As summer vacations are right around the corner (despite the recent snowfalls), there are plenty of options for students to consider when it comes to vacations. If part of your vacation plans require air travel, then this read can hopefully save you some of the time and money you spend with air-travel. Last year was one of the most adventure-filled years I’ve had as I embarked on long-haul trips to the Southern Hemisphere. Over the years, I have gained some little bits of wisdom about booking flights and hunting for flight bargains. Here are my top hacks for finding the optimal flight.
Ironically, as we speak of summer vacations, certain summer months such as July and August have some of the highest airfares due to the large crowd of travellers in this time. The best part of being a student is the flexibility that comes with travelling. Instead of booking summer trips, winter, spring or fall vacations tend to have lower fares. Oftentimes, the least popular time to travel follows peak seasons such as August and December. Therefore flights in September and January tend to reach all-year lows.
If your priority is keeping budgets low and maximizing the value of your vacation, reducing your travel items to just a personal backpack can significantly reduce the cost of your airfare. Ultra-low-cost carriers are a new sensation that has taken Canadian airlines by surprise. For example, Flare is one of the low-budget airlines that offer flights at sometimes one-third of the cost of Westjet offerings.
Book flights four months in advance
While there is no golden equation to find the optimal time to book a flight before departure, typically between a two- to four-month window can provide dramatic reductions in cost of airfare. The closer to the date of departure you decide to book a flight, the higher the airfare.
As a student traveller, I often don’t have a specific destination in mind, so watching and waiting patiently for the optimal airfare can be ideal for me. This year, having the opportunity to visit Miami after one low budget airline announced this new destination allowed me to explore a new area despite it not being in my travel bucket list. Keeping your options open also makes vacations pleasantly surprising and spontaneous. Google Flights is one option I use to keep track of low flight options. Other websites worth visiting that make it easier to compare airfare from multiple airlines include:
Double check prices with a different browser
Algorithms that track your digital footprint can change the charge on a flight if many people are searching for the same flight. One optimal way to circumvent this is to search for your flights in incognito or private browsing mode. Whether you’re using Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet explorer there are private browsing modes possible when you open a new window or tab. Once you’ve found the flight you want, try using a different browser and looking again. You can sometimes find better prices on the same flight simply with a different search history.