard-earned money.
I have compiled 10 Hacks of Booking the Cheapest Possible Flight to advance your tourist status from beginner to pro real quick.
*Disclaimer: This article is not for everyone as we all have different priorities and preferences when it comes to traveling. This post is targeted to those who are on a budget and don’t mind minor inconveniences in traveling in exchange for an affordable flight.
1. Be aware of the PEAK and LEAN Season
This is one of the basic but most overlooked by most travelers. You should know when a country gets the most and least visitors in a year, as plane fares dances with it as well. In Korea, the best time of the year to visit is generally considered to be the spring months of April, May, and June, and the autumn months of September, October, and November. During these two seasons days are typically sunny and dry with comfortable average temperatures. But it also means that you have to share Korea with thousands of tourists that also want to witness Cherry Blossom season with you.
Aside from the countless photobombers in your pictures, flights can be steep as well. Sure, there are a lot of promos from various airlines but unless you book way earlier than most tourists then you’ll surely pay a high price for it.
Personally, I’m the kind of traveler that prefers the lean season as I do not want crowded places, overpriced goods during peak season, and I can mingle more with the locals and savor the place to myself. So if you do not mind missing touristy activities for the sake of budget, then you might want to try this route.
You might also need to do extra research about this as the definition of lean and peak seasons vary depending on demographics (December might be a peak season in Korea for southeast Asian countries as we do not have winter, while most Westerners prefer to travel summertime), school breaks (vacations vary as schools have different schedules as well), and natural calamities/diseases (NCov, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc.).
2. Book your flight at least 5 months BEFORE departure
Booking domestic flights vs. international flights are quite different from each other, and you have to understand when prices go up and down. International trips obviously needed more preparation, especially when booking your flights in advance. Shockingly, international fares are more stable than domestic ones that fluctuate more.
According to websites that compare fare prices, the cheapest days to book international are between five and a half months and one and a half months before departure. Contrary to popular belief that you should wait three months before departure to score the cheapest international trip, it is supposed to be around 5 months before to get lower deals. 3 months of advance booking are more favorable for domestic flights. You may check check more details here for advance booking for domestic and international flights.
3. Book INCOGNITO
This is one trick I’ve learned just last year and I regret just finding it out now. I am not really into how marketing online works and why prices go up and down so fast, but after reading this article Keep your Searches Top Secret that your search “frequency” affects prices I started browsing and booking flights in incognito.
Basically, an incognito or a private browsing mode, reset your cookies every time you re-open them. Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit. It helps the website to remember information about your visit and therefore has the advantage of knowing how many people are searching and willing to pay for that certain flight.
In other words, the plane fare changes after it is repeatedly searched in your web browser. They can manipulate to increase the price every now and then to prompt you to book it now, as you might miss the deal. I was completely blown away by this marketing scheme and I do not know how accurate this is, but one thing’s for sure I’ll be going incognito from now on.
4. Subscribe to Facebook Pages, Email List, and other Social Media Accounts
There’s no secret that one of the ways to save money is to go for budget airlines, but they go way beyond their affordable prices. Even though most of my travels were planned at least a year before, I can become quite spontaneous whenever there’s a deal posted on Facebook by Cebu Pacific or AirAsia.
Most of their promos can be seen posted on their Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, or even sent in your email. The lowest offer here in the Philippines is the “PISO FARE” by Cebu Pacific which costs you around $0.020 for a flight. There’s just some catch to it of course, like having to stay up to the wee hours of the morning waiting with about a million hopefuls before the deal starts. The flight might also be that dirt cheap but sometimes you also have to pay for travel tax or for the gas which is still cheaper than paying for a full price.
What are you waiting for? Search your country’s budget airlines and follow them on their social media accounts to be updated with their promos, you’ll never know you might score a cent worth of plane ticket to Seoul.
5. Student, Senior Citizen, Military, and PWD (Persons With Disability) Discounts
Most major airlines offer discounts to students, senior citizens, and PWD provided that you declare sufficient documents and identification cards to claim it. Every country has its own law regarding this like for example some of them will just honor this if the student is currently enrolled, including weekends and holidays. They sometimes have an option to choose between the promotional fare and the regular fare less discount.
In the Philippines, they are entitled to 20% off the REGULAR BASE FARE of Domestic Flights only. You also have to take note that discounts are not applicable to excess baggage, cargo-related fees and penalties, taxes, tickets claimed as prize or reward, and other non-fare related concerns.
You may check a sample Passenger Acceptance and Handling for Special Discounts by Philippine Airlines.
