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The cheapest times to fly for Australians

Find out the times, days and months to book so you get more bang for your buck.

Cheap travel isn’t hard to come by if you know when and where to look – and when you’re open to keeping your itinerary flexible.

Booking on and for certain dates in the week, for example, could be all you need to do to shave a couple of bucks off your holiday expenses.

Book in advance or fly during the off season and you could save a even more than a couple of bucks… to spend when you’re away, obviously.

HOT TIP: If you can, tick the "flexible dates" option when searching for flights. This way you can see if flying a day before or after could be cheaper than flying on your nominated date.

Planning a trip soon? Here’s when you should fly to nab a cheap as chips flight:


When to fly in the day

Generally speaking, early morning flights, lunch time flights or late night flights are the cheapest. This is quite possibly because of the lack of transport that some airports offer at these times.

As well as getting a cheap ticket for an early morning flight, if you’re flying locally you could also arrive in your destination earlier, meaning you have more time to explore on your first day. The negative – and possibly another reason why these flights are cheaper – is that if you’re flying further, you’ll likely spend the day in the air.

Meanwhile, the most expensive flights in the day are in the evening between 5pm and 9pm. This timeframe means you can sleep on the plane and won’t have to take the day off work to fly.

To give you an example of how flight prices change throughout the day, this graph is based on airfares for domestic carriers travelling Sydney to Melbourne on Wednesday 6 July 2016. Prices are accurate at the time of writing and times used were taken to the nearest 15 minutes:


When to fly in the week

The best times to fly fall during the working week - particularly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Prices peak on Friday evening and Sunday evening or Monday morning for those looking to go on a weekend getaway without having to cash in their annual leave. If you’ve got the leave to spare or some time in lieu, try and fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, as they’re the least popular days due to them being in the middle of the working week. Saturday is also an option as it’s in the middle of the weekend. Here’s a look at how flight prices change during the week on domestic carriers. The prices used are the lowest prices on each carrier for the week of 3-9 July 2016 flying Sydney to Melbourne.


When to fly in the year

Generally, wherever you’re eyeing the best time to fly to it is during your destination’s off-peak season. This could mean during the monsoon season if you’re headed to Asia, or during winter if you’re headed to an island resort.

If those options don’t appeal to you, work with shoulder seasons (the time just before or after peak season). Sometimes you can get lucky weather-wise and the prices will not be as high as if you flew in during the peak.

Peak season tends to fall during the school holidays, Christmas holidays, days of significance (e.g. Chinese New Year) or snow season (if it’s a popular skiing destination).

Below is a snapshot of the cheapest months to fly to some of the most popular destinations for Australian travellers. Destinations are chosen from ABS data on Australian departures for April 2016. Flight prices have been gathered through Skyscanner by choosing the “cheapest month” option for departures from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The cheapest months to fly to set destinations:

BaliQueenstownAucklandLos AngelesBangkokPhuketLondonTokyoSingaporeNadi (Fiji)Hong Kong
JanuaryYes
FebruaryYesYes
MarchYesYesYesYes
AprilYesYesYes
MayYesYes
June
JulyYesYes
AugustYesYesYesYesYesYes
SeptemberYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
OctoberYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
NovemberYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
DecemberYes

When to book for cheap flights

Timing is everything and when it comes to the booking cheap flights there are times that work better than others. According to Skyscanner, generally, the earlier you book the more you'll save though booking approximately 17 weeks prior to departure can save you up to 5% off flights on many international departures. Some exceptions to this rule include closer destinations like New Zealand and Singapore which you can still get cheaply up to 11 weeks in advance.

A similar pattern follows for domestic flights. Book 15-17 weeks in advance for long-haul domestic (e.g. Sydney to Perth) and you can save up to 25%. Book 5-11 weeks on shorter haul flights (e.g. Sydney to Brisbane or Melbourne to Brisbane) and again, you're looking to save up to 25% off.

