I've just bought the tickets for my second trip to San Diego, so I thought now would be a good time to share exactly what I do to find the best value tickets.
1. Start looking early and set price alerts
I love price alerts. Even if I'm not actively planning something I get weekly emails from my favourite site (Kayak) to multiple destinations. Wherever I'm considering next, this way I can jump on any especially good deals that come up. I love planning (thats a theme thats going to come up quite often, sorry!) so as soon as I know when and where I'm going I start looking at flights, hotels, transport etc. even if it's 6 months in advance. Sometimes, like with Italy, that was very useful. Other times it has meant that by the time I'm packing for the trip it feels like its been draining me. I would recommend you look for flights starting about 3 months in advance. Much more and you may end up buying a ticket that gets cheaper, less and you miss out on the best deals.
It's always easier to find cheap tickets if you can be a little flexible in your departure dates, even just a day can make a difference. For my flights to Los Angeles in June I was restricted by exams the week before my flight, but my return worked out cheaper to book a day later.
3. Incognito Mode
4. Travel Search Engines Vs. Direct from Airline
I usually start by searching for my ideal dates on both Kayak and skyscanner, with +/- 3 days on both if I can, to get an idea of what airline is cheapest and which exact dates are best. After this, I'll choose my airline and check on their website to see if I can book through them for the same price or cheaper than a third party. In this case, I couldn't.
From Kayak today (30/03/18), the cheapest flight was £371 from WOW air, £425 from Norweigan Air and £446 from Air New Zealand.
I booked on Wednesday, (28th) and decided on Air New Zealand for £435. At the time, WOW air was £340, and Norweigan Air hasn't changed.
5. Decide what's important for you
I chose Air New Zealand this time even though it was more expensive than the other options for three main reasons.
Firstly, it is a direct flight. WOW Air included a layover in Reykjavík–Keflavík, this wouldn't have been such a big problem if not for reason number two- baggage.
WOW Air charges for hand luggage, £32.59 each way. Norwegian includes hand baggage but charge extra for hold luggage and for food, or to book your seat. These were £25 each the last time I flew with them, or you could book all three for £50. With Air New Zealand all of those are included in the price of the ticket so worked out much better value.
The third and final reason was the times of the flights. I live a fair distance from London, Heathrow is closer for me than Gatwick, and a 16.15 flight means I can leave home at about 9am and still arrive in time, rather than leaving at midnight for the 06.30 flight.
If I had been happy to travel for a month without any kind of baggage, I may have chosen WOW Air. Layovers aren't a big problem for me personally. I was also quite happy travelling with Norwegian last year (September 2017), however that time the return from London to LA cost £310, so the difference between them and any other competitors was much larger. This time the extra £10 for the convenience was worth it.
6. Book Mid-Week and Choose Your Days Wisely
I booked my flight on Wednesday morning, in the two days since (to Friday morning) the ticket prices have increased an average of £20. I'll update on the prices again on Saturday. It's usually cheapest to fly on days that aren't popular with business trips. For long-haul flights, this means fly out on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday and return Sunday or Monday. I usually go for Sunday flights just because it gives me the Saturday to pack while still maximising my time off during uni breaks. I also prefer to fly overnight if its long-haul. I sleep badly on planes and I find the tiredness helps me settle into the new time zone faster, but if you can sleep while travelling, try to sleep at the right time for your destination, not your origin.
7. Check multiple times a day
I've found just by watching the variation through the day, the tickets tend to be least expensive first thing in the morning, and peak in the evening. This is through sites like kayak or skyscanner since you usually book through a third party. This can be tedious, so if you'd prefer not to its probably the least useful tip.
Now for a little sales pitch (disclaimer), sorry!
We've been flying with Qatar Airways for as long as I can remember to both Australia and Thailand. Whenever I'm looking at flying East I check with them as a habit. Most of my recent trips have been to Europe or America so I haven't used them as much, but flights to the east or southern parts of Africa are covered and they often have great deals. If you're thinking about it do have a click on the banner to the right, the advertising payments help keep my blog running