I get a whole heap of people ask me about flights and how to find cheap deals, so I’ve written an extremely basic, (but somehow still long,) guide on how I search for my own flights. I’ve tried not to drone on too much, but I also want to add enough detail that it makes sense.
The main key to saving yourself money when it comes to flights, is to be flexible. The more flexible you are, the more money you’re likely to be able to save. Sometimes the difference in the price of a flight just one or two days earlier or later than the date you intend to fly, will be huge.
If you are extra, super flexible, the best savings can be found when you’re willing to stop off in another country on the way to your destination. For example, a few years ago, when I wanted to fly from Melbourne to India, the cheapest flights I could find for the time I wanted to go, were $1200 AUD (About £660.) A quick search using the Skyscanner trick (which I’ll teach you in a second,) returned results for a $98 flight to Thailand. (£54.) When I checked the cost of flights from Thailand to India, there were a few on there for just $58!! (Which is less than £32!) That’s a total saving of $1044, which translates to £574!!
Similarly, I found return flights Melbourne to Heathrow for £1200, but managed to end up paying £600 for a round trip, with a 3 day stop off in Bali on the way back to the UK and a week long holiday in Bali on the way back to Melbourne.
You’re not always going to make savings that huge, but the more flexible you are, and the more patient you are when searching, the more chance you stand!
How do I find these cheap flights?
Skyscanner is my best friend. Most people I’ve spoken to seem to use Skyscanner already, or have at least heard of it, but quite a few people don’t know about a few simple little Skyscanner tricks which result in cheaper airfare!
So…. I’ll use the upcoming Rio Carnival as an example to show you how it works. I’ll just use a one way flight, as it’s easier to explain. (I’ll literally be looking for these flights as I write this blog post!)
You want to book a flight from London to Rio De Janeiro on the 23rd February - so you search ‘London’ to ‘Rio De Janeiro’ on Skyscanner and input ‘23rd February’ as your departure date. The results come back and the cheapest flight is £1253. (Carnival pushes flight prices up a LOT!)
£1253 is a huge amount of money for a flight - especially considering that’s just the cost of a one way. You desperately want to go, but £1253 is far too much.
Step one is to see if it’s cheaper to fly on a different date. When you’re searching for a flight, instead of looking for a specific date, in the Depart’ box, click ‘Whole Month’ and choose to search the whole of February instead of just the 23rd.
If you’re not aiming to fly somewhere for a specific event, and you’re completely flexible, you can click the ‘Cheapest Month’ box to see when the very cheapest time to go is!
Already, in the search results, you can see that flying to Rio just one day later would save you £312!
Although it’s quite a big saving, £941 is still pretty expensive just for a one way ticket - we can try to bring those costs down further by looking at alternative routes to get there.
There are two ways to do this. (They’re basically the same method, but in forward and reverse!) You either want to:
1 . Find some really cheap places to fly to from the UK, and then work through them to see if any of the destinations will allow you to fly on to Rio at a good price.
2. Work out which destinations will have the cheapest flights to Rio, and then work through those to see if there are cheap flights from the UK to any of these places.
Today, we’ll be using the second option, and searching in reverse!
Go back to your search page on Skyscanner. In the ‘From’ box, type ‘Rio De Janeiro.’ In your destination box, you want to type ‘Everywhere.’ This will bring up a list of the cheapest places that you are able to fly to from Rio. It may seem silly, but this will give us a good idea of destinations that will have the lowest cost flights to Rio. When you hit ‘Search,’ (still using ‘Whole Month’ in your departure date,) this is what the result page will look like…
Here’s where a bit of geography knowledge comes in handy, and speeds up the process a bit, as you can almost always work out which of these places will be the cheapest to get to from the UK. Seeing as Portugal is the closest country to us, it’s likely our best option.
So now, we search ‘Portugal’ to ‘Rio De Janeiro’ to make sure the costs are just as low if you’re making the reverse journey.
Sometimes it will take you a while to have a bit of a play about with some different destinations, and work out the cheapest route! Quite often you find a really cheap flight from X to Y, but the flight from the UK to X works out even more expensive than the original flight from the UK to Y! It’s definitely a patience game!
This time round, it’s worked in our favour, and we can see that there is a fight from Lisbon to Rio on February 23rd for just £244.
The last step now, is to make sure we can get to Lisbon for a low enough cost that it doesn’t bump our overall flight costs back up to the original flights we were looking at. Again, make sure you’re using ‘Whole Month’ in the search box!
Our search results show that you can fly to Lisbon on the 23rd of February for just £41. The cheapest flight to Rio was also on the 23rd February, so it is very important to make sure the flight times check out! You don’t want to be landing in Lisbon at 9pm at night when your flight to Brazil was at 1pm. Our flight to Lisbon is an early morning one, and the flight from Lisbon to Brazil is an evening one, which leaves enough time to collect baggage and go back through security.
That means, we’ve managed to get flights from London to Brazil down from £1253, to £285. That’s a ridiculous saving of £968, simply because we were a little flexible, and open to flying from a different airport. As it turns out, the cheapest flights ended up being on the 23rd February anyway - the original date we were looking at.
I mainly use these for general ‘X to Y’ searches to compare the prices I’ve found on Skyscanner. They do have some quite handy search features, similar to the ones on Skyscanner, but I’ve always had the best results using the method shown above.
It’s definitely worth getting the app ‘Hopper.’ Especially if you’re too impatient to go through the whole Skyscanner process. I’ve been using this app for a while, and it’s pretty much always spot on. Just type in your destination, and when you’d like to go, and the app will search flights, and tell you when to book, and how much the prices will go up or down if you wait!
I’m also signed up to lots of flight deal websites, which means I get daily or weekly emails or Whatsapp messages with crazy flight offers. There are lots to choose from, but I specifically recommend Jack’s Flight Club and Holiday Pirates for having the best deals!
Hopefully this will be vaguely useful to at least somebody out there! There are obviously lots more little tips and tricks, but the Skyscanner method is the main method I use when looking for flights. Good luck!x