Strategies to get the cheapest flight
By Patrick Robertson
We are independent budget travellers and had been travelling six months a year for the 10 years prior to the Covid pandemic.
We use a variety of strategies to get the best prices available on transportation, accommodations, insurance, food and beverages and experiences. Over the next year in this column I will give you the tips and hacks you need to save $1,000s on your independent travel.
Airfares can be very high but with a few simple but powerful tips they can be very low and in some cases free. Depending on the day, week or month a seat can be $1,800 one day or $300 on another day.
I use these four different strategies to get the cheapest flight.
- The most important strategy is to be flexible on your travel dates. As budget travellers the dates we leave is not as important as the price.
- Travel in the off or shoulder seasons; it is much cheaper than high season. We find that shoulder seasons are the best. The weather is generally still really good but there are way less people which means cheaper prices for flights and accommodations.
- Actively look for discounted prices and pricing errors through specialty websites. You can find links on budgetslowtravel.com.
- Use a travel loyalty credit card to accumulate points for reduced and free flights. Search on – Compare Credit Cards Canada – to find the latest offers. Many waive the 1st year annual fee and give you bonus signing points.
Airlines use complex algorithms for pricing their seats and seat prices are dynamic and changing frequently. There are two main things to keep in mind for getting the cheapest airfares. Find out what standard fares cost for your flights and know the prime booking times for the cheapest time period for the flights you want.
I follow the prices on special flight tracker websites. You can find them on my Tools page. They are easy to use. I begin looking for fares that are 30-80% less than the standard fare.
For example, a standard roundtrip fare to Europe from Western Canada is about $1,200. I usually pay $500 but have paid a low $250. I begin looking at 12 months out and usually book nine to10 months out. In July, I booked two return business class flights from Calgary to Mexico for $225 each, nine months out. I was able to take advantage of a spot sale and used some credit card loyalty points.
I do not use my points for all our plane travel. Many of the heavily travel routes have great sales so I prefer to pay cash for those flights. Other routes do not have a lot of flights so there is less competition and the flights do not go on sale often. On those flights I use my loyalty points.
The next step is to book a rental car if we need one. Our strategy for renting a car has been refined over 30 plus years of renting cars all over the world. Read next month’s column to find out that strategy and save $100s each trip.
Patrick Robertson is a travel writer and long-time resident of Fernie. He is an expert in planning travel and finding travel deals. Visit our Tool page at www.budgetslowtravel.com/tools for powerful planning tools. Like him on Facebook.