Finding the cheapest and most suitable flight remains one of the biggest struggles for travelers who are planning to travel for a few months or more.
With numerous flight search engines and website around, all claiming to find the cheapest flight, which one can you really trust?
I answer this question in chapter three of my eBook, which you can download for free!
When you plan to travel for an extended time and depending on what your travel schedule looks like, you have two options when it comes to booking your flights:
1) Book all flights separately
2) Book a round-the-world (RTW) ticket
Booking flights separately
Before you book your flights, you want to make sure you find the cheapest flight first.
Finding the cheapest flights
For long distance flights, such as trans-Atlantic, transpacific or Euro – Asia routes I recommend Kayak and Skyscanner. Both are major flight search engines. I personally like Kayak, because it has some helpful features such as:
-Flexible Dates: you can make your dates flexible, enabling you to find the cheapest date to fly
-Filter by Alliance: this is very helpful if you want to build up miles within a certain airline network
-Save your Trip: planning a trip can be a time consuming process so it’s nice to be able to save a trip and look into it again at a later time
-Set Price Alerts: prices tend to fluctuate over time. By setting an alert, Kayak will let you know if the price drops below the price you’ve set.
Skyscanner is great because you can search by country rather than airport. These search engines will not only give you prices, but also links to the different booking sites where you can book your flight.
TIP: Once you’ve found the cheapest flight, always check the website of the airline. Sometimes the price is lower than the search engine indicates.
One problem with these search engines is that most of the time they will only show you itineraries that you can book as a package. I.e., itineraries consisting of flights within the same airline alliance or with airlines that have a code-sharing agreement. This means that you book with one airline, but some of the flights might be operated by other airlines.
Using this method ensures that you luggage will always be checked through to your final destination and that you’ll receive all the boarding passes when you check in for the first flight.
It doesn’t however, guarantee the lowest price. The reason is that there might be a cheaper option by combining two or more flights operated by airlines that do not have a code sharing agreement.
Google has a great tool for finding itineraries that include non-codesharing flights. It’s called Matrix Airfare Search. It’s a bit trickier to use, but if you are serious about finding the cheapest flights it’s a must.
Intra continental flights
For flights within the same continent you should always check if there are low-cost airlines. These often don’t show up in the major flight search engines.
MORE INFORMATION: Wikipedia has a great overview of all low cost airlines worldwide.
TIP: after you’ve booked your flight, check how much it cost to change or cancel the ticket. Now set a price alert on Kayak on your flight, if it drops more then the cancelation fee, you’re better off changing or canceling the ticket and rebooking.
Flights within Europe
The European market is the most complicated one when it comes to low cost airlines. Over 30 low cost airlines operate the continent, many of them using small airports instead of the big hubs. Finding the cheapest flight can be tricky and it often pays off to be flexible in terms of location and date.
A good site to find a low cost flight is Which Airline. It not only scans all low cost airlines, it also let you search by country in addition to airport.
Flights within South America
You are absolutely right. Finding the cheapest flight can be very complicated. But don’t worry, there is an easy solution for all this. Instead of spending hours trying to find the cheapest flight with no guarantee of success, why not leave it to the experts?
At Flightfox you can launch a contest to flight search specialists to find you the cheapest flight. Once you selected the winner, you’ll pay a finders fee. You can choose how much you want to pay, typical finder fees range from $25 to $100.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with booking flights and your itinerary is somewhat complicated with no direct flights available, I recommend you use this service. There is a very high probability that the experts will find you a cheaper flight that more than compensates for the fee! Plus, you save yourself time and possibly some frustration.
Choose the right seat
Not all seats are created equal. Ever been in a non-reclining middle seat on the last row right next to the bathroom? Bad news if you want to get some sleep.
So before you book a flight, check which seats are best at www.seatguru.com. You can also see what amenities are available. Does it have a personal entertainment screen? Electrical outlet to charge your phone, laptop or Ipad? WIFI on board?
TIP: After you’ve selected your seat, you can still change it. One day before your flight, go online and re-evaluate your seat. Now that more seats are filled up, you might want to choose a different one, for example, one next to an empty seat.
When traveling with another person, never book the middle seat. Always book the aisle seat and the window seat. No one wants to sit in the middle, so good chance it won’t get booked. Now you have three seats for the two of you. Especially nice if you are a couple and it’s a long flight ;-). If someone does book the middle seat, that person will always be willing to swap it for the aisle seat so that you can sit next to your travel companion.
Book a Round The World ticket (RTW)
Round the world tickets provide a number of advantages:
-Great Value: if you plan your trip well, you can achieve significant savings compared to booking all flights separately.
-Time Frame: you typically get a full year to use the ticket
-Flexibility: you can change flights whenever you want and it’s free. You can even change your complete schedule, although you will be charged a fee for this.
-Opportunity: RTW tickets are priced by segment or mileage. This means that the price is not dependent on demand. Hence, you can fly to destinations that would otherwise be off limits due to price considerations.
-Mileage: Booking a RTW ticket is a great way to build miles as you’ll be flying with the same network. This way you can reach an airline status level quickly.
Where can I book a RTW ticket?
All three major airline networks offer round the world tickets. They have specially developed trip planners that help you create your itinerary:
How much does an RTW cost?
Depending on your schedule, most RTW tickets will cost between $3000 – $5000. A lot of money, but you typically get up to 16 flights so the cost per flight is usually quite good, specially if you select a lot of long haul flights.
MORE INFORMATION: Chris Guillebeau wrote an excellent post on how to book a RTW
This article is a chapter from my eBook “Ten Small Steps, One Giant Leap.” You can download the full eBook for FREE by signing up for my newsletter below!
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