Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

Travel Tips

Our Vault Of Secrets: Finding A Cheap Flight

We’ve had a number of readers recently asking how do we get such cheap flights for family travel or where do we find accommodation or how do we hire cars? Well, I finally managed to find the time to share my secrets and my first secret is booking a bargain flight.

Flying is the most expensive part of travel, but it doesn’t have to be. When we started in 2012 we started close to home and made tiny jumps that never cost more then a few hundred dollars, including a free flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I’ve pulled back the curtain to reveal our 11 most valuable secrets and tricks I personally use when searching and booking flights for my family.

emirates.jpg.jpg

1. Flexibility

You need to be flexible on dates to get the best prices. While we were in Manila I was keeping my eye on the local airline, Tiger. One day it popped up with a 1 peso fare (2 cents) airface to Boracay. There was only one flight left for the fare and it was the following day. We took it. We ended up on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.

Search Skyscanner.com or momondo. Both are handy flight aggregators which will give you an idea on what days and months are cheapest. You can even choose your current location, and it will show you the cheapest flights anywhere if you lacking inspiration.

I also love the option they prove to email you with a daily alert for the flight you searched. I use this feature when I know where and when I want to fly, but am just waiting to see if the flight price goes down any further.

On top of this I’d also recommend checking other aggregators if you have the time like kayak.com, findafare.com or expedia.com.

2. Check The Airline

Once I’ve searched Skyscanner or momondo I will head to the airline’s official website to see if they are holding any specials or promotions. Be careful because sometimes if you require extra baggage or other “optional extras”, a 3rd party booking agent website may not account for that, and the official airline site will. So if you need more flexibility sometimes it pays to go direct.

3. Forget The Extras

Most discount airlines will try to make money on you at every step of the booking process. RyanAir has a reputation for this. You really don’t need to choose your seats – just go with a random seat, and use the extra cash to treat yourself to a bigger cocktail when you arrive at your hotel. Also avoid purchasing airline food where possible and bring your own snacks. Apart from having the flexibility to choose whatever food you like, it usually works out much cheaper. Obviously most airports won’t let you bring water through the security checkpoints, but you may be able to snap these up near the gate and usually this will be cheaper than purchasing at 30,000 feet.

4. Find A Coupon

I also love to check CheapOAir, because they offer discount vouchers, which will often make them a little cheaper than the competition. We've negotiated an exlcusive Cheapoair discount coupon for our readers. Use "TWB40" (or just click here to automatically apply the coupon) for up to $40 savings (for up to 4 passengers).

5. Check Alternative Routes

If the flight has more then one leg search the separate legs yourself. We recently booked a flight for my mother-in-law from Tel Aviv, Israel to Perth, Australia. Directly it was minimum $1200. When I looked at Tel Aviv to Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur to Perth I got the flight for less than $800. Major hubs like Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok will always have cheap flights going to them, rather than Perth, Australia.

Similarly you can get to different places for different prices. Tel Aviv to Uzbekistan to KL was cheaper then Tel Aviv to UAE to KL. When booking flights separately you may even decide to stop and enjoy the very place you HAVE to pass through.

6. Check The Airport – Then Double-Check It

Some cities now have secondary airports, such as Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) verses Kuala Lumpur International (KLIA) or London’s many different airports. Secondary airports may often be cheaper.  

Also be careful about the distance from the airport to your final accommodation. We got caught out in Manila, Philippines when we organised a flight from Clark airport only to find out it was almost 3 hours away from where we actually wanted to go. Sometimes the small amount saved is lost in the extra transport required. So keep Google Maps open so you can calculate exactly how long the drive will take.

7. Check 1 Person vs. Multiple

Check the 1 person price before you check the family. Many airlines price seats differently and will charge you the higher price if you are requiring more then one seat. Whereas if you choose just 1 seat, view the price and then change your quantity, you will lock in the cheaper price for all seats.

8. Do It Yourself

Remember a travel agent will not check all low-cost airlines, nor will they check multiple days or separate legs. I worked as a travel agent (for a short while) and they need to make money, so rarely will an agent find you a cheaper flight than you will or me! In saying that some flights you may not want to put so much time and effort on. My sister is heading on a round the world trip this year and got a great price from Flight Centre. I, of course, got the same trip about $300 cheaper, but she would have had to book each leg herself. In this case she decided it wasn’t worth the $300 to book each flight herself and let the agent handle it.

