At least half, if not more, of your travel budget goes towards your flights. That’s a significant chunk, and if you could spend less that would alleviate a lot of your travel-related stress (and mean more money for stroopwafels). You might think the cost of a flight is relatively set in stone and just go for the first good deal that you see. But the cost of one flight changes on average 71 times (!) so it’s definitely worth it to do your research. Here’s how to get the best deal when booking international flights.
Some general tips
Getting the best deal is about timing, shopping around and being a little sneaky.
Book 60 days in advance
You may think that the earlier you book the better, but regular jet-setters swear that there is such thing as ‘too early’. According to Peter Greenberg, the travel editor at CBS News, 60 days in advance is the sweet spot when it comes to booking international flights.
Fly during the week
Weekend flights are always more expensive, particularly Sundays, and the difference can be literally thousands of rands. Rather fly during the week; Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days for travel. Very early morning and very late night flights are inconvenient, sure, but flying at these times will save you money. Many regular travellers also swear by booking your actual ticket at midnight (according to the time-zone you will be travelling to) on a Tuesday.
Travel out of season
The majority of people will want to hit up Goa in the peak of summer, or go to the Swiss Alps in the heart of winter. You could save big bucks by travelling off-peak. But if a snow storm in New York isn’t your idea of a good time then aim to go during the ‘shoulder season’. This is between peak and off-peak times to travel so you will miss the sunniest days but get to experience autumn or spring in another city, which are still pretty good TBH.
If you feel like you’re always being watched online it’s probably because you are. While it’s not as sinister as a human watching your every move (we hope not any way) your computer does remember everything you do thanks to cookies. The evidence for this theory is mostly anecdotal but it’s still pretty compelling. The thinking is if you’ve searched for a certain flight a few times your browser recognises that you really want these dates and so shows you more expensive flights because they know you’ll be willing to pay. Before you book clear your cache or use someone else’s computer to book your flight.
Technology is on your side
There are a number of websites and apps that claim to give you the best deals, and it’s hard to know which ones are legit. These are the two we have tried and trust:
The aptly named Cheap Flights is a treasure trove of helpful information. After selecting your destination from the homepage you’ll be able to see the cheapest price you can expect to pay to this destination, the exchange rate, the main cities to visit there, the weather and the airlines that will get you there for the lowest cost. You will easily be able to tell the best month to fly to the USA (January), the cheapest spot to go in Thailand (Phuket, for around R5 000), the best airlines to use if you’re going to Australia (Qantas and South African Airways) and more.
Download a free app called Hopper. Enter your travel dates and a friendly and adorable rabbit will tell you when you should book and the best dates to fly. The in-app calendar colour-codes each day according to price so you can easily see whether leaving a few days earlier or later would be cheaper. You’ll be told if you should book now or wait a bit, and you can opt to ‘watch’ flights and be notified when they’re about to go up or when the price has gone down.
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