When I was travelling occasionally, the logistics of preparing for a holiday was a much more novel and, dare I say, a more fun experience. Perhaps with a steady income and the fact that I was only travelling a few times in a year, I was a lot more easy-going and liberal when it came to booking stuff – you become a lot more willing to pay for convenience when limited by time!
One realisation that I’ve had from the more extensive travelling that I am doing on this Career Break trip is that I probably would make a terrible travel agent because when I’m faced with the prospect of too many choices, I actually find booking stuff more stressful~
Do I book this route for this price? How about all the other options? Or should I leave my itinerary open for more flexibility? Will these prices suddenly shoot up if I don’t book this now? ARGH.
So when the folk from Traveloka asked me to talk a little about how I book my flights, I thought it would be a good time to share our methods in being efficient and savvy about it (and also to see what you guys do and if I am actually a weirdo). If you are looking for accommodation tips, here is a previous post on that.
THE #1 THING YOU NEED TO DO – RESEARCH
The only way to save money and find the best flights is to put in a little work – do your basic research so you know roughly how much your plane tickets will cost. Not only will it help your budgeting as flights are usually a large chunk of your travel expenditure, it’s important because when sales and flight deals come along, you can decide quickly whether to snap it up.
What you need to know
- Where you plan to fly to (and possibly alternative options if you have any)
- How much the plane tickets usually cost – this is so you know immediately when deals come along whether they are worth your time
- Usual suspects and routes – which airlines fly there that you need to keep an eye on promos for? Which airline’s timings and routes are what you need (fits your schedule, doesn’t have a gazillion stopovers or perhaps stops over in a country you do want to visit)
What I use
I start with a general flight search engine to get a quick overall sense of prices and possibilities – Traveloka is one of these sites and so far it looks alright, but it is new to me – my usual suspects are Skyscanner and Zuji.
I then zoom in on specific airlines I want to take that fly the route and head to their websites to see if there are promotions or codes available – it’s my own personal preference to book directly from the airline in case I need to troubleshoot, but you can sometimes get better promo deals . Sometimes i sign up for their newsletter too if I have enough lead time.
My personal realisations
- Budget airlines have awesome prices but are not necessarily cheaper. See how significant the price difference is – often for budget airlines, there are add on costs (seat selection, baggage) and hidden costs for things (credit card fees – like i really hate that they spring this on right at the end and it can be ridiculous. An extra $15-20 to pay by credit card? Are we not in the digital age?? Give me final prices, which is one of the things I like about Traveloka)
- Have your passport details handy, and for anyone else in the group you have to book flights for. That way snap decisions can be made!
- People always ask when the cheapest/best times to book are – I’ve found that middle of the week tends to be cheaper overall because demand is usually lower. You can’t really get around this if you are an occasional traveller and need to hit the weekends or public holidays! What you can try and do if the price difference is significant is just take that one extra day off so you are not travelling at the extremely peak period
- I’ve found that if you are able to project or plan way in advance, you can get some serious discounts on flights. I’ve flown from Singapore to Prague for around S$800 (u.p. at least S$1-1.2k to fly to Europe from Singapore) because Swiss Air was having a promotion and I booked almost 8 months in advance. In this recent trip, I booked my Fukuoka to Okinawa flight 1 month in advance for just S$32 (I’ve had meals cost more than this flight!) because of a promotion. You can’t leap on these deals if you don’t know what the market rates are, which is what makes the initial research important.
So these are some of the things I’ve learned from my flight booking experience which I hope are helpful to you? Please share your tips in the comments as well – would love to know what other secrets there are out there!
This post was sponsored by Traveloka