How to shop for cheap air tickets?

Air tickets have been one of our most expensive expenses as we are nomadic family with members scattered across multiple continents, oceans, countries, cities, and time zones.

Some useful tips on how to buy cheap air tickets:

  1. Search for flights Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon or evening or in the morning. In an average week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays tend to be the cheaper flight days, while mid day flight timings like 2-6pm will also be cheaper.
  2. Fly on Wednesdays, I observed that the fare of Wednesday flights was cheaper for e.g. JetStar.
  3. Don’t search for flights in the weekend, because “airlines know that’s the most convenient time for people to think about vacation plans, so they markup their prices then
  4. Clear out your cache and cookies in between airline searches, especially on different days or weeks. Otherwise, old prices will sometimes display in lieu of new ones, and you may miss out on the best price.
  5. Browse privately or use New Incognito Window.
  6. Safety 1st! Check the reputation of airlines e.g. (Thank you Megan Snedden). Life is always precious.
  7. Choose flexible flight dates and times.
  8. Check social media (facebook, twitter) for special sales or promo code (if any).
  9. Use fare comparison websites e.g. Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Skyscanner, ITA software by Google.
  10. Compare rates for one and two passengers, some airlines offer special fares for a pair of travelers.
  11. Instead of searching for round-trip tickets, search for two one-way tickets separately. Sometimes purchasing separate tickets on unaffiliated carriers will save you money.
  12. Consider alternative transports. “One example is to perhaps fly to Shenzhen instead, then use the ferry/bus to continue on to Hong Kong. A slightly longer journey but it will definitely be wallet friendly.
  13. Park and fly. Some airlines have a monopoly on airports, allowing them to charge more.
  14. Search for red-eye flights and other unpopular times. Because of supply and demand, it is going to be more expensive to fly during a convenient time like 10 a.m. than in the middle of the night at 11 p.m.
  15. Shop as though you are from another country if flying from one international location to another international location. You may save even more by not purchasing in your home country. For example, let’s say you are an American and you want to fly from Thailand to Vancouver, Canada. Your best bet to search for prices in Thailand, not the US, as this fare is best priced from that market. US booking engines typically give a higher price.
  16. If you have extra time and energy, connecting flights are usually cheaper than direct flights [1].
  17. If traveling around the holidays, know it is generally cheaper to fly on the holiday itself. People generally want to relax on holidays, and not deal with the hassles of air travel, so tickets are sometimes cheaper then. For example, the maternal grandparents of Little Prince flew on Xmas 2015, happy green panda is flying on New Year Eve (20151231).
  18. Take last-minute trips. Airlines are known to cut prices when they can’t fill planes for an upcoming weekend trip. This was a hint I learned from a Mexican senior in my UK almamater, who has worked as an academia in UK, Korea, China.
  19. Be a frequent flier if you travel often or use a credit card that is tied to the airline.
  20. I normally prefer the last row seats, unless I have no checked-in luggage(s). Avoid front seats as bassinets are often there and seats near wings (engines/oil) as they can be noisy. However, if you are traveling with an infant, you can request for a free bassinet (and the accompanying extra leg room of the front seat) as Little Princess’ maternal grandfather enjoyed in Autumn 2016 [2].

See also the end of this email.

Good luck!


This post was revised on 20151229, 20160102, and the subsequent dates.

[1] On 20161213, I learned from an efficient lady who contributed significantly in recruiting me that return multi-stop ticket from Australia to Europe via our residential city (ORC) is cheaper than buying separate tickets for flying (i) from Australia to ORC and the return, (ii) from ORC to Europe and the return.

[2] I remember clearly that he had a leg cramp when flying across Indian Oceans on Qantas, and I was concerned of deep vein thrombosis.


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