Your plane ticket is probably the largest investment you will make for your backpacking adventure.
Today, after 9/11 and the financial crisis, flying is more expensive than ever. Fuel surcharge, homeland security tax, airport tax and even tax on the tax! It has become a bit ridiculous.
However, it is still possible to find a cheap flight, you just need know where and how to look. In this guide I will present some tips and resources that will enable you to start off your runaway adventure with a cheap flight.
I was in Norway a few years ago working on a farm. It was winter and the cold was bitter and unforgiving. I decided I had had enough and craved the humid heat of Hawaii. Money was tight, so I knew I had to find the cheapest ticket possible. Incredibly, I found a series of flights that would bring me to Hawaii for only 400$ total. How did I manage 7000 miles for 400 hundred dollars? Well, the bottom line is, I was extremely motivated.
I began my search the way most people do. I looked on the popular travel websites. Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and the lot. I naively inserted, Departing: Oslo, Arriving: Maui, and as you can imagine, the prices were outrageous and well above my budget. I needed to go lower. In the course of my research I realized that by breaking up the flight and finding deals between major airport hubs I could drastically reduce the fare. However, the ticket I pieced together still wasn’t low enough. So, every day for one week, I scanned the web. I looked through hundreds of pages of google search returns. Finally, after viewing tons of travel agencies and contemplating myriad different flights and connections, I had pieced together an unprecedented cheap flight.
The first ticket I bought was on Ryan air. Ryan air epitomizes the low cost carrier. You can generally fly anywhere in Europe for between 20 and 50 dollars. The flight I purchased took me from Oslo to Glasgow for about 25$. I then transferred to another Ryan air flight to Dublin, another 25$ dollars. After a long night in the airport, accompanied by other budget backpackers, I boarded an Aer Lingus flight to Los Angeles. For this leg, I only paid 150$ dollars. I found this ticket directly on the Aer Lingus website. (Occasionally, individual airline sites offer fantastic deals.) After a 12 hour flight to Los Angeles, I boarded the next plane to Honolulu. For this portion of the trip, I managed a 200$ ticket. I discovered this price on a small Maui based travel agency website located on the fiftieth page of search returns.
When I finally arrived in Hawaii, I had been traveling for around 50 hours. I was so exhausted that I slept through the complimentary guava juice service. Needless to say I was quite upset. Despite this, I was content and proud in the knowledge that I had only paid 400$ dollars for my flight. In the end, if you are willing to put in the effort and really search the web, you can find cheap flights too.
The following are some general tips that should greatly reduce your ticket fare.
1. The cheapest days of the week to fly are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. With Wednesday being the lowest on average. Weekend flights tend to be the most expensive due to greater demand.
2. The cheapest time of the year to fly in the northern hemisphere is between mid January and mid March and in September following the summer holidays. Airlines experience their lowest demand at these times and so they often offer special deals or reduced prices.
3. Roundtrip vs One way: More often than not, buying a roundtrip ticket for an international flight will be cheaper. However, you should still compute and compare one-way fares vs. the round trip.
4. The cheapest international flights can be found between major airport hubs. Heathrow and JFK and Bangkok are a few good examples.
5. For domestic flights, take advantage of low cost carriers. These flights generally depart from smaller and more isolated airports. Although it may be an inconvenience and you will be paying for ground transport, the low ticket fare usually outweighs this disadvantage. Check out The Best Budget Airlines Around The World.
6. Fly on national airlines from developing countries. For a country, having ones own airline has become a symbol of modernism. However, since many developing countries lack sufficient domestic customers, tickets are sold at reduced prices. Ethiopia air and Etihad air are good examples.
7. Local travel agencies can also be a good option. Just make sure that they are legitimate. I once purchased an air India flight from Calcutta to Bangkok for 80$ from a travel agency in Delhi.
8. It is usually best to buy your ticket well in advance. However, I have often found that the best prices are discovered exactly a week before your planned departure. At this time, airlines are trying to fill seats and will give you a fare you can’t refuse.
9. Check out all the Flight Search Engines. My top 3 search engines, which also happen to be the biggest, are Google Flights, Skyscanner and Kayak. Although they’re all very similar, one will often display the same flight for cheaper than the others. If you’ve got the time, it doesn’t hurt to look into smaller search engines such as Hotwire, especially when you can find coupon codes, like these on ChameleonJohn.
In order to find a cheap ticket, you definitely will have to put in effort. Moreover, it may require you to sacrifice comfort and convenience. However, if you are really broke and truly desire to fly for cheap, the former tips will undoubtedly aid you in your quest.
Ps. As a travel junkie, one of my passions is to find cheap flights on the Internet. If you would like to subscribe at the top right corner of the page, you will be sent a monthly newsletter with the best travel deals I can find. Additionally, if you need help on a specific flight, you can always contact me on Facebook.
Good luck and safe travels,