6. TRAVEL EXPO DEALS
One of the best ways to score a fare deal is through Travel Expos. You might want to check your local events handling Travel Exhibits of Travel Agencies offering promos and packages on various destinations.
Even though they focus more on hotel and accommodation packages, you may chance upon those travel agencies that include plane fare in their itinerary. It is usually at a fixed price so you don’t have to worry about fluctuation, but the catch is it’s usually on a fixed date on where you’ll be the one to adjust and you have to purchase it on the day itself or for the duration of the event. If you have a free schedule and some extra cash with you then this might be in your favor.
Here are some Travel Expos happening around the world that you may want to take a look at.
7. Don’t fly on SUNDAYS
I should’ve written “Fly on Tuesdays” for the 7th hack but as I was researching this, it seems that Tuesday is no longer the best day to book a flight.
If you’re confused about what I’m talking about, Tuesday was believed to be the best day to book a flight and it’s one of the top secrets of the travel agencies before. But eventually, times have changed, and as I’ve told you on hack #3, websites can manipulate the fares depending on how many times you have searched on something.
Fare search engines have different takes on this but some of them say that the issue here is when you FLY and not when you BOOK. According to CheapAir, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday, when you’ll save an average of $73 per ticket. Sunday is the most expensive. While Expedia says that internationally, Thursdays and Fridays are the best.
So, I’ll just advise you to not travel on weekends and try weekdays just to be on the safe side.
8. Frequent Flyer Miles & Reward Programs
To put it simply, if you happen to favor a certain airline you should sign up for their loyalty reward program or frequent flyer miles. In layman terms, it is just like a credit card and you use it to get points that can be converted into miles that you can redeem for your flight.
This might not be the best way to get a cheap flight as you have to spend before you can actually fly for free, basically. But if your job requires you to travel a lot, or you just have to travel at least 5 times a year for whatever reason, then this might be for you.
It is not restricted to just plane tickets, there are other ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying such as signing up for a co-branded airline credit card, use your card for everyday spending, take advantage of online shopping, hotel stays, and rental cars. Here’s a more in-depth article on Ways to Earn Frequent Flyer Miles Without Flying.
9. Skip choosing seats, adding meals, and check-in luggage
Some airlines are getting sneaky with this, that’s why we always need to read the fine print. Most often than not, within the booking process, they include choosing seats, adding meals on board, and check-in luggage options, which if you’re not careful will add up easily in your pocket.
They charge you for extra services like these if you’re still not aware of it. Yes, it’s a comfort if you can actually sit with someone you know or beside the window, but is it actually worth $10-30? Now, for long haul flight meals are actually included and I recommend that I enjoyed those hot dishes. But if it’s just a 4 hr flight, I believe you can just eat a heavy meal before and even after the flight to save you some pennies. Check-in luggage is debatable depending on the purpose and length of your trip, but typically a one-week escapade worth of clothes can actually fit in a nice backpack that can be stowed away in the overhead compartment unless you’re an Instagram influencer who needs approximately 3 outfit changes a day.
10. Make Stopovers an opportunity
In air travel, a stop or transfer (from one airplane to another) is considered to be a layover or connection up to a certain maximum allowed connecting time, while a so-called stopover is a substantially longer break in the flight itinerary. If you have traveled for some time. you already know that layovers and stopovers are sometimes inevitable especially for longer flights that needed transfers.
Most people don’t like to wait and are in the rush of things that’s why they put a price to convenience nowadays. Generally speaking, most flights that have layovers and stopovers are cheaper than direct flights. Yes, there might be some downside to it like you have to travel by midnight or stay in a country’s airport for 11 hours before you can transfer to the next flight, but for me, I see them as an opportunity to be in a place that I will most likely not visit again.
There was a time I got into a stopover in Japan, and I cannot leave the airport and explore because I don’t have a visa to actually enter the country, but I enjoyed it otherwise by purchasing small souvenirs, trying some authentic ramen, and meeting the nicest people. I could’ve not had that experience if I’m not being cheap and didn’t go for a connecting flight and stopover for 6 hours.
There goes our 10 Hacks for Booking the Cheapest Possible Flight, and it might change sooner or later as we’re advancing day by day. It is important to reiterate that the purpose of this article is to make wise decisions and be good stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us. The only thing that I can guarantee you to be able to make affordable purchases is to be prepared and knowledgeable about it. The more prepared you are, the fewer chances of you purchasing an unnecessary, overpriced plane ticket.