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.
UPDATE: Check out this new article for finding cheap one-way flights in 2019 and beyond.
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.
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.
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).
Coupon hunting goes beyond flights too. Klook is a popular site for booking tours and attractions at discounted prices. Layer that with a promo code for Klook, and you've got double discounts!
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: