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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.

Up to 40% off flights to Europe

Valid on flights from 22 February 2017 - 10 December 2017 for Etihad's A World Within Reach sale. Sample fares include Perth-Dublin for $1,152 return, Melbourne-Dublin for $1,164 return. See a full list of sale fares.

Up to 40% off flights

Valid for travel until 10 December, 2017. Sample fares include Perth - Frankfurt for $1,355 economy, Perth - Manchester for $1,275 economy, Brisbane - Manchester for $1,288 economy and more. Other destinations include Edinburgh, Milan, Dublin, London, Rome, Munich etc.

Flights to San Francisco from $816 return on Qantas

Valid on flights between April to October 2017. Sample fares include Sydney to San Francisco for $846 return, Perth to San Francisco for $851 return, Brisbane to San Francisco for $874 return and more.

Flights to USA from $803 return

Valid on flights departing Sydney between May to June 2017. Sample fares include Brisbane to Los Angeles for $803 return, Sydney to Seattle for $886 return, Sydney to San Francisco for $816 return and more. Other destinations include, Chicago, Las Vegas etc.

Flights to Los Angeles from $802 return on Qantas

Valid on selected flights between April to November 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne to Los Angeles for $805 return, Sydney to Los Angeles for $807 return, Perth to Los Angeles for $818 return and more.

Flights to Hong Kong from $444 Return on Qantas

Valid on flights between April to October 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne to Hong Kong for $478 return, Brisbane to Hong Kong for $501 return and more. Conditions apply.

Flights to Edinburgh from $1,504 return

Valid for travel from Sydney in March 2017. Conditions apply.

Beijing from $439 return in the Qantas Flyaway sale

Domestic & International flights from $99 return

Valid on select dates from April until May 2017. Sample fares include Sydney to Melbourne for $99 return, Sydney to Brisbane for $132 return, Sydney to Gold Coast for $150 return and more. Other destinations include Adelaide, Auckland, Cairns, Singapore,Tokyo, Bangkok, London, Los Angeles etc.

Extra $15 off any flight

Valid on any flight, any destination for this week only.

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After the store tab opens, come back to copy the code

Flights to Los Angeles from $808 return on Fiji Airways

Valid for flights between May - June, August - September and October - November 2017. Sample fares include Brisbane to Los Angeles for $811 return, Melbourne to Los Angeles for $816 return, Perth to Los Angeles for $817 return and more. Conditions apply.

Fly to New Zealand from $385 return

Valid on selected flights between April to November 2017. Sample fares include Brisbane to Auckland for $385 return, Melbourne to Christchurch for $410 return, Sydney to Christchurch for $429 return and Sydney to Auckland for $439 return. Conditions apply.

Flights to Los Angeles from $803 return on Air New Zealand

Valid on flights from June to September 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne to Los Angeles for $808 return, Brisbane to Los Angeles for $842 return, Sydney to Los Angeles for $846 return and more.

Fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia from $286 return on AirAsia

Valid on flights from June-August 2017. Sample fares include Perth-Phnom Penh for $286 return, Melbourne-Phnom Penh for $390 return and more.

Flights to Paris from $878 return on Cathay Pacific

Valid on flights between March to May 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne to Paris for $878 return, Sydney to Paris for $886 return, Perth to Paris for $1,039 return and more. Conditions apply.

USA Flights from $858 return

Get USA Flights from $858 return only at STA Travel. Conditions Apply

$10 off flights to Key West

Get $10 off your flights to Key West at Cheap Air. T&Cs apply.

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$39 & up flights within Australia with Jetstar

Valid on select dates from March 2017 until December 2017. Sample fares include Melbourne-Hobart from $39 each way, Melbourne-Sydney for $49 each way, Melbourne-Adelaide for $49 each way and Gold Coast-Sydney for $55 each way. See a full list of sale fares here.

Europe and North America flights from $896 return

Valid on selected destinations. Sample fares include San Francisco for $896 return, London for $994 return, , Paris for $919 return, Stockholm for $989 return and more. Conditions apply.

Flights from $2,011 economy

Valid on flights between 13 January - 28 March 2017 and 27 September - 22 November 2017. Sample fares include Brisbane to Istanbul for $2,011 economy, Brisbane Belgrade for $2,022 economy, Brisbane to Rabart for $2,025 and more. Other destinations include Brussels, Venice, Milan, Zurich etc. Conditions apply.

Asia from $649 return with Singapore Airlines

Valid on flights select dates until September. Sample fares include Adelaide or Melbourne to Singapore for $649 return, Sydney or Cairns to Singapore for $659 return, Perth to Singapore for $697 return, Canberra to Singapore for $699 return. Other destinations include Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Hong Kong, Beijing, Changhai, Phuket, Tokyo.

Lay-By Flights: only $99 deposit to reserve

Reserve your lay-by flights now for only $99 deposit and pay the remaining balance until 8 weeks before your departure date. Only available on STA Travel exclusive tickets. See website for complete details. T&Cs apply.

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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