Imagine this: You sink in your seat as other passengers board. Sure the seat is uncomfortable but hey you only paid $1005 for it so what’s there to complain about right? Plus your local travel agent recommended it.
An overly enthusiastic young man sits next to you and shortly after you start chatting. “This seat was a steal wasn’t it?” you say. “Yeah $730 one way is brilliant!” Suddenly $1005 for the same ticket doesn’t feel like a steal at all – it feels as though you were stolen from.
This situation is all too common. It’s astonishing how the exact same ticket can differ in prices significantly. You and your inflight neighbour can have the exact same destination, squeaky seat and awful airplane food except one of you will exit the flight $300 richer.
An equally annoying situation is when you discover your 24 hour flight with two stop-overs could have easily and cheaply been completed with only one quick stop-over. It truly pays in time and money to research flights well before you go.
But this is easier said than done. Auckland airport alone handles over 15 million passengers per year. For a simple trip to Taiwan, you could be looking at tens of flights to choose from. So how do you choose? Here are four simple steps
1. Decide When You Need to Fly
There are several factors you need to consider when choosing dates. These include:
- Earliest possible departure date
- Latest possible departure date
- Your own schedule
- Other travelers (if applicable) schedule
- Events in the destination
You will firstly want to narrow this down using your earliest and latest departure dates. This will cut flights to choose from significantly. However being flexible in your dates can save you money.
This great infographic on Life Hacker claims Sunday is the most expensive day to fly on whereas Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are usually the cheapest days to fly.
2. Narrow Down Your Requirements
So now you have less flights to choose from. But you are still most likely bombarded with choices. The trick here is to know exactly what you need and what you can compromise on.
I can’t tell you that for yourself – only you can. However some common requirements include the need for a direct flight, need for few stop overs, childcare provisions, Halal meat offered, fully reclining seats, the list goes on and on.
While your needs are important and some should not be compromised, be aware that a flight might not tailor to all your needs. Some of your desires might need to be compromised – especially if you aren’t willing to pay extra. However your basic needs should never be compromised.
3. Start Searching
This is the most daunting task because it actually involves some work. The simplest way to compare flights is to use a site that automatically selects flights for you. Three of these sites include Cheap Flights, Fare Compare and Expedia.
However you do not need to buy direct from these sites. Everyone has an agenda – sites like these weren’t just created from the goodness of people’s hearts. They were created to earn profit. They earn money by displaying results from paying airlines and taking a return on every flight sold through them. Read: they increase the cost of your flight a margin.
So what can you do? Take the best result you find from these site then buy it direct from the airline. Airlines usually offer the best prices as they cut out the use of an intermediary.
You can also search for special discounts. You mentioned you’re on semester break and are studying. Sometimes special discounts are offered to students. Take for example Student Travel. They offer a flight to Taiwan for $730. The second cheapest option for this exact flight is $950. Easy cash.
4. Swipe Your Card
Now it’s time to get buying. Be aware that airline tickets can change price three times a day. So if you have time, then keep checking throughout the day. However, if like most you don’t have time for this, just buy any time on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
The best advice I can give is to not rush into this purchase. Flights are big ticket items. And flight websites are well known for being high pressure. They often feature bright red font screaming there are only 12 tickets left at this price. They force a feeling of urgency.
But when you are rushed you are not rational. So just follow these simple steps and keep your cool. Who knows, it might save you a few hundred dollars.
In short: An hour of research can save you $200.
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