9. Join The Newsletter

If you are flying to similar places regularly join the airlines emailing list. While slightly annoying, you can end up saving a lot of money. The flight I mentioned earlier that was free from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur was an Air Asia newsletter I received about free flights. They do them often and if you are flexible you could grab a bargain price at any time.

Another newsletter goodie: while we were in Europe I received an email from Bestflights.com.au featuring an international sale. We ended up scoring tickets from Prague to Dubai, Dubai to Perth for less than $870 per person on Emirates!

Speaking of newsletters, did you join ours? We are going to be doing several other TWB secrets and don’t want you to miss out. Do it here

10. Go Long Term

Just like being flexible, also being organised in the long-term can have it’s benefits. For instance one year I was booking flights to Bali from Perth and I noticed I could get 2 people to KL for $350 return. I bought the tickets as an anniversary surprise for my husband a year in advance and he never noticed because he thought it was the tickets for Bali.

11. Don’t Keep Searching

The hardest part of booking any flight is clicking the “Booking” button! While there is much dread when I click that final button, the relief afterwards is tangible. My last tip is don’t keep searching. Once it is booked do not continue to look, you may feel let down when you find a cheaper flight and you don’t need your upcoming trip filled with negativity. You’ve done your best, be happy with the price and look forward; there is plenty of other things to start researching!

BONUS Pro Tip #1: Local Currency & International Credit Cards

If you can travel quite a bit and can find a credit card that offers you 0% foreign currency conversion fees (like we have), then you can save a substantial amount by choosing your airline’s local currency during the checkout process. For example, with Air Asia being based in Malaysia, their online currency exchange rate is skewed in their favour so they make a profit when customers choose to pay in AUD. So I choose to pay in the local currency and save up to 3% (or more) depending on the airline. I’ve saved over $100 on just 1 flight with this trick.

BONUS Pro Tip #2: Shed The Pounds!

Think twice about everything you pack into your bags. Most discount airlines will charge you for every piece of checked in luggage. So the further you fly, the more you are paying for that big bag on wheels you’re carting around. On a recent solo flight Josh only took a small carry-on bag and saved over $100 by avoiding extra baggage charges. The extra benefit is when you get off the plane you don’t have to wait around the luggage carousel and can just walk out the door. Nice!

What’s your favourite tip for finding cheap flights? Share in the comments below.

TIP: Our favourite sites for finding and booking cheap flights:

Travelocity

CheapOAir

Webjet

Expedia

Momondo

Want more like this?

Get our latest blog posts delivered to your inbox each week jam-packed with expert travel advice:

Here's what you have to say...

"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by Alyson on
I think you covered all of them! We recently flew KL to London using a combination of all the above for $400, including a free 1 month stop over in Sri Lanka. Brilliant deal! Now I need to find us a flight back from the US to Asia, we're onto that today I think.
Posted by Rhiannon on
Your so pro, next service you should offer is a freelance travel agent! :) xx
Posted by Rhiannon on
Ps. Love the captcha!
Posted by Anna - GroovyTale.com on
Great post! I am addicted to Skyscanner but have never used CheapOAir. Thanks for sharing the tips!
Posted by Raymond @ Man On The Lam on
Great tips! Can I add one? Do your search "Incognito" via Google Chrome or a similar option in another browser. Sometimes with those damn cookies if you go back to the same website it will pull up the last price you received even though the price may have dropped since your last visit.
Posted by Deia @ Nomad Wallet on
Great tips! I'd add that if you don't care much about comfort, look into land transport options too, like bus or train. I once saved $230 by making a stop at NYC and taking a Greyhound bus the rest of the way.

Another time, I realized too late that there's a train line between Thailand and Malaysia. I had already booked my Air Asia flight, otherwise I'd definitely make a detour to KL.