As to what day is best to book flights Business Insider suggests the weekends or Tuesday. This is because most business travellers book their weekend trips during the week so weekends are opened up to leisure travellers searching for cheap flights. It's also worth it to keep on top of regular sale periods for specific carriers such as Virgin Australia Happy Hour, Wotif Flyday and Jetstar Friday Frenzy.



Searching for cheap flights?

These are the sales and deals helping you go on that holiday sooner.

Jetstar Domestic Sale. Eg Melb (Av) to Hobart $29. Sydney to Melb $49, Bris to Sydney $49 + more

Jetstar domestic sale. eg Melb (Av) to Hobart $29. Sydney to Melb $49, Bris to Sydney $49 plus more at I Want That Flight. Conditions Apply

Save up to $7750 on Polar voyages

Save up to $7750 on Polar voyages at Flight Centre.

Fly to Bali, Shanghai, Beijing, Thailand and more from $377 return: Asia on Sale

Book economy flights to Bali, Shanghai, Beijing, Thailand and more destinations throughout Asia from just $377 return.

Up to 33% off best travel deals

Get up to 33% off the best travel deals at Lastminute.com.au. Valid on select hotels only. T&Cs apply.

Jetstar Christmas Sale: Flights for $29 & up

Valid on flights January to March and May to June. Sample fares include Melbourne-Hobart for $29, Adelaide-Melbourne for $29 and Sydney-Melbourne for $29.

Fly to Bangkok from $316 return on AirAsia

Available for travel in February to March 2017. Valid for departures in Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast.

Tigerair Sale: Flights for $30, $60 and $90

Valid on flights in February and March. Sample fares include Melbourne-Canberra for $30, Sydney-Gold Coast for $30 and Melbourne-Adelaide for $30.

Fly to Bali, Indonesia from $162 on Jetstar

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Flights from Sydney to Amsterdam $1369 return

Book return fights from Sydney to Amsterdam $1369 at Emirates. Available for travel between 01 Feb 17 – 28 Mar 17.

Fly to San Francisco, United States from $822: Air New Zealand

Book flights to San Francisco, United States from $822 at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in February to August 2017.

Economy flights from $379 return

Book now and save on economy flights from $379 at Helloworld.

Flights to Tokyo from $460 return on AirAsia

Depart Gold Coast from $460, Melbourne from $479, Perth from $515, Sydney from $584 for travel in January and February. T&Cs apply.

Flights to Osaka from $459 return on AirAsia

Book flights to Osaka from $459 return on AirAsia at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in January to February 2017. T&Cs apply.

All flights discounted: 96 Hour Sale

Book now and get all flights discounted with Virgin Australia, Thai and Malaysia Airlines at BYOJet. T&Cs apply.

Return flights to Amsterdam from $1025

Valid 5 April until 22 June. Depart Perth from $1025 return, Melbourne from $1029 return, Adelaide from $1029 return, Sydney from $1043 return, Darwin from $1085 return, Brisbane from $1138 return. Dates may vary slightly by departure city.

Flights to Edinburgh from $1611 return

Available for travel from Sydney in February 2017.

Flights to London from $1502 return

Valid for travel from Sydney in February 2017.

AirAsia 15th Anniversary Sale: Fly from $203 return

Valid on flights until 25 May 2017. See a full list of one way fares here. Sample return fares include Perth-Kuala Lumpur for $203, Melbourne-Bangkok for $323.

Flights from $85: All I Want For Christmas Sale

Valid on flights select dates from January until June. See a full list of fares here. Sample fares include Gold Coast-Sydney for $85, Melbourne-Adelaide for $89 and Brisbane-Mackay for $89.

Fly to Europe from $996 return

Travel dates vary by destination, with flights available until June 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne to London for $996, Sydney to Frankfurt for $1018, Perth to Amsterdam for $1025 and Brisbane to Amsterdam for $1138.

Fly to New Zealand from $219 one-way

Book economy flights to New Zealand from $219 one-way or business class from $459 one-way at Emirates. Available for travel from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne to Auckland and Christchurch between 14 January to 30 March 2017. Conditions apply.

