[Updated 3 January 2020]
So you’ve been wanting to go on this trip for ages and you have just about enough wanderlust to fill the universe, but one thing’s in the way - that crazy airfare that costs as much as a few hundred McDonald’s cheeseburgers ?
Don’t worry! Just follow our tips on snagging the lowest fares and you’ll never have to pay more than the stranger sitting next to you ?
1. Keep Tabs On Flight Deals With Skyscanner
Ever wanted to claw your eyes out after missing a cheap airfare deal? We know that feeling.
Screenshot of Singapore-Tokyo direct flights departing on 5 June and returning on 11 June (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
If sieving through airline newsletters is not for you, we recommend using Skyscanner, a website that lets you access the best deals on flight tickets without opening multiple tabs - and it’s viewable on mobile too! ? Just key in your destinations (both departure and arrival) and travel dates, and voila! You can even filter the results to specific outgoing and incoming times or add in a price cap to fit your budget and schedule ?
Screenshot of Singapore-Tokyo flight with layover options (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Another quick hack is that flights with layovers usually tend to be cheaper than flying direct! But of course, check to see if the layover duration is worth your time, or is long enough to account for any transfers or delays you might encounter - one of our worst fears is that a flight delay would mean a missed transfer ?
P.S. Some countries offer free or heavily discounted layover offers via their national airlines. Qatar Airways' stopover program even offers discounted nightly hotel rates if you have a layover of more than 12 hours - you can stay in a 5-star hotel from just USD28/night! Other airlines that offer these packages include Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, and Royal Brunei Airlines (check out our article to find out what you can do during a stopover in Brunei!).
Screenshot of prices across March 2019 for flights from Singapore to Tokyo (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
If you need to book a flight on short notice with no fixed date, the price calendar feature is useful too! It displays the lowest price available for a flight within an entire month, letting you pick the price combination that best suits your budget. This is also great if you know the general weeks or month when you want to travel but haven't decided on a date yet. ?
Screenshot of regional prices around Japan (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Have a specific budget for your next trip but no fixed destination in mind? With Skyscanner’s price map feature you’re well on your way to booking your next flight - and for much cheaper too! The map displays the lowest starting flight costs to different cities around the region - perfect for the budget-conscious traveller who hasn’t decided what to see next yet ?
2. Avoid Hiked Fares by Browsing Incognito
Some booking sites annoyingly track your cookies and rack up their prices when you search for the same route repeatedly.
We initially thought we were being paranoid, but while searching for flights to Heathrow, the travel booking site we were using showed a China Southern ticket at $822. After refreshing, the price was hiked up to $911.40! Lo and behold – a quick search on Incognito returned $853.60 on the same site for the same itinerary. So it does happen! At least for that particular site. Nevertheless, it’s best to play safe and prevent websites from tracking your behaviour by using Incognito when browsing for prices.
#HHWT Tip: Another way to avoid this would be to clear your cache before entering a new search inquiry.
3. Predict When the Best Prices Will Appear With Hopper
Hopper takes the guesswork out of booking and predicts whether you should snap up a ticket now or hold out for a better deal. It also tells you how much it might save (or cost) you to wait. This is especially useful if you’re planning a trip that's taking place ages from now - it takes all the anxiety out of waiting to book your tickets!
Screenshot of Hopper app search results for a flight to Tokyo (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Though this feature may seem similar to Skyscanner at first, Hopper displays the price ranges across multiple months - letting you plan out holidays much earlier in advance. You can even change the currency the prices are displayed in, so there’s no need to get confused between conversion rates anymore ?
Screenshot of Hopper app recommendation (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Screenshot of Hopper app price predictions for a flight to Tokyo (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Hopper is great for the juicy info and predictive prowess, but DO NOT use it to make the actual booking! Prices on Hopper run slightly higher because it only returns results from online travel agents and not the airlines themselves, which are often cheaper.
#HHWT Tip: Check Hopper’s fare casting to get a rough gauge on when to book, then use aggregators such as Kayak or Skyscanner to find your flight, or head directly to the airline's website.
4. Find the Cheapest Trips to Take with Google Flights
Screenshot of suggested trips on Google Flights (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
The coolest thing about Google Flights is that it suggests the cheapest prices to popular destinations - perfect if you haven't decided where your next big vacation should be yet! We highly recommend using this if you are backpacking across a region, to find the cheapest airport to start from. Also, in areas like Europe, you could save money by taking a bus, train or budget carrier from another airport instead of landing directly at your destination.
Credit: Richard Heaven
For example, landing at London Heathrow would cost $1,129. But taking a flight to Paris ($887) and then a bus from Paris to London Victoria ($84 for a return ticket) would cost $971 in total, which would save you $158 – enough for a couple of days hostelling!
#HHWT Tip: If you're planning a trip to expensive cities such as Tokyo, London, or Paris, or a multi-city adventure, do your research and see what the local public transport services cost to avoid paying through the nose for airfare.
5. Compare, Check and Cross-Check Your Flight Fares!
To get to those 'rare-but-definitely-attainable' cheap flight tickets, you'll need your ninja typing skills! Put on your game face and start comparing your flight fares across the web with flight aggregators, BETWEEN flight aggregators and even go as far as to cross-check results with the airlines!
Forget about online travel agents like Expedia (yes, they profit by adding fees on top of your flight costs) and go straight to your trusty flight aggregators like Kayak and Skyscanner, which compare rates from both online travel agents and airline websites. Aggregators don’t sell tickets on their site, but instead, redirect buyers to booking sites for purchase. This means the options displayed on Skyscanner could link back to the original airline, a travel agent, or even a third-party booking site. (Note: the image above shows a price from the now-defunct online travel agency Zuji)
It’s good to also compare prices between aggregators as the best rates might appear on one and not the other. In some cases, the aggregator you click from also affects the price you get in the booking site. Although the price and tax portions are the same, the ‘discount’ provided for this case is higher when coming from Kayak as compared to Skyscanner. Thus, we highly recommend checking across aggregators to avoid paying more for your fare! This applies to multi-city flights too, as the costs can add up.
When using aggregators, be wary of significant price differences between airlines and online travel agents. In general, prices directly from the airline should be close to or lower than those offered by online travel agents. A significant difference usually means that the price displayed in the aggregator is not updated, and you need to check the airline website to confirm their price. Even third-party booking websites that seem to have the lowest displayed price can have hidden costs, so always double-check! (Note: the image above shows a price from the now-defunct online travel agency Zuji)
Screenshot of Scoot's Take-Off Tuesday offer during January 2019 on Facebook
This price discrepancy happens more often for flights involving budget carriers, but it’s generally good practice to cross-check the airlines for their fares. Most airline websites have a promotions section, which might be useful! Some budget airlines also release their deals on particular days of the week, so it pays to check on these days before booking!
P.S. Let us know if you spot any more regular promotions so that you can help fellow travellers! ?
|Scoot||Got To Go Sale||Every Tuesday, until 2359hours|
Finally, remember to set up price alerts with aggregators during your planning phase and get informed when prices to your destination drop! You can do this through their website or by downloading their apps.
6. Know exactly when to book your tickets!
Everyone knows that you're supposed to book in advance to get the best prices, but how far in advance should you book? ? Well, it depends on which region you're travelling to!
Maximize your chances to get the best possible fare by setting your price alerts way in advance, so that once these dates hit you’ll be getting instant updates ?
7. Cross-check Prices Of Flights Flying To And From Different Cities
Yes, flight prices may differ according to the airport that you're arriving at or departing from! In such cases, it will benefit you to cross-check prices and see if it's cheaper to book one-way flights. For example, you may wish to arrive in Narita Airport for a trip to Japan and decide to depart from Haneda Airport instead. Both airports are easily accessible from the city center of Tokyo! You may easily save costs on expensive return flights by doing just this much more research ?
Screenshot of multi-city flight, flying from Singapore to Tokyo, and returning from Kansai (Searched 24 Jan 2019)
Most travel apps and websites now include this as an option, which is super useful if you know you might be departing from a different area in the same city or country! If you’re hopping across different countries or prefectures, you can also directly include multiple locations into your search, allowing you to see the different price points without opening up another window! ? However, be sure to factor in the cost of travelling from the airport to your first destination. In some cases, the cost of travelling from an airport in a different city may total up to much more than if you were to book a flight to an airport nearer to your first pit-stop.
So there you go! We hope we've equipped you with skills to become a ninja at getting your cheap plane tickets. Don’t forget these tips the next time you plan a trip. If you found it useful, share it with your travel buddies and friends! ?