Explore the best ways to find cheap air travel. We show you the best days to book, how to travel and other nifty travel hacks


Air travel has grown by leaps and bounds in India, over the last 10 years, bringing many a destination within the reach of the intrepid traveller. While it has definitely become a lot cheaper to travel by air, the ticket cost can often amount to upwards of 40% of the total cost of trip. So how does one travel without breaking the bank?

This question is important to me, since I am currently planning a trip to Japan and keeping travel costs to a minimum would make the difference between spending an extra day there or coming back early. After fishing through the deep waters of the Interwebs, here’s what I found.

When you book matters

When you book has a huge effect on how much you save. You probably know this. But now, you have data to back this as well.

Booking Trends

 Quartz and MakeMyTrip 1 found that in 2014, up to 70% of flights were booked less than 30 days in advance. And predictably this had a big effect on what you pay for tickets.

Fare Difference

They found that booking closer to the date of your trip can amount to a fare that is as much as 283% higher !!! So, banking on last minute deals is probably not a good idea. Though it can never hurt to be on the look out for flash sales.

#TIP 1: Book about 45-30 days before your travel dates for  domestic travel in India. This seems to hit the sweet spot in terms of getting a good deal.

#TIP 2: Sign up for fare alerts. Also watch out for flash sales.

When to Book

On the other hand, Sky Scanner recommends booking international flights an average of 18 weeks before the travel dates to get anywhere between 10-30% off on your ticket. Also October is the cheapest month to fly from India.

#TIP 3: For international travel, book early – at least 03 months before your planned travel dates for best fares

Be a little flexible

Now that you know when to book your ticket, the bigger question is at what time of the day to fly. Here I would recommend being a little flexible.

# TIP 4: Fly when no one else would want to fly. Take those early morning and late night connections, instead of the more sleep friendly ones. The ticket is often cheaper at those times. Also, fly towards the middle of the week rather on the weekend. Friday nights, Sunday nights and Monday mornings are probably best avoided. The best days to fly are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays.

#TIP 5: Be a nimble travel ninja. Look for odd connections rather than direct flights. Being prepared to travel a bit off the beaten air traffic routes can save you money. I once found a fairly cheap deal to fly from Warsaw to Amsterdam via Copenhagen. Also, flying from another city, say Delhi or Bangalore, is actually cheaper than catching a flight from Mumbai, for some destinations like Tokyo.

Summon a Travel Genie

While we covered the when of booking tickets, now its time to cover the where.

#TIP 6: Summon a Travel Genie. Use a combination of meta-search engines like Sky Scanner, Hip Munk to find the best deals. Also look at some of the regional carriers. You might actually get a better deal there and these are not always present in search results on some of the bigger engines. I once found a good deal on a regional carrier, for about a 100 euros, for a return flight between Brussels and Warsaw.

#TIP 7: Eat those cookies. Ever wondered why the prices shown to you keep rising, while others get good deals? Well, the cookies that some of the websites use to track your visits to their sites might be the reason why. Keep searching the same sector long enough, and more often than not the price seems to rise more steeply for you. So next time you are shopping for cheap tickets, use the “incognito” mode of your browser to remain slightly anonymous.

#BONUS TIP: Cheap flights are not all they are made to be. While you can get fabulously cheap fares on low cost airlines, often after counting the hidden costs, the deal is not all that great. Most of the low cost airlines operate out of secondary airports or distant hub cities. Travelling to a distant airport just adds to the cost of flying, sometimes as much as you saved. Then come the baggage fees and other charges that they tack on, and that cheap flight is suddenly a lot more expensive.

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So do compare the costs with full service airlines, often the difference in cost is just not worth the hassle.

5 Random Tips for the Traveller

References

  1. The best time to book a flight ticket, and other insights into how India flies

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