Fly to London from $937 return

Book flights to London from $937 return at I Want That Flight. Available for travel from January 2017 to June 2017 and August 2017. T&Cs apply.

Fly to Athens from $953 return on Etihad Airways

Book flights to Athens from $953 return on Etihad Airways at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in February to April 2017. Conditions apply.

Flights to Madrid from $857 return on Etihad Airways

Book flights to Madrid from $857 return on Etihad Airways at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in February to April 2017. Conditions apply.

Flights to Rome from $886 return on Etihad Airways

Book flights to Rome from $886 return on Etihad Airways at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in February to April 2017. Conditions apply.

Flights to Paris from $894 return on Etihad Airways

Book flights to Paris from $894 return on Etihad Airways at I Want That Flight. Available for travel in February to April 2017. Conditions apply.

Save up to $889: The Flaming Deal Packages

Book now and save up to $889 on flights and hotels at Wotif. T&Cs apply.

$10 off your flight to Philadelphia

Get $10 off your flight to Philadelphia at CheapAir. Conditions Apply

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Fly to Rome from $1309 economy return: Emirates Europe Sale

Book flights to Rome from $1309 economy return during the Emirates Europe Sale. Travel and offer end dates vary. Availability is limited. Conditions apply.

Paris from $1069 return

Depart Perth from $1069 return, Melbourne from $1073 return, Adelaide from $1074, Sydney from $1085 return, Brisbane from $1182 return.

Flights to Maldives from $719 return: Etihad Airways

Book return flights to Maldives from $719 with Etihad Airways at I Want That Flight. Available for travel between Feb - Mar 2017.

Flights to Hong Kong from $560 return: Qantas

Book return flights to Hong Kong from $560 with Qantas at I Want That Flight. Valid on travel dates between 14 Feb - 21 Mar and 19 Apr - 15 Jun.

Flights to Shanghai $549 return: Qantas

Book return flights to Shanghai from $549 with Qantas at I Want That Flight.

Return flights to Los Angeles from $821

Depart Perth for $821, Melbourne for $825, Brisbane for $834, Sydney for $838 or Adelaide for $906. Valid on flights with China Southern on select dates in February and March. See calendar for details.

Fly return to London from $284 with select tours

Book 2017 summer tours in Europe for $2000 or more and get $300 off flights, $3000 or more and get $500 off flights, $4000 or more and get $700 off flights. Flights of $284 based on lowest available airfare. See site for details.

10% off freedom and business class fares

Valid on flights departing before August 2017. Valid on freedom or business class flights within Australia and to the South Pacific, Asia and Middle East.

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Up to 35% off Europe flights

Valid on flights departing between 1 February and 31 March 2017. Sample fares include Perth-Belgrade for $1315, Melbourne-Istanbul for $1357, Sydney-Dublin for $1370.

10% off flights within Australia

Simply use the code to get 10% off domestic airfares at Virgin Australia. Valid on bookings until 31 September. Tickets must be purchased 20 days in advance.

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Return flights to Thailand from $639

Valid on flights from 8 November until 7 December, 27 January until 31 March, 18 April until 23 June, 11 July until 15 September. Sample return fares include Perth to Krabi for $639, Perth to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket for $649, Melbourne to Krabi for $669, Melbourne to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket for $679, Sydney to Krabi for $686, Sydney to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket for $699, Brisbane to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket for $699/

Cathay Pacific Early Bird Sale: Europe from $1483

Valid on flights from 1-23 March. Sample fares include Perth to Amsterdam from $1484 return, Melbourne to Amsterdam from $1485 return, Brisbane to Amsterdam from $1497 return, Sydney to Amsterdam from $1502 return.

Fly to Bali from $265 return

Valid on select dates until March. Sample fares include Perth to Bali for $223, Adelaide to Bali for $361, Melbourne to Bali from $393, Brisbane to Bali for $448 and Sydney to Bali from $531.

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Latest flight deals to Asia from $239 return

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Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is a journalist, avid traveller and all-round bargain hunter. If there's an online coupon code, deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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