Cheap International Plane TicketsWritten by Steve Gillman
PlanetHop! is always looking out for a good deal and when it comes to travel - especially international travel - your single biggest expense is normally the airfare. This is why it pays to remember the cardinal rule that for every dollar you save in airfare, there's one more dollar that you can spend when you reach your destination. Don't ever allow yourself to fall into the trap of just assuming that the deal in front of you is the best one available. The benefits of such an approach are clearly illustrated in the following article, which lays out a variety of tips that are guaranteed to save you a bundle. So if you want a healthy injection to your holiday budget, read on... PS – just remember to raise a toast to PlanetHop! with all that extra cash!
The best place to buy cheap international plane tickets is online. We've tried travel agencies and they can't compete with the discount ticket websites. You can search Google ("cheap airfare South America", for example), or go straight to one of the well-known sites, like Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets, Hotwire or Priceline.
I just did a quick search for the cheapest airfare from Tucson, Arizona to Buenos Aires, Argentina using the five sites mentioned. They ranged from $1221 down to $873, and there were fares as high as $3728. Hotwire happened to have the cheapest, but they were the worst of the five when I searched for a domestic flight earlier. You cannot say which service will find the cheapest international plane tickets from week to week. My number one money-saving tip is to always check several websites when shopping for inexpensive flights.
My Accidental $1000 Discovery
Before going to Ecuador, I searched several websites that deal in cheap international plane tickets. The cheapest airfare from Traverse City, Michigan to Quito, was $1720. Out of curiosity, I checked Miami to Quito, and it was only $400. Airfare from Traverse City to Miami was $300. Book two separate flights and save more than $1000! The discount sites aren't set up to check in this way (yet), so you have to do this on your own.
If your first flight is late and you miss the second, you may not get a refund, but it is still cheaper (everytime I checked) to just book a flight to Miami and catch a flight to Quito without a reservation, thus avoiding this problem. This strategy is best for those in towns without international airports. If you live in Miami, you already have cheap international airfare.
As an air courier, you can get really cheap international plane tickets. Courier companies ship material in the luggage space of an aircraft passenger because it can be quicker, cheaper, and more reliable than sending the shipment unaccompanied, since checked luggage bypasses many of the typical customs delays. The courier company begins by purchasing airfare, and then they resell the plane tickets to you. In exchange for your luggage space, they give you a discount on the airfare.
An Example Of A Courier Flight
I saved over $150 on my plane tickets this way when I went to Ecuador the first time. I had to walk several suitcases of car parts through customs, but there was a representative of the courier company on either end, and I did get to look inside the luggage, so I knew what I was carrying. I had to carry a plane propeller on the return trip, but it wasn't too much trouble, and made a good story!
Limitations to Courier Travel
You generally can only be an air courier if you travel alone. Once in a while, a courier company will have opportunities for flights on or near the same date. Otherwise, your travel partner can pay full fare on the same flight. You also can usually only bring carry-on luggage, since the point is for the shipping company to use your checked luggage allowance.
Carry on is all you'll get, so pack smart!
Really Cheap Courier Flights
Sometimes air couriers fly internationally for free, and almost always very cheap. It is a matter of how badly the company needs you and how flexible you can be (can you fly to Paris on Friday?). In general, air courier opportunities are becoming rarer, due to the recent heavier regulations of international flights. There still are opportunities for cheap tickets, though. You can find out more at The Air Courier Association Website (www.aircourier.org). The ACA can also help you get really cheap plane tickets by way of airline ticket wholesalers, discounters, last minute specials, and stand-by travel.
More Tips on Cheap International Plane Tickets
When searching for fares using the discount websites, try several different departure and return dates if you can. The difference of a day or two can save you a lot. There is little logic to airfare pricing, so don't try too hard to figure it out. Just be aware that if you leave on Friday instead of Wednesday (or vice-versa), you may save $100.
Check the boxes that say "any time" for departure and "2 or more connecting flights". Even if you aren't sure that you want to leave at midnight, see what your options are - the savings might change your mind. Whenever the search criteria allow you choices, take the ones that are the least restrictive for the airlines. Again, if the savings aren't enough, you can always book first class, direct flights, or whatever you prefer.
Buying your plane tickets at least a week in advance is usually cheaper. Also, there can be a dramatic difference (but not always) if your trip is over thirty days. You may want to cut it from 32 days to 30 to save hundreds of dollars on your fare. Play with the dates on one of the websites mentioned. You never know what you might discover...
Want To Go Really Cheap?
You can take a bus to a major city, if you don't live in one, and then take an international flight from there to save quite a bit of money. My wife and I recently went to Ecuador for six weeks. The cheapest discount website plane tickets we could find were $3400 for the two of us. By taking a bus to Miami ($352 round-trip for 2), then flying from there to Quito ($622 round-trip for 2), we saved over $2400 - even after the taxi fare from the bus station to the airport! That's a lot of money to us; certainly worth an extra day-and-a-half on a bus. (The whole six weeks cost less than $2500.)
Leaving your money to spend!
The bottom line is that if you spend a few minutes or an hour to do some research, you might save hundreds of dollars. Good luck and happy travels.
Make sure to click on the Additional Info and Related Video tabs for more details...
Thank the heavens we've at least moved past the days of mandatory round trip tickets! No one will argue the fact that it's much easier to find a deal now than it was 10-20 years ago and, if you follow the tips outlined in this article, you're bound to come out ahead. As with most things, your return is usually directly proportional to the effort you put, so Search-Search-Search until you can't search no more, and you're guaranteed to go away a happy PlanetHopper!
This article was posted by Steve Gillman on Article Surfing and PlanetHop! supplied the accompanying photos. Steve Gillman first hit the road on his own when he was sixteen and travelled alone across the United States and Mexico at 17. Now in his 40s, he continues to travel and backpack with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. Many of his stories, plus tips and information on travel and lightweight backpacking, can be found on his websites, Everything About Travel, and The Ultralight Backpaking Site.