You’ve read through plenty of blogs showing you how to fly for ‘free’ or for next to nothing. Generally speaking, most of these methods include some form of intense dedication such as racking up a $#!t tonne of points or miles to pay for your ticket. So when it comes to booking your flight, what if you just want to know the best (and cheapest) way to do it without bending over backwards for months trying to save those precious (not so) frequent flyer points?
From my experiences, the best way to learn is with a real life example. Today you are in luck because here in this little nook of the web we’re all about show and tell, so let me as I take you through the exact process I used to book my one way flight to Europe (which departs in just 10 weeks by the way).
– My flight had to be booked no later then the end of July 2017
– I wanted to book a quality airline (and I’ll explain this in a just a minute)
– I wanted to be confident I wasn’t paying top dollar which meant doing my research
Points to touch on before we get stuck into things:
I didn’t wake up one morning and think “you know what, I’m going to book my flight today”. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement was definitely there. I was keen to secure my one way ticket to freedom! But anything worth doing, is worth doing well. I’m sure there are people who are willing to just book any old flight and that’s cool, but I wasn’t going to be one of them. I wanted to be absolutely sure I was getting a great flight at a bargain price.
I was also not going to book a budget airline. Simply finding a cheap flight is not the only factor to consider. For me, quality plays a HUGE role when determining which airline company I’m going to book with. Remember, you get what you pay for and sometimes cheapest isn’t always best. My personal formula is this… I will happily book a budget airline for flights that are 8 hours or less if it means I can save some serious dollars. I am one of the lucky few who can fall asleep just about anywhere so I can handle a seat that barely reclines past 90 degrees, but only for a certain period of time. Any flight longer than 8 hours however, I will always take quality over quantity. This means I am prepared to pay the extra dollars to ensure meals and entertainment are all included along with the peace of mind knowing that if there are any problems with my flight or my luggage, I am going to be looked after.
And with that said, let’s dive right in and find out the best process to use when…
Booking Your Flight
(and how to snag a bargain while you do it!)
STEP 1 –
I always, always use incognito windows when searching for flights.
You know when you google a product and the next day Facebook just happens to show you adverts of that exact same product? I’m sure you’re aware that this is no accident. A similar thing occurs when you search for a flight. However, when it comes to flights, there’s reason to believe that airlines use your search history to manipulate flight prices in line with their demand. Or should I say, your demand. For example: if an airline knows you’re interested in a flight from say Sydney to Amsterdam (after you searched for it) and you then search for that same flight two or three days later, there’s a good chance the price will be higher than your first search. Yet if you search for that same flight on a different computer, the price will be similar to when you first looked it up. Sneaky buggers!
By searching with incognito windows, airline companies cannot access or record your browsing history. Even if this conspiracy theory doesn’t occur all the time, it still doesn’t hurt to just play it safe. Besides, what’s an extra micro second to start an incognito window rather than just a normal search window?
STEP 2 –
I started with comparison booking sites to get a feel for the various flight prices and the airline carriers that fly to different destinations. The sites I frequented were Skyscanner, CheapoAir and STA Travel. A massive benefit for me what that I was extremely flexible with my destination. As long as I landed somewhere in Europe, it didn’t really matter where, as long as the price was right. I was also flexible with my date of travel which gave me the ultimate flexibility when looking for cheaper flights.
Don’t worry if you aren’t exactly sure where you want to fly to either, this is actually a great thing! Booking sites like Skyscanner and Momondo let you search for ‘Everywhere’. The booking site will then find all available flights on your travel date (or travel month) and filter them with the cheapest first, winning!
Step 3 –
I subscribed to I Know The Pilot and I Want That Flight. Both sites sniff out secret airfare deals and send you notification as soon as they find a bargain. More often then not, the deals are for specific travel periods but it pays to keep up to date. You just never know when an outrageously cheap flight that fits your time frame is going to come along.
Just the other day I received an email from I Know The Pilot notifying me that Singapore Airlines were having a massive sale. If you booked a one way flight from Sydney to Singapore and then a subsequent flight from Singapore to London, both flights would cost a combined total of $499 AUD. How crazy (and amazing) is that?! So hint hint, if you’re planning a trip to the UK at the end of September this year, perhaps jump on Singapore Airlines and check out their flights, like… right now!
Step 4 –
Once I found a flight that I liked the look of on a comparison site, I would then search for the same flight on the airline’s direct website to compare the price. I repeated this process over and over again for all the different destinations I was looking at. I was searching flights to Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Spain, the UK and more. There was also more airlines flying to these destinations then you could poke a cyber stick at, so you can imagine how many windows I had open at any one time. That’s incognito windows of course! 😉
Step 5 –
Now that I had narrowed down my list of possible flights to ‘I want that particular flight’, I then compared my ideal flight across as many comparison (and airline) sites as I could think of. Here is the original flight I had found after rummaging through the maze of deals listed on I Want That Flight:
Please note: Flight prices have (dramatically) increased since booking my flight to creating this blog.
When I originally found the above flight, the price was $960 AUD. I then compared this exact flight on Virgin Airlines, Etihad Airways, Skyscanner, STA Travel, Hipmunk, Webjet and CheapoAir. The price across all sites varied somewhat with the clear winner being…
STA TRAVEL with a total price of $910 AUD. This was cheaper than Virgin Airlines direct. They were in fact the most expensive at $970 AUD. This just shows, it pays to shop around.
Step 6 –
The final step… so what do you think I did? Go on guess, I know you want too. I booked the flight of course! To give you a visual of how I was feeling in the exact moment after I hit BOOK NOW, this pretty much sums it up…
The Wrap Up:
- I booked a quality airline (hello comfortable reclining seats and amazing service!)
- My flight departs before the end of July 2017
- My total flight price came in under $1000 which I feel is reasonable for a flight that departs in Europe’s peak summer season
By simply comparing the same flight across multiple platforms, I made an instant saving of $60 AUD. On top of this, similar flights departing around my travel date for the same route were priced at over $1000, which meant a minimum $90 AUD saving for me. Having done my due diligence and researching my options I was confident that I had booked a reasonably priced flight on a top quality airline.
After soaking up all of this information (and I know it is a lot), if you only take away just a few snippets of inspiration, let it be this:
Do your research. Use incognito windows and clear any previous search history. Be persistent and be patient. Be flexible with your date of travel and/or destination, this will be a huge benefit. Decide what is more important to you, a quality airline or the cheapest flight. Don’t settle for the first flight you see, compare the market.
So my only question now is, what are you waiting for? Get searchin’ and start bookin’. And if you feel even just a little nervous or overwhelmed, just remember this… if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!