As a full time travel blogger and journalist I am always asked the same question: how do you afford to travel? To many, the concept of travelling seems to be a luxury reserved for our twilight years while to others travel brings up dollar signs and the promise of depleted bank accounts and empty wallets. In my years of travelling, I have found that travel is as expensive as we make it. We can choose between a 5 star hotel or a hostel, can opt for street food over black-tie restaurants, can customise a trip to be on a budget and can save on flights by simply being savvy to these 6 essential travel hacks.
1. Learn to Fly When Others Don’t
When it comes to air travel, author and professional travel writer, Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt, said it best: “a day can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars.” While the convenience of leaving on a Friday afternoon beckons to travellers like a siren’s call, it is the mid-week flights and red-eye hours that will save you money on your ticket. Flight costs fluctuate due to many factors–including oil prices and timing–but it is the load factor that will make or break your wallet. Simply put, airlines want to fill their seats so a prime time trip to Colombia with high demand for tickets will prove more expensive than a half-empty 2 am flight headed towards the same destination. Off hour flights during the week are cheaper because there is less demand for seats (AKA a lower load factor) and, as a result, a drop in ticket prices. The first trick to saving on airfares is learning to opt for travel times that others tend to snub.
2. Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays
The results are in and the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (with Sundays proving the most expensive day to fly). When figuring out when to travel, I like to use Hopper, which pulls up a colour coded calendar where days that are affordable are marked in green vs. expensive days to fly that are marked in red. Even better, Hopper allows a “watch this trip” functionality to alert you when flight prices drop and rise and will help recommend the best time to purchase your flight. As a rule of thumb, the general consensus is that booking a flight 6-8 weeks before a trip is when flight prices will be at their cheapest. Of course, booking a flight is not an exact science and when it comes to holidays you should always throw the 6-8 week rule out the window and book immediately!
3. Sign up for Flight Deals & Alerts
Rather than scour the internet in search of flights, sign up for newsletters that will e-mail deals and flight sales directly to your inbox. My favourite is The Flight Deal, which pulls up any flight deals and provides tips on maximising miles and travel hacking. Airline fire sales will come without warning and often by the time you catch word of it, the flights are booked and website is overloaded–The Flight Deal is a great way to stay on top of these opportunities to save big on airfare.
4. Know the Tricks of Flight Searching
When it comes time to booking a flight, travel bloggers swear by the trick of clearing your internet history and cookies when using flight search engines. It’s been thought that sites like Expedia and Kayak will cookie your search history so that the next time you look up prices from New York to Marrakech it may prove slightly higher than expected. The best trick is to use an incognito window when flight searching.
Similarly, using flight search engines pull up some of the smaller, budget airlines that will not popup on a Orbitz or Expedia search. It is best to compare flight prices across multiple search engines (some of my favourites include Momondo, Skyscanner and Google ITA) to land on the best price for your flight.
5. Use a “Fake Location”
One of the latest travel hacks on the scene is the use of “fake locations,” which can sometimes help lower the cost of airfare. For example, if you are looking for a flight to Peru you can try visiting the airline’s website, let’s say LAN Airlines, and changing the country from USA to Peru. Switching the country you’re purchasing from will change the currency the ticket is bought in and sometimes can yield significantly cheaper flights.
6. Take Advantage of Connecting Flights
Recently, a new level of travel hacking has snagged the attention of the media thanks to Skiplagged.com, a search engine for cheap flights founded by a 22-year old New York programmer. Unlike Skyscanner or Momondo, Skiplagged helps consumers find hidden city tickets–a rather ingenious way of travel hacking and snagging affordable airfare. The idea is this: if you’re on the market for a flight from New York to Chicago for example, Skiplagged will look to connecting flights (such as a New York to Chicago to San Francisco trip) and flyers will buy the itinerary with every intention of missing their connecting flight. The trick rests in the fact that connecting flights tend to be cheaper than direct ones and if you can save on money by simply treating your connecting destination as your final one why not?
For more tips on saving on flights here’s a cool infographic: