The Ultimate Guide To Discount Travel
My hobby is finding amazing travel deals. Business class flights heavily discounted. 5 star hotels that errantly price their rooms too low etc. These are the moments I live for. It’s a hobby I’ve dedicated countless hours to, and I love sharing tips on how you can score the same amazing deals.
Types of Deals
There are many different sorts of deals. Loosely classified, I’ve broken these into two groups.
The holy grail of bargains are error fares. Exactly as they sound, this is when an airline or hotel chain simply type the wrong price into their listing. Usually they catch them quickly, but while it’s listed, it’s free to book.
If you find an error fare, book it immediately. Errors only last a very short period of time. It could be minutes, maybe hours. Don’t miss an error fare, they are what travel hackers live for!
Error fares are honoured 90% of the time. Like a recent business class airfare Vancouver to Melbourne return for only $700. The airlines figure it’s better to be talked about in a positive light, then face angry customers.
The best Flight errors sites are:
Hotels also make errors. I find most of my hotel error deals here:
Note: Hack The Flight deals appear in my browser as push notifications. They can be distracting, but for computer addicts like myself, they are a godsend.
Sales & Clearance Deals
Other times Airlines & Hotels simply need to clear flights, or promote their brand. In New York we scored a $65 deal from NYC to Dublin. The flight was from Norwegian Airlines, promoting their regional airport and bus service. It was a brilliant experience, worth every penny.
Sale fares are not only discount stock. Around the world fares are also common, including Business Class. Virgin is famous for ridiculously good business class world fares. Subscribe to their newsletter to be kept in the loop.
For those who like to learn, checkout this forum:
Business Class: flyertalk.com/forum/premium-fare-deals-740/
Economy Class: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mileage-run-deals-372/
Australian’s keep an eye on: OzBargain Travel
Cheapest Day to Fly
When you do find a deal fare, you’ll often have to massage the dates to suit your schedule. Know in advance you will be able to do this, but you’ll need to put in some effort. Not all days are the same, an prices will vary depending on demand.
One trick I love is using Google Flights to scan for the cheapest days to fly. Keep in mind, Google flights is in US dollars (usually) and will often not see the sale fares you find. Use this tool to find the cheapest days to travel the route you are researching.
The above picture shows Google Flights in action. You can quickly scan the prices for every day of the month. This is also great for researching average prices, seasonality and connection flights.
Myths about discount deals
There’s a lot of disbelief around travel hacking. Let me assure you, it’s all myth. A ticket is a ticket, there’s nothing past that. Below I’ve covered a few of the objections (myths) I hear often.
- They will give me crappy seats
Absolutely false. The person working the desk doesn’t know what you paid, only that you have a valid booking. Sure, if you book a discount airline, don’t expect silver service. You will be treated like every other customer.
- They will cancel last minute on me
Once the airline issues your tickets, you are golden. This is when you know you are set, once the ticket arrives, it is yours to keep.
- I won’t get the frequent flyer points
Once you have the ticket, check the airfare class. This tells you how they grade your flight, and if you get 50%, 100%, 200% or 300% worth of miles. Each airline is different, but a quick Google and you’ll work it out.
- Return Flights are always cheaper
This certainly use to be true. Now computer price modelling has taken over the airlines, many bargain one way fares. Whilst not as common, always checkout one way flights just to be sure.
In my experience the people that put up the most objections, are the people who put in the least effort. By very nature of you reading this, you are better than that. Please leave a comment about any deals you score. Show them how easy it is.
What skills do I need?
- Patience. Patience. Patience
Pricing specials don’t miraculously appear when you ask for them. You have to start looking ahead of time, and be patient enough to let them materialise. In 2017 we flew an 11 leg flight for under $1,000*. This took me over 3 months of searching to piece together. Be prepared to look daily for a while.
*11 leg flight: Cancun, Vancouver, New York, Dublin, Munich, Zurich, St Remy, Malaga, Barcelona, Lisbon, Toronto
- Know your goals & your prices
If you spend just 5 minutes every day studying deals, you’ll soon learn what is a good, great and incredible deal. You’ll also know when to act. I recommend you write a bucket list of places to visit, and your availability therein. When a deal comes up, pounce like a tiger.
- Have you passport & credit card details on you always
When a sale fare arises, you may have mere minutes to book it. Always have access to both your details, and that of likely travel partners. I strongly recommend buying the password and detail keeper “1password“. This handy iPhone & Desktop app saves you time and money by storing your personal details, website logins, memberships and credit cards all in one secure place.
- TripIt app
Easily the best travel app, and it’s FREE. Tripit allows you to store all your booking information in one place. Recommended to all travellers.
View Trip It here
- Noise Cancelling Headphones
Spend good money on good headphones. I strongly recommend the Bose QuietComfort 25s. I own these myself, and they make flying a dream. They block out all the outside engine noise, leaving you alone to your thoughts… or some sweet tunes.
- A curious mind
Finally, keep an open mind. Many people are too ‘A to B’ oriented. Open your mind and consider a longer flight path, and you’ll find a world of opportunity. At the time of writing this I could buy a flight from NYC to Melbourne (Australia) for around $1,500. Alternatively, I could fly NYC to Bangkok for $600 + $200 to Melbourne. This flight not only gives me a nice stop in BKK, but also goes through Shanghai on the way home, allowing for a quick stopover to explore.
Frequent Flyer Points
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to own a business to earn millions of frequent flyer points. In fact, if you earn $45k per year, you have more than enough to make it rain points. The trick to point usage is making sure you spend them on upgrades. Once you factor in taxes, upgrade flights net you a much higher rate of return. Find out more here: Point Hacker
How do you make points?
There’s lots of ways to score a handful of points. Things like your shopping flyer cards will bring in a little each year. However there is one way that all point hackers swear by… credit cards.
Taking advantage of the credit card signup deals can net you 500,000 even a 1,000,000 points per year. Simply follow one of the many sites that outlines credit card details, and signup to the best value ones. In many instances, they waive the first year fee. Simply signup, meet their purchase goal (eg. $1,000 in the first 3 months), and then cancel the card. It’s easy!
Most point hackers will signup to the same credit card every 12 to 24 months, depending on the T&C of that company.
Now contrary to popular belief, having multiple credit cards does not damage your credit rating. In fact some studies have shown it increases it. What you want to ensure, is you always pay it off in time.
Best credit card deal sites:
You might also want to consider a service like ‘I Fly Flat‘. I’ve talked to their CEO, Steve Hui. His business is based around making point saving easy for you. Their team also helps plan your future trips. So if you know you need to get to a specific location, they will set you up with a plan to save the points for the right airline. They also help you book the fare!
Insurance for Australian’s
This is a MUST have. No questions asked. A decade ago, it saved my friend Kelvin’s life. We were celebrating in a 2nd level bar in Vietnam Vietnam. Kelvin tripped out the window (don’t ask) and fell face first onto the concrete below. It required emergency hospitalisation, business class airfares & 3 rounds of reconstructive surgery to fix him. Insurance covered it all.
In recent times, I’ve cut my leg open paddle boarding. Smashed my laptop & iPhone. Had bags stollen and visited the doctor. All of these have been covered in full my travel insurance. As I said at the start, this is a must have.
Best Travel Insurance for Australians & KiwisWithout doubt, the best and cheapest coverage is from Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI). I’ve researched this extensively, and they always come out on top. Their service is A grade, and they payout super quickly with a minimum of fuss.
Score a 15% discount with SCTI by signing up to their newsletter and watching for promotions. I’ve calculated they run their special roughly once every 3 months. Also keep an eye on OzBargains — SCTI section.
If you are travelling for more than a year without returning home, then you’ll need World Nomads. Look through the discount sites and you’ll find yourself a coupon. They will still be more expensive, and their coverage is not as good as SCTI, but they do cater to nomad travellers like me.
Credit Card Insurance
If you have a good credit card (see point hacking section), then you may already be sufficiently covered for short trips away. Usually less than 3 months is covered with a very high level of cover.
Make sure you read the fine print, and make all your travel bookings through the same card. I also recommend you call them and triple check before you leave. If something goes wrong, you want to know who to contact and how to claim.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. Read my other article about how travel hacking across the world changed my life. I found my paradise in the Caribbean, who knows what it will bring you. I encourage you to open your eyes, see the world, and experience everything life has to offer.
If you liked these tips, please leave a comment below. I also encourage any feedback or recommendations for update to this article.
Travel well friends.
Originally published at joshstraw.com on October 16, 2017.