Ever found yourself frustrated at the high cost of a ticket when sitting down in front of your computer to book a flight? Most people think it's only those frequent flyers with their "fingers on the pulse" who are able to find the best deals on flights. In reality though, there are a couple of things which anyone can do to help ensure you save money when making a booking.
Here are five common sense ways to help you get a better deal the next time you plan on purchasing a flight ticket to somewhere. Keeping these five points in mind ahead of time is all you'll need.
1. It pays to carefully consider how close your departure date is
Airlines are known to push up flight prices the closer it gets to departure, thus it makes sense to avoid leaving your booking too late. However, if you're brave enough to wait right until the last minute (or assuming your travel plans are less rigid) airlines sometimes announce big discounts 24 - 72 hours ahead of scheduled departures to get rid of any remaining unsold seats onboard.
It's worth pointing out that booking too far in advance can also end up costing you more though. Airlines don't normally start offering discounts on flights until about one to three months before of their departure. Therefore, by booking four months or more in advance you risk actually paying more than you would if you simply applied a bit of patience. So as you can see, timing is a key aspect to getting the best price on your ticket purchases.
2. Be flexible with your travel plans
Avoiding weekend flights where possible and try to pick either very early times to depart or late times to return as this can often save you a lot of money as well. Generally, Tuesday and Wednesday flights tend to work out the cheapest as they're not normally as busy.
Another thing to remember is that flying into larger international airports often carry higher airport taxes. Therefore it's always worth checking cheaper alternative airports and then comparing their taxes with any additional transport costs (e.g. bus, train, car hire) which you may need on the other side to get your to your final destination.
3. Stay ahead of the pack to get the best deals
Make sure you sign up for the email alerts of the airlines that you fly with, as well as follow their social media pages, as this is where they most frequently tend to announce special deals and discounts first (especially on Facebook and Twitter in the form of flash sales). It's always good to have an idea of what ticket price you're comfortable with ahead of time so that once these discounts are announced you can act quickly - as the hottest deals can sell out in a matter of hours.
4. Make use of comparison sites, but don't book through them
Flight comparison sites like Webjet.com.au, Zuji, Expedia, Skyscanner, and cheapflights.com.au are great for working out what the most competitive rates are for the flights you're interested in, but only use them for investigation purposes. When it comes to actually booking your flights, it's best to head to the airline directly otherwise you end up paying more in additional charges. Don't be afraid to mix the departure and return legs of your trip with different airlines too as this can also be a great way to save extra money.
5. Join a frequent flyer program - although do your homework first
If you are somebody that flies regularly, then it's definitely worth while joining a frequent flyer program. It can take time to build up a premium status (unlike hotel loyalty programs, for instance) which give you perks like access to airlines lounges, priority check-in and priority boarding.
However, it's worth understanding that frequent flyer programs usually work by allowing to you wrack up points for each mile that you travel on a plane. This means that even if you're not a regular flyer but happen to do one or two long haul flights each year then these points can quickly start to add up. So don't let the years pass by without taking advantage of the points you'll be able to accrue over these distances.
The points you earn can then be used towards getting cheaper airfares, tickets for companions as well as upgrades. If you're not sure what program to join, here's a useful review by Choice based on their research into the value of various airline loyalty programs.