I receive daily e-mails from ThrifyTraveler.com and SecretFlying.com. Last week, a $381 deal round trip to Thailand caught my eye. Although that flight’s timing and departure from Los Angeles weren’t going to work, I knew that there were likely more cheap flights from the US to Thailand with a little digging. When prices go down like that, you will often see all flights around that time with a similar departure airport and arrival airport go down. Keep that in mind when you see deals come up that aren’t ideal. And so I dug with my favorite software: https://matrix.itasoftware.com
Matrix Airfare Search (ITA software) lets you look at a flexible calendar of dates in whatever range you choose for flights. You can compare easily and see where the sweet spots of travel days lay. For an example, I chose to depart on January 16 and gave it a range of 30-37 days for travel. The range is a beautiful way to find cheaper days to return. Be sure to click “See calendar of lowest fares” and change extra stops to “2” if you’re willing to fly cheaper for more flight stops.
After you hit search, it will take its merry time and then pop up with a calendar. The prices on each date reflect the cheapest price if you left that day. If you are working within a range of travel dates, hover over the price and a box will pop up with the price of round trip depending on a number of days between arrival and departure. In my example, selecting January 16th as departure and hovering over it found a round trip flight with a returning date on February 19th (34 nights).
From here, click the price and the ITA software will come up with a list of flights corresponding to that. ITA software will NOT book your flight, but will only show you flights. From the list, I can see the first China Eastern flight is a good one as it has no long layovers.
Clicking it will bring you to a breakdown of the flight.
Now, how do you actually find it and book it? I usually start with Expedia as it’s the most reputable third party site to purchase tickets from. They have a very generous 24-hour return policy (and most sites do!) so that you can book a cheap ticket when you find it, and cancel it tomorrow if you realize it won’t work. If Expedia is not coming up with the same flight based on the flight you found in the ITA software, you can try directly with the site, so FlyChinaEastern.com in this case. You can also use the awesome Momondo.com to price compare, much like the ITA software, but it actually gives you the site to purchase from. Using Momondo, I actually found a similar flight cheaper, but it had overnight layovers so wasn’t worth the cheaper price in my opinion.
In the end, I ended up using ITA software to compare a multi-city flight from San Francisco to Bankok on January 16 and departing from Jakarta, Indonesia on February 21 for $476. Flying out of a different city isn’t always cheaper, but it matched my itinerary better and ended up being cheaper. I actually had to cancel my first ticket, which was a cinch through Expedia, and then rebook it.
It does take a bit of digging, but if you have some flexibility in travel dates, you can find very decent flights for insane prices. After booking, you’ll want to think of travel insurance to help cover flight related issues and primarily for medical. I recommend comