Scoring seriously cheap international flights is easier now than ever. But with so many dirt cheap airline tickets, airfare sales on low cost airlines and other discount air travel options . . . where do you start?
As with almost anything these days, you can easily book a round the world ticket online with one of the airline alliances (groups of airlines). But I would really, really recommend checking in with a specialised RTW travel agent first.
Because travel agents specialising in round the world flights have contracts with airlines and wholesale suppliers, and connections with other agents around the world. They can often dig up the kind of dirt cheap international flights you'd never be able to find on your own.
But if round the world tickets aren't what you're after and you just want to know the tricks to cheap air travel, you're still on the right page.
The tips here could save you a bundle!
Not quite sure what your plans are?
Even if changing your airline ticket after you've left home is possible, it will likely not come cheap. And if you're backpacking around the world on a shoestring, the last thing you need is to burn money along the way.
So, work out where you want to fly to and how long you think you'll stay, and then give yourself at least a day or two buffer if you can squeeze in the extra time.
Hoping for cheap last minute airline tickets to pop up is not your best strategy.
Yes, sometimes you can get discount flights very close to departure, but these are more the exception than the rule. On most international and low cost airlines, the earlier you book the better the deal.
There is such a thing as booking too early, though — few airlines discount their seats 10 months in advance!
Begin your search about 2-3 months before you plan to leave. Then, keep an eye on the prices for a while (they can fluctuate quite a bit from day to day) and check back regularly for unexpected sales.
Don't panic if there's a sudden, massive fare increase one day and you've still got 6-8 weeks to departure. Chances are the price will drop again.
But international fares are more likely to go up than down starting at about 4-6 weeks from your travel date. So as soon as you see a great deal, grab it!
It's amazing how even very cheap airline ticket prices skyrocket in the high season and during major holidays — often they more than double (when prices at your holiday destination do, too)!
If you really do need to travel at peak times of the year, flying on the most festive days (such as Christmas Day or New Year's Eve) will save you some cash.
You can often discover very cheap international flights by playing around with different departure times and dates. You'll usually bag a much better bargain by flying:
I know, I know. Flying direct is convenient, a lot more comfortable and it saves time. But it doesn't save you money!
Your absolute cheapest airfare, especially on long-haul international flights, will probably include a connection or even an overnight layover.
But this can be a good thing! Look into extending your stopover for a day or two (it might even be free) and use the opportunity to visit the city en route.
The most frequented routes aren't always the cheapest. Pull out a map and have a good look at where you're starting from and where you want to go.
What are some of the places you could stop off at?
See if any airlines are offering special promos to certain cities along the way and which low cost airlines fly to or from nearby destinations.
Budget airlines fly into smaller airports and airports farther out of the city for a reason — they're less congested and the landing fees are lower, so it's a lot cheaper!
On a recent trip to Sicily, by flying into a small town on the west coast of the island rather than into the main city of Palermo, I pretty much halved the price of my plane ticket!
To save this kind of money, all you need to do is get a list of airports in the area you want to fly to and compare prices for each one.
But be sure to research your local travel options before booking any cheap international flights to far-flung destinations. It can sometimes be difficult or expensive to get into town from an obscure airport, especially late at night.
Surface travel by train, bus, boat, truck, donkey or camel* between cities and even countries can be pretty tiring but it's also a lot of fun. You not only get to see the countryside, but you also meet fascinating people and experience a bit of their culture.
Plus, it's an inexpensive way to travel and a clever money-saving strategy when you're chasing the cheapest airfares.
Say you're in Laos and you want to fly to Nepal but you can't find any cheap international flights from Vientiane. Head to Thailand. Bangkok, a top departure point for discount airline tickets in South East Asia, is only a 12-hour train ride away (which you can do overnight)!
*Don't worry. I'm just kidding about the camel.
If you're like me, you might have a few frequent flyer miles clocked up here and there with various airlines.
I never manage to accumulate enough miles on one membership fast enough, though, so most of my points end up expiring before I can actually use them.
Yes, I realise that's kind of a waste. But for me it's usually not worth paying more for a flight just to get the extra miles.
In any case, it's always worth checking your frequent flyer accounts to see if you've got anything redeemable. If not, at least remember to collect your points when you check in for your flight!
It does take a bit of thought, time and effort to uncover the really cheap international flights. I often monitor a dozen sites or so for several weeks before I buy a ticket.
Still, when you're talking about saving hundreds of dollars (that you could spend on lots more exciting things) I'd say it's definitely worth it!
And where exactly do you track down the cheapest airfares?
You'll find the answer to that (and pick up even more tips) right below:
How to Get Your Hands On the Cheapest Airfare
Surprising Secrets to Cheap Plane Tickets