By the way, I put together a Travel Booking page with some of what I think are the best websites out there. I also keep an updated list of coupon codes there, so I hope that would help someone save money. :)
Posted by Bethaney on
Great tips Erin!
Posted by Jo on
Brilliant ideas as always, Erin! As an Australian I often have to change planes so I love the idea of checking the legs separately. I also like the idea of going to the country of origin website to save on exchange rates - these sort of savings all add up!
Posted by grasya on
great tips! i'm keeping an eye on discount flights to Europe
Posted by Megan @ Mapping Megan on
Great tips - I especially love the "stop searching" advice - often get bogged down in too many choices and too much procrastination. The relief after hitting that final "booking" button really is amazing!!
Posted by Beth on
Great tips Erin! Sometimes it's just better to book something asap rather than keep searching. I was looking at flights yesterday morning, and then come afternoon they had already jumped $200 dollars! Regretting not booking it at the time now!
Posted by Jenna on
Nice tips! I love the discount airlines in Europe--it's always so great to snag a super cheap flight! :)
Posted by Bret @ GGT on
Some great tips here! Now, if only I could use 'em to score cheap flights to Australia and New Zealand... The other side of the world seems SO far away!
Posted by Ron | Active Planet Travels on
All great tips! I always stress for people to be flexible too. Just like you said, you don't need to check every bag, pick every seat or go on a certain route. Flexibility=BIG money saver!
Posted by noel on
Erin,
Fantastic tips, some of those i already use, but you came up with some really good ones....yeah, thanks for the tips!
Posted by Gary Just on
Hi guys, totally agree with the do it yourself bit... Last year when planning our Europe trip we went to a travel agent to get some prices for flights from Melbourne, Australia, to London, England. I then went straight home and checked on line. To my surprise we were able to get Emirates flights cheaper than the travel agent quoted us for a lesser airline! And our price for the Emirates was about $900 cheaper than the travel agents Emirates price! And it was for the exact same flight numbers and dates of travel... Needless to say we booked the Emirates flights straight away ourselves.
Posted by Tracey on
Wow! This post is full of really good money saving tricks:) I love, love Momondo and CheapOAir, my family has used both and saved a bunch on flights. We have also benefited from booking alternative routes. We needed a flight from Calgary, Canada to Cartagena, Colombia. We found splitting the flight with 1 stop and between 2 airlines could save us a ton. We booked 3 tickets for under $1000 CAD. With the money we saved we stayed a week in the hub, Miami, and then flew on to Cartegena. It took some work but we were able to squeeze another destination in for the same cost of a more direct flight.
You have lots if tips I haven't tried yet. I will be adding some to my travel savings war chest for our next booking:)
Posted by Tara on
Great Post! We are just about to leave for Europe, starting our travels with a family of 6 and transportation is our biggest cost. These tips were super helpful! Thanks for sharing!
http://travelingschmoes.com
Posted by Simon on
Good article but one important gem missed. That is, when booking flights try changing your country location on the airline website (or skyscanner). Prices for the exact same flight will sometimes be completely different. I don't know why this is but my guess is that there is price adjustment going on based on standard of living. I've found tickets up to 30% cheaper simply by changing my current country from, for example, Australia to Malaysia, or France to UK. I've had success with this on several Asian airline searches and in European aggregators too.
Posted by Simon on
Sometimes backtracking to fly through a major international hub such as London can be cheaper despite adding hours of flight time. I experienced this when booking a last minute flight from ethopia to new Zealand. . It saved hundreds of dollars by flying all the way to the Uk (opposite direction) then buying a separate ticket London-Auckland. For budget travelers who don't mind an extra half day traveling keep it in mind.
Posted by Faisal F on
I work for an airline and this is a well written article. Understanding how the ticket pricing works is difficult but if one is alert you can find some great deals.
Posted by Jasmine E on
Wow $50 for Bali flight, I need to check this out, I'm about to book some flights so this might be helpful.
Posted by Bill on
I concur with the idea of looking for ground transportation between shorter distance destinations. Many major airports in Europe and more and more of them in the US have links to local and regional rail networks. Especially for overnight travel, compare a train or bus that leaves in the evening and arrives in the morning vs. a much shorter flight that has you either boarding or getting off the plane in the middle of the night, and train seats are generally more comfortable than airline seats. Sometimes the time difference, when your sleep time is factored in, isn't significantly different.
Posted by james on
I warn everyone to be very careful of cheapoair - there are numerous forums showing the problems people have had with this site. We spent days trying to contact them.
Write a comment...
(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)
Find more posts by tag:

Reader FAQs:

Question: How do you get reliable Internet access when travelling overseas?

Answer: We use Tep Wireless. Read our review for more details...

More FAQs...

38-airplane2x.png

Get The Latest Blog Posts

There are a number of convenient ways to get the latest blog posts and news from Travel With Bender.

This is our secret weapon...

A magic little black box which provides unlimited Internet when we travel.

TEP Wireless

Find out more... Our full review...