How to Find Cheap International Flights
Photo by Greg Rodgers
Ask everyone on your plane what they paid for their ticket and you’ll get a lot of different answers. A closely guarded secret by many, booking cheap international flights is a matter of knowing how airlines work, timing, and even a little luck.
More dark art than science, here are some tips for getting the best deal on your next international flight!
Time Your Booking
Ironically, booking too early can be just as bad as booking at the last minute. Each airline has a pricing curve where tickets drop in price around a month before the departure date. Your best bet for finding cheap international flights is to plan in advance, but wait until 30 – 45 days before your departure date to book.
Clear Cookies When Checking Flights
Flight booking websites use tracking cookies (small bits of information stored in your web browser) to remember what price they gave you. Even if the fare has dropped slightly, you may still see the same price you received days earlier when checking. Or worse, they can add slightly to a price because they know you have checked the same flight many times in the last week and are serious about booking it.
If checking on the price of a flight daily, try clearing your browser cookies first or use a different computer; you may be surprised to see a different fare for the same flight offered!
Watch Out for Holidays and Festivals
Everyone knows that flying around the busy holidays can add to flight prices, however, they often forget that different countries may have different holiday schedules and festivals. Check for festivals and events at your destination before booking, and either arrive in advance or well after the festival and the crowds have cleared.
Just a few examples of events that greatly affect international flight prices are:
- Chinese New Year
- School spring and summer holidays in Australia and Europe
- Ramadan in Islamic countries
- Songkran — the Thai New Year — in Thailand
- The Indian holidays of Thaipusam and Holi
- Carnival in South America and other parts of the world
Be Flexible to Find Cheap International Flights
The best way to find cheap international flights is to be as flexible as possible. Sometimes delaying your departure only a week can save a significant amount of money. Avoid flying on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays; prices can be affected by business travelers and weekend trips.
Check Surrounding Cities
Just because a city is the largest doesn’t always mean that it is the cheapest point of entry. For instance, if visiting Sabah in Borneo, everyone thinks they should fly into Kota Kinabalu — the capital and busiest airport. Sometimes flights to Sanadakan, the second-largest city, from Kuala Lumpur are cheaper!
In Asia, sometimes flying into Kuala Lumpur is cheaper than flying into Singapore because of the steep airport tax, or vice versa. You can easily take a bus between the two cities, cross the border by land, and enjoy both!
Booking After Midnight – Myth?
Some experts once claimed that flight booking networks released forfeited tickets back into the system at midnight because of the date. Perhaps true, you can try checking for cheap international flights after midnight but before early in the morning when business travelers may be booking.
If you are under 26 years old or still a student, you may be able to find special fares or receive a student discount. Many agencies specialize in arranging student holidays and cheap international flights for budget travelers.