How to Find the Cheapest Flights - The Knowledgeable Nomads Airfare Guide
By Rick A. Griffith
Photo Credit- JD l Photography
The most common complaint I hear from fellow “wanna be” travelers, is that traveling is just too damn expensive. This post is part three of my “Knowledgeable Nomads” series, where I will be helping to disprove this myth and showing readers just how cheap travel can really be.
In the past two posts, I've covered a wealth of information designed to help get these “wanna be” travelers off their butt and onto the road. First off, I covered the preliminary steps one must take to begin to prepare to travel in “Five Tips For Quitting Your Job & Traveling the World While Making Money”.
From there I spoke to you about how once on the road, travelers can utilize the sites mentioned in part 2’s “How To Live Anywhere In the World For Free”, to find free places around the world to live in exchange for a little elbow grease.
Photo Credit- VisualPanic
Today I will cover a topic which I personally obsess over and have learned how to manipulate to my advantage over the years. After all, as a budget minded traveler, shelling out hundreds if not thousands of dollars for airfare sure stings like hell and has driven me to do extensive research on loopholes in this industry. In this post I hope to help save you all some loot and provide real life, actionable solutions that will help you on your next voyage.
The Nearby Location Strategy
To start, I’d like to take a question from a reader asking precisely about this topic. This is a perfect example of how one can save by flying to nearby locations in getting to their ultimate destination.
Calum writes, “I'd love to go over to the states to lend a hand with some of the work away opportunities, but from Scotland flights are £600 right now. So I'd just be looking for some advice on cheap travel.”
£600, what is that these days like 3 grand? All joking aside, I believe I can help you out here. Luckily I recently booked a flight from the US to Europe and I have fresh in my mind the best strategies for doing so. I personally booked a flight from Miami to Dusseldorf for around $445 with all taxes and fees included.
Do I live in Miami? No. Is my destination Dusseldorf? Nein. I am coming from Scottsdale, AZ and heading to Sicily. So why the roundabout route you ask?
Keep in mind I am booking a one way ticket in this example, we’ll talk about why later.
Let’s look at this plan. If I were to simply go on Kayak.com right now and check a rate from Phoenix, AZ to Palermo, Sicily, the rate that pops up is…. Wait for it….. $1328 on what is advertised as a “Select Carrier” whatever that means.
How about the route I chose $115 flight from PHX to MIA, where I will hang out on south beach for a day, before hoping on a flight to Dusseldorf which cost me $445. This wasn’t even the cheapest available option, however I just wanted to hang out in Miami and it was similar in cost. Once arriving in Dusseldorf, I will then catch a flight two days later to Palermo, Sicily via Ryan Air for a total of $39
$445+$115 +$39 = $600. Not only that but I get to see 3 cities instead of just one.
In using this method yourself, it is possible to find very good deals. Let’s assume you are flying into NYC to start your journey in the states on the east coast. By taking a local airline like RyanAir or EasyJet the Heathrow in London, you can book a ROUNDTRIP flight right now for $592, not bad. In comparison to your example of £600 which is roughly $1,000 at todays conversion rate, this is a much more attractive option.
I always recommend that if you are unsure how long you want to travel however, to buy a one way ticket. Nothing puts a damper on a good time more than knowing that you must either fly home, or pay a massive change fee on your plane ticket. I’d rather pay a slight premium and have the flexibility to come and go as I please.
With that being said, keep in mind that you may many times need a plane, bus or ferry ticket, proving you will be leaving the country within 90 days. The cheap local airlines are great for this as you can simply book a $40 ticket to a neighboring country, however if coming to the states you may want to look into a cheap Canadian bus ticket or something of the sort as there aren’t any true discount airlines in the US.
Photo Credit- Formal Fallacy
The Discount Airline Strategy
Here is some advice, always know that most times there are discount airlines around the world that offer cheap flights, they are just harder to find and not advertised on the large Airline websites or search sites. Here are some of my favorites and the areas they cover.
Spirit Airlines- Central America, South America, The Caribbean, North America
I cannot say enough about Spirit. Top notch discount airline which provides a better experience than most non discount airlines. Here is an example of a rate that I am going to pull up right now. Two weeks from today, LAX to Medellin, Columbia for $149 each way. I live in Phoenix and I can’t even drive to LA for that much. These guys are great! With how much I give these guys props, I should get free flights on Spirit Airlines. Marketing team, I’m looking at you guys, shoot me a message!
Air Berlin- Europe, North America
Cheap flights, no BS fees and easy connecting flights from the airports they service. They continually offer the lowest prices from NYC, MIA and LAX to places like Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich, Rome and even Milan which from these location it is easy to then find cheap connecting flights to your final destination. Sometimes you must book the cheapest rate on Kayak and not on their website however.
Cheap Ass flights throughout Europe. Nothing more, nothing less. There will be extra charges for everything sure, however if you pack nothing more than a carry on, which is all you should need anyways, you will be just fine. Sure there are horror stories of lost bags and bad service, the flights costs $30, what do you expect? You can go to work in a Ferrari or take the bus, but one will cost you a bit more…
It is a jet and it is easy, what more do you want? EasyJet offers a similar product to what you would expect with RyanAir on flights throughout Europe
Virgin America- US
I wouldn’t exactly call them a discount airline and the flights and service are certainly top notch, but Virgin also has some pretty awesome specials once in a while and it is worth checking out.
Jet Blue- US
Haven’t used them personally, and have heard mixed reviews. Price is right it seems…
United Express- US
You can find some decent deals if you don’t mind riding in the planes that aren’t necessarily 777’s. Not saying that they’ll throw you on a puddle jumper, but the bombardier planes (I believe there called) offer cheap flights throughout the US. I believe I found a SEA to PHX fare for around $54.00 on here, not bad.
You will notice I neglected to mention Asia, India, Africa, ect. I have not traveled there as of yet and do not want to comment outside my expertise. I’ve heard that JetStar and Air Arabia are great in these countries, but can neither confirm nor deny this (said it like a politician).
The Intelligent Gringo Strategy
One helpful hint I learned while traveling in South America is that there is a local’s price and a Gringo price for everything. Airfare seems to be no different. Upon hearing about this rumor a buddy and I went on a local airlines website to check out fares. He went on the Spanish speaking site and set his “home” country as Chile, while I was unknowingly honest and set mine as the US.
Come to find out that when the time came to book the tickets, mine cost over $330 more than his. I then learned that by going on the site in a local country and being able to navigate through the site in Spanish, or with the help of a local, it is possible to book trips even as a gringo on the country’s site you are in. That little $330 lesson will always remain fresh in my mind before I select the US as my country of origin in the future on airline websites.
These are just a few of the tips and tricks one can use to save quite a bit of money on airfare. There are many others tips and methods one can use to travel around the world with ease and on the cheap, but these should give you a nice primer for some exploration.
I will be releasing a travel e-book in the coming month or so which will cover all the tips and tricks I employ to get even lower rates on airfare. I can’t necessarily post these for everyone to see as I don’t want the airlines to wisen up and fix the glitches! Keep your eyes out for this, as well as the next part of the “Knowledgeable Nomad” series where I’ll discuss among other things, packing for the road, picking a location and getting the most bang for your buck in any city. Until then…