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:
|Bali||Queenstown||Auckland||Los Angeles||Bangkok||Phuket||London||Tokyo||Singapore||Nadi (Fiji)||Hong Kong|
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.
Return flights to Tokyo from $741: Qantas
Book return flights to Tokyo from $741with Qantas at I Want That Flight. Available for travel from 6 March - 16 March and 9 May - 20 June.
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Simply use the code to get 10% off 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 Kuala Lumpur from $150: AirAsia
Book return flights to Kuala Lumpur from $150 with AirAsia at I Want That Flight.
Fly to Beijing from $355
Book return flights to Beijing from $355. Available for travel from 1 November to 9 December 2016 and 6 February to 31 August 2017. T&Cs apply.
Fly to Shanghai from $352 on Cathay Pacific
Book return flights to Shanghai from $352 on Cathay Pacific. Available for travel from 1 November to 9 December 2016 and 6 February to 31 August 2017. T&Cs apply.
Fly to South America from $1,099 return
Book return flights with LATAM Airlines from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru or Colombia from $1,099 between 24 January and 30 June 2017. Conditions apply.
Fly to Bali from $223 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.
Fly to Paris from $956 return
Available from Melbourne from $956 from 11 Oct 2016 until 29 Nov 2016, from Sydney to Paris for $969 from 11 Oct 2016 until 29 Nov 2016, from Brisbane from $1099 from 15 Oct 2016 until 17 Nov 2016, from Adelaide from $1067 from 11 Oct 2016 until 29 Nov 2016 and from Perth from $1129 from 1 Feb 2017 until 30 May 2017.
Return flights to Hong Kong or Bangkok from $504 with Philippine Airlines
Sample fares include Melbourne to Bangkok in October or November for $504 return, Sydney to Bangkok in September for $521 return and Sydney to Hong Kong in October for $535 return.
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Fly to Los Angeles from $997 return
Valid on flights from Brisbane from 1 August until 14 September; 13 January until 30 March and 1-31 May. Flights from Perth are $997 return, flights from Melbourne are $998 return, flights from Adelaide are $1004 return, flights from Brisbane are $1010 return and flights from Sydney are $1015 return.
Latest flight deals to Asia from $239 return
Check out STA Travel’s latest flight deals to Singapore, Thailand, Bali and more.
Virgin Happy Hour
Enjoy the Virgin Australia Happy Hour campaign from 4pm every Thursday. Conditions Apply
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