Don’t try and convince yourself that change is as good as a holiday PURELY because you’re freaking out about the price of your airfare… and you haven’t even added checked baggage or insurance yet!
Here are nine ways to avoid the sky-high fares prior to take off:
1. Shop around
While you probably ignored this same advice when your mother didn’t like your first partner (oh my, was she right!), we hope you’ll listen to us now: don’t settle for second best! Shopping around is half the battle if you want to score a cheap flight. Sites such as Expedia, Skyscanner, Momondo and Webjet will become your new travel bestie, offering easy platforms to search and compare the cheapest flights from hundreds of other airlines to your chosen destinations. Sneaky hint? Once you've found the best price, sometimes it can also pay to then go to the actual airline's site to purchase the ticket, as some sites (Webjet we're looking at you) add on a booking fee.
2. Get happy... hour
You will be SO much happier when you score a low fare and have heaps of cash left for your holiday. These three carriers offer weekly sales that are subject to availability, i.e. you snooze, you lose.
Virgin Australia’s Happy Hour: Thursdays 4pm to 11pm AEDT
Jetstar’s Friday Fare Frenzy: Most Fridays 4pm to 8pm AEST
Tigerair’s Saturday Flight Fever: Saturdays 12pm to 4pm AEDT
3. Join the club(s)
On top of the weekly happy hours airline carriers promote, there are more deals, specials and discounted fares available exclusively to members of major airlines. Signing up to receive regular email updates could land you the perfect fare you didn’t know existed. Some of our best flight deals have been snared thanks to member-only exclusive sales.
4. Be flexible
Timing is everything, and being flexible is key. In the name of saving, be prepared to brave the airport at 4am for the first domestic flight of the day, or the red-eye for an international trip. Also, if dates aren’t a big issue, Tuesday and Wednesday flights are generally a hell of a lot cheaper than flying on a Friday or over the weekend.
If you’ve found a really amazing deal, try a sneaky one-up by approaching other carriers in the hope they’ll price match it. Some airlines or travel companies actually set policies to match fares in the hopes of grabbing your business, so take full advantage of these.
Jetstar: Find a lower comparable fare online and they’ll beat it by 10 per cent. In our experience, by comparable they mean leaving on the same day within about an hour of flight time, but you'd be surprised how many flights actually do leave in this window.
Flight Centre: If you find a cheaper available airfare quote, they’ll beat it by $1 per person. AND if they don't beat it, they’ll fly you to your destination for free.
STA Travel: They’ll beat any genuine quote available to the general public, or they’ll give you $1000 towards your trip.
Expedia: If you’ve booked a flight with Expedia and you find a lower price within 24 hours of booking, they’ll match it by refunding you the difference and give you a $50 voucher for your troubles. Because there's nothing worse than booking, only to see prices tumble the next day.
6. Avoid booking fees
Sometimes it seems there's an extra fee on every page (Jetstar, we are DEFINITELY looking at you), so make sure you uncheck every box that's auto-checked to avoid a nasty surprise at the end. Insurance? Nah. Charity donation? Hesitant, but no. Pick your seat for a fee? NO! Credit card booking fee? Ugh, well, this one seems a bit unavoidable. Wrong!
Some carriers offer free fee payment options including the little-known POLi system for bookings made through their website. But MAKE SURE that you don’t try using POLi with Safari because you’ll get all the way to the end, it will fail, and you will cry. Just save yourself the hassle and use a different web browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox.
7. Try going last-minute
While the days of standby flights are long gone, if you’re not fussy on dates, are not in a hurry and don’t mind waiting around for a deal, you can score some real last-minute gems from the comfort of your own home. Websites such as Really Cheap Flights and Last Minute scan for the cheapest flights and deals air carriers are currently offering within a short time span.
8. Fly two different airlines
It’s so much easier to click the return button and do all your sale searching in “return flight” mode, but return flights are really just two separate one-ways. So start searching for two one-way tickets and you might actually find a better deal by booking with two separate carriers. Genius!
9. BUT, before you do any of the above…
Beware the cookies!
Not those delectable cookies from T-Swift. We’re talking about the type on your computer potentially hindering your sale success. Have you noticed that some shopping sites welcome you back by name, when you’re not logged in? Does it weird you out when, after searching for new shoes, all sorts of shoes start popping up in your ad windows on social media?
These are not coincidences; they are the result of your computer and your internet browser retaining your cookies or digital footprint. If an airline site tracks you’ve visited a few times, they KNOW you want a particular flight and have been known to raise the prices of fares or change deals for your destination. Clearing your cookies or browsing the web in a private or incognito browser can ensure you’re getting the real deals. Seriously, we tried this on a number of different sites and there was a price difference when we searched on a private browser. SNEAKY!
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