Walking along the beach in Bali and gazing out over the expansive water was enough to make us dread our upcoming flight the next day.
A flight that would begin our 27-hour journey back to Philadelphia.
Flying home for the holidays sounded like a great idea — until it really sunk in that we would be in transit for longer then it takes most people to plan their entire trip.
Because this was not the first time, nor the last, that Trav and I would be embarking on such a long journey, we decided to make a list of all the things we do to make long-haul flights more enjoyable bearable. (more…)
Flying can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. Depending on where you’re going, a flight could run you anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars. And that doesn’t even include the cost of getting to and from the airport or checking luggage.
But while flying can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be if you know the right strategies. That’s why in this article we’re going to look at how you can get the cheapest flights every time you travel.
Budget airlines can be a traveler’s best friend – or worst nightmare. But writing them off because you don’t understand them is a major, major mistake.
Here is our step by step guide to finding and booking budget airlines – and saving yourself a TON of money in the process.
1. Find the Budget Airlines That Fly to Your Destinations.
One of the most difficult things about budget airlines is knowing they exist. There are two easy ways to figure this out:
1. Go to the Low Cost Airlines on Wikipedia. This list has every low cost airline, for every country in the world, broken up by continent. Find the airlines that fly to the area you want to travel to, then check their Wikipedia page for all their destinations. Alternatively, you can also visit their individual websites to check destinations and pricing.
2. If you know where you’re flying out of (i.e. Chiang Mai), type the name of that airport into Wikipedia and see a list of all the airlines that fly in and out of that location.
Some of the most common budget airlines:
USA – Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airways
Europe – EasyJet, Ryan Air
Asia – AirAsia, Malindo Air, Firefly
Australia – JetStar
2. Check the Fees
Now that you have a list of budget airlines that will work for you, start comparing the prices. One of the reasons budget airlines are cheaper is because they charge fees for certain things.
Every budget airline will clearly state these fees and often dedicate a page on their website itemizing each fee.
Be sure to check the fees and add it into the total cost of your flight to weigh whether the flight is actually the cheapest option.
The most common additional fees include:
Chosing your seat
Credit card processiong fee (This is the only one they won’t usually mention until the end)
Expert tip: Be aware that checking your bag at the gate will cost about twice as much as purchasing the checked bag beforehand online. So if you know you’re going to check a bag, buy it in advance. Or, you could travel in just a carryon.
3. Visit ITA Matrix to Compare Prices
Now that you know the exact price of flying on the low cost carrier, check ITA Matrix to compare the prices for the regular airlines.
Now that you have a good idea of what it will cost for a budget airline vs. a normal airline, you can choose the option that is best for you.
If the low cost carrier is substantially cheaper, AWESOME! You have just travel hacked yourself a better flight.
If the costs are similar than consider if the small savings are worth the extra inconveniences.
Now that you know how to find tickets with budget airlines, there are a few more things you should know when flying with these carriers.
1. Budget airlines often fly into alternate airports
Make sure to double and triple check the name of the airport that your budget airline is flying into. Oftentimes, these airlines fly into a separate terminal or even a different, usually smaller, airport.
Make sure that you plan accordingly, especially if you have another flight to catch with a different airline.
2. A tip for getting your tickets even cheaper
You can drastically reduce the cost of your ticket by flying through a hub airport. First check the main hub (headquarters) for the budget airline. For example, Air Asia’s hub is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you route your flights through KL then you can usually save quite a bit of cash.
Note: If you do enact this strategy, be aware that you are purchasing two separate tickets. This means you will have to exit the airport via customs, pick up any bags you may have checked and check in again at that airport. Leave plenty of time to get through customs, and through security again. However, usually these small inconveniences are well worth the savings!
3. The best time to book budget airline tickets
Budget airlines often run sales. If a sale is running when you are searching for tickets then jump on it while you can!
Other budget airlines work on a tiered structure (such as SkyMark in Japan). These airlines will open their flights 60 days (or more) before the flight and the cheapest tickets go first.
In most cases, we have noticed that the sooner you book tickets on low cost carriers the better. However, sometimes you can luck out even at the last minute so it is always worth checking.
You might be wondering if all this extra work is really worth it?
After 40+ flights on budget airlines, we would say, unequivocally, YES!
Budget airlines are not nearly as bad as people make them out to be, and you can save TON of money by following this guideline when booking your next flight.
Have you traveled on a budget airline before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
I wandered aimlessly down alleyways so small my shoulders practically touched both sides. I meandered over canals filled with gondolas, amazed that a city could be built in such a way and that it had stood, practically untouched, for so long.
Venice, where getting lost is the ultimate joy.
3 days later, I was staring at Michaelangelo’s David, climbing to the top of one of Europe’s most amazing cathedrals, and eating my body weight in gelato.
Florence, a city where every street corner is filled with unimaginable beauty.
3 days after that, I was standing in the underground tunnels of the Colosseum, imagining the roar of the crowd and the spectacles that once took place there, and spending my nights staring at the perfect symmetry of the Pantheon.
Rome, an entire world worth of history compacted in to one city.
For many people, a trip to Italy is right at the top of their to-do list, and with good reason. It’s an absolutely amazing country.
But for me, the trip happened much more spontaneously.
And much, much more cheaply.
I was able to fly direct, from Newark Airport to Milan, for $125. Roundtrip. With no hidden fees.
Just $125 TOTAL!
How about when I mention that last year, I flew from New York to Madrid for $225 total.
And while I pride myself on my ability to use frequent flyer miles to travel cheaply all over the world, these trips are something that ANYONE can do.
No magic formulas or tricks.
Just something called a mistake fare.
What is a Mistake Fare?
As you probably guessed, a mistake fare is just what the name implies.
It’s an airline ticket that, for various reasons, has popped up and is priced out for MUCH CHEAPER than it should be.
It’s different than a promotion, sale or off-peak ticket in that this is, you guessed it, an actual mistake.
Why Do Mistake Fares Happen?
Mistake fares can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a technical glitch on an airline’s website.
The $125 ticket to Italy happened because a Norwegian website that sells airline tickets wasn’t including the “fuel surcharge” portion of the ticket in the final price, and so everything was showing up as $500-700 less that it should have been.
The $225 ticket to Madrid happened because a Japanese website was inadvertently giving a discount to every ticket purchased on their website, not just the tickets from Japan to Spain like the original promotion called for.
The important point isn’t really WHY it happens (although nerds like me may be interested) but how to find them and what to do when it does happen.
How to Find Mistake Fares
There are two main ways to learn about mistake fares. One is very easy, and the other is a bit more difficult.
Since they’re much smarter than I am, they’ve figured out a way to build some algorithm that constantly spits out good deals on airfares.
I don’t understand it, don’t pretend to understand it, and am just happy they exist!
Each day, they’ll post a bunch of good deals on airfares. It’s important to realize that most of these are NOT mistake fares, just decent prices for regular flights.
However, when a mistake fare does pop up, they are almost always one of the first people to know about it, and they’ll post it to their site.
I’d highly recommend you check their site out regularly, even for good prices on “normal” tickets and follow them on Twitter.
The other way to find mistake fares is through Flyertalk, the largest online forum for mileage geeks enthusiasts. The “mileage run” forum is where mistake fares are posted.
Warning: It may take a while to understand the “language” of the forum.
If you’re interested, press on. If not, take the easy way.
In addition, every single time I hear about a mistake fare, I’ll make sure to tweet it out and put it on Facebook. Come follow me via Instagram or like Extra Pack of Peanuts on Facebook.
That way, you’ll never miss a mistake fare again!
What To Do When You Hear About a Mistake Fare
Book first, ask questions later.
Yes, it sounds impulsive, and it certainly is, but that’s how you score these types of deals.
Mistake fares do not last long, and sometimes get pulled within a matter of hours.
Once a website sees a major influx in tickets being booked, they’ll get suspicious, and with just a little bit of snooping, will figure out something is wrong. Then, they’ll correct the situation.
If you sit around figuring things out too long, you’ll miss out.
The $225 ticket to Madrid lasted about 10 hours, as did the $125 ticket to Milan.
Also, most airlines will allow a 24-hour window for cancellations, so you are left with an “escape clause” should you book and figure out that you really can’t make the trip.
So take a few minutes (but just a few), figure out whether you can feasibly take advantage of the mistake fare being offered, and then book.
Will My Mistake Fare Ticket Be Honored?
Ah, the golden question.
In the past, many mistake fares were not honored, and tickets were canceled. The people who booked the tickets would get upset, but really, there was no real pressure to honor the tickets.
But now, thanks to the world of social media, airlines, and websites are under much more scrutiny when it comes to honoring these mistake fares. The backlash is incredible, and now people have an open forum for voicing their displeasure.
Thanks to that, almost all of the mistake fares in the past two years have been honored.
So while it’s impossible to say with certainty that each and every mistake fare will be honored, there is probably a good chance that it will.
What Should I Do After I Book a Mistake Fare?
Wait. Take a few deep breaths. Attempt to temper your excitement (which is easier said than done).
And NEVER book your accommodations or make any other plans for the trip until you’re 100% sure they will be honored.
With mistake fares, it can take a while to get a confirmed ticket.
For the $125 ticket to Milan, I waited an agonizing 36 hours before I got a confirmation email.
For the $225 trip to Madrid, it was 2 days of Alitalia Airlines saying “no we aren’t honoring these” until they finally relented and confirmed the tickets.
If you’re feeling obsessive, you can constantly refresh the Flyertalk thread about your specific mistake fare and live and die with each new piece of speculation.
Or you can be much more sane, go about your daily life, and just wait to see what happens.
How Will I Know If My Ticket is Confirmed
Each airline is different, but in almost all instances, you’ll receive an email.
If you get an email with an actual ticket number, then you’re probably good to go. Just make sure to double-check either by calling the airline or by reading the thread on Flyertalk.
Will I Get Bumped From My Flight Or Be Treated Badly By the Staff Because I Got a Mistake Fare?
No one will be able to tell from your ticket that you got a mistake fare. It’ll be the exact same as anyone who paid for a regular ticket.
So no need to worry about any bad blood with the airline or their staff.
Is Buying a Mistake Fare Illegal?
No, not at all. Buying a mistake fare ticket is perfectly legal. Whether they choose to honor it or not is their choice, but you’ve done nothing wrong.
How Often Do Mistake Fares Happen?
There’s no rhyme or reason to mistake fares, and they can happen at any time.