That was crazy. My girlfriend and I recently booked a ton of flights around the world. We needed to get from Europe to South America, then travel all around South America before heading to the USA and back to Europe before I fly off to India in mid-February.
It’s not usually how we travel – to have 3 months planned out and booked before we arrive – but this time, it was the option that worked best given our tight schedule.
Our Flights Around the World
When we finished all the bookings, I didn’t know what to do. Celebrate? Sleep? Shower?
Here’s what we booked:
– Barcelona to Miami
– Fort Lauderdale to Quito
– Quito to Rio de Janeiro
– Rio de Janeiro to Ushuaia
– Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
– Buenos Aires to Santiago
– Uyuni, Bolivia to La Paz
– Cusco, Peru to Bogota, Colombia
– Bogota to Medellin, Colombia
– Medellin to Fort Lauderdale
– Fort Lauderdale to London
– London to Budapest
– Budapest to Delhi
In 18 years of travel I’ve never booked so many flights in one go!
The Cost of All These Flights
At first glance, it would certainly be understandable to think that the above 13 flights around the world cost us an absolute fortune in total. I still have a difficult time looking at all those flights and not thinking that myself.
However, while that colorful array of air journeys certainly didn’t cost $200, the grand total of those trips…
That’s an average of about $169 per flight. Some of those trips are 1 hour long, others are 14 hours and the rest are in between. And in the end, those flights will take us to 4 different continents over a period of almost 3 months. That’s remarkably inexpensive if you think of what we’re getting for that amount of money.
My Process of Booking Flights Around the World
My usual flight booking process is this:
#1. Check the following websites:
(I know a lot of people use Skyscanner and Momondo but I’ve personally never found a cheaper fare on either of those websites.)
#2. Play around with dates and destinations.
Since my plans are rarely 100% set in stone, I always play around with various dates. I also play around with different orders of the destinations. For example, with our flight from Medellin to Fort Lauderdale, changing the date by one day reduced the price by $90. Going from Rio de Janeiro to Ushuaia and then to Buenos Aires was $150 cheaper than going from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Flexibility is key!
#3. Grouping flights / Multi-city flights
I always try to group flights together. On this South America trip, booking separate flights was more expensive than grouping together Rio to Ushuaia, Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires to Santiago. Grouping those three together in a multi-city search saved us $200. (But booking Uyuni to La Paz, Bolivia was much cheaper on its own. That flight cost $85. When grouped with other flights, it increased the overall price by $130.)
From Cusco, Peru to Medellin, Colombia, it was also much cheaper to group two separate one-way tickets together than to book one complete ticket all the way through. By booking Cusco to Bogota and then Bogota to Medellin, we saved $110.
Here’s another great example: I once needed to fly from Budapest to NYC. The cost of the one-way flight was $650 at the time. I then decided to try and group it together with another flight I knew I needed to take 4 months later – Miami to Delhi. The airfare went down to $625, total! I ended up with two long-distance flights for the price of one.
Grouping random flights is one of the best methods for reducing airfares in my experience.
#4. Check the airline’s website
Once I find the lowest fare from the websites listed above, I’ll generally visit the specific airline’s website to see what they offer directly. Sometimes, the fare is the same or even lower. When that’s the case, I book it on the airline’s website as this takes away the middleman and is much easier to deal with, especially if there’s an issue at some point.
However, sometimes, as was the case with LATAM Ecuador, the fares on their website were MUCH higher than what we could get on Kayak for the same flights. In these instances, I definitely go with Kayak or Orbitz or whichever site offers the lowest fare. While it’s convenient to book directly with the airline, it’s not usually worth a few hundred extra dollars to do so!
If it’s a multi-city/grouped flight, it depends on whether it involves one or multiple airlines. If it’s one airline, it can be booked on the airline’s website and if it’s multiple airlines, it usually needs to be booked through the site offering the deal.
#5. Different languages
Our flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to London Gatwick is with Norwegian Airlines. I saved $37 by going to Norwegian Airline’s Swedish website versus using their English-language website, where the same flight was more expensive.
It’s a little tricky since there are often dozens of different languages you could test for each airline. But I will generally try a couple of versions, usually the native language of the airline and another country nearby, just to see if there is any difference in airfare.
#6. Discount codes
I’ve started doing this with anything I purchase online. Before I confirm the purchase, I’ll do a Google search for the name of the website or company followed by the words ‘discount code’. Something like “TAP Portugal discount code”.
Every now and then I find something that works. Maybe it’s $10 savings, maybe it’s 10% or more. All it takes is a few seconds and you could end up saving some money so it doesn’t hurt to try!
It Takes Time to Find the Best Airfares
Finding good airfares is not really complicated. Sure, there are some tricks involved, but it really just requires time. Search, compare, tweak dates, tweak destinations, group flights together, search again…and again and again.
But if you simply don’t like searching for flights, you might not want to spend as much time as I do looking for deals. I usually spend what my girlfriend describes as ‘way too much time’ trying to find cheaper fares. In the case of our 13 flights around the world above, it really did take us a solid 3 days, searching about 3 hours per day, until we finalized everything.
But we did save over $1200 each based on the total price we started with from our initial searches. I’ll take a $1200 savings any day for a few hours of work over a 3 day period!
The extra research also led to more direct flights, shorter layovers and better departure and arrival times. For me, the extra research is worth it even if all I get is a later flight that doesn’t require me to wake up at 4:00am. Also, I landed three flights in premium economy class (it was cheaper than regular economy for some reason), a bonus I certainly won’t turn down!
What’s the best flight deals you’ve ever found? Any advice to add?