Tips and Tricks for Scoring the Best Airfare
Finding the best and cheapest flights to Asia possible may seem a complicated ordeal, but one thing is certain: you want to fly when the least amount of people are in the air. Fewer travelers vying for tickets means that airlines will be desperate to fill seats, and you’ll ultimately discover better deals.
For starters, you'll need to choose the best day of the week to fly -- contrary to the old logic, Saturdays aren't always a bad option. Keep in mind that you'll need to arrive several days before a big festival to avoid jumps in price.
Even the day of the week that you book your flight may have an impact on the final price. Choose wisely, and watch out for electronic tracking tricks used by booking sites.
Don't pay more for a flight than necessary! Savvy travelers use these steps to consistently find the cheapest flights to Asia.
For flights to some specific destinations see:
Choosing the Best Day of the Week to Fly
So, what day of the week is best to fly?
Avoid flying on weekends whenever possible. Many experts agree that the cheapest days to fly are typically Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The logic being that many business travelers set out on Monday and often return Thursday or Friday.
If you must fly on a weekend, Saturday is usually the best day; both business travelers and people on weekend trips will often be returning home on Sundays.
Don't Get Surprised by Festivals
Along with choosing to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, know what’s going on at your destination before you arrive. The week leading up to or immediately following a big festival such as Chinese New Year may cause a short-term jump in airfare and hotel prices. Unless you plan to attend the festival, time your trip around it as much as possible.
Some useful resources for timing your trip to Asia:
- Big festivals in Asia to plan around
Use Anonymous Browsing to Check Flight Prices
For years, booking sites have used a nefarious technical trick to their advantage. Every time you check prices for a flight, you are indicating interest. Check the same flight enough times and booking sites understand that you are serious about taking the trip. They sometimes increase airfares by a marginal amount right before you book. Would you cancel your trip just because ticket prices increased an additional $40?
Although technology has improved even beyond just setting cookies in your browser, you can still try using anonymous browsing when you check flight prices. Try checking prices from a completely different computer on a different network right before you book, just in case.
Establish a Baseline Price
Begin your quest to find the best deal on a flight by establishing a baseline price, then see what it takes to beat that price. Do this by searching for flights directly from your nearest airport to the biggest port of entry at your destination. Now that you’ve got a price to work with, you can begin to try various ways to whittle down the fare.
Some popular airfare search engines for getting a baseline price include kayak.com and skyscanner.com.
- You may want to check the price of two one-way flights instead of a round trip.
Check for Flights from Larger Hubs
If your airport isn’t the largest and busiest in your region, try making the same flight search from other nearby airports. The price may be slightly less, but would it be worth driving an hour to a larger airport just to save $30? With a little luck, you may discover that a budget carrier has a route between major cities with incredible deals.
During this phase of searching for flights, go ahead and check the prices from major cities to your destination in Asia. The cheapest hubs for flights to Asia are typically Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), New York (NYC), and sometimes Chicago (CHI).
Although counterintuitive, flights originating in the US fly west to reach the Far East. The best deals to Asia usually originate on either coast; try searching for flights from LAX or JFK.
See If It's Cheaper to Split the Flight Between Two Carriers
If you’ve found that flights to your destination in Asia are much more inexpensive from a major hub, say LAX in Los Angeles, then you could split your flights. Splitting flights between two different carriers is slightly riskier, but you’ll often save hundreds of dollars if you can work out the timing.
Begin by checking for domestic flights to either JFK or LAX. If you find a flight that arrives early enough in the afternoon, then search for flights that depart JFK or LAX in the evening to your final destination. Allow at least four hours between flights for unforeseen delays; if you miss your international flight, the airline won’t care that a competing carrier is the reason you are late.
Although you’ll need to deal with two separate airlines, you can often save hundreds of dollars just by killing a few hours in the airport! If the savings for splitting your trip between two different carriers isn’t significant, just disregard and go with a single airline to mitigate complication.
Get the Final Price and Book!
Now that you’ve collected all the data necessary to make an informed choice, there’s one final step. If you’ve been using booking engines (e.g., kayak.com) to check for flights, go check for the same exact flight directly on the airline’s website.
Not often, but sometimes, booking sites will add a few extra bucks to a fare; you’ll be able to save the difference by booking directly from the airline. Another good reason to book directly from the airline itself is to eliminate a middle step where something could potentially go wrong. Your seat preferences, frequent flier number, meal preference, or other information may not get passed along to the airline. Should you need to make changes or cancel your trip, you’ll be able to deal directly with the airline rather than going through a booking site caught in the middle.
Experts disagree on what is the best day of the week to book a flight, but all agree that the earlier in the week the better. Some pros recommend booking your flight on either Tuesday afternoon, late Tuesday night, or on Wednesday because of the times when sales are implemented and price databases are updated.
Believe it or not, but booking your flight many months in advance may not work out in your favor. The sweet spot for booking an international flight seems to be between six and eight weeks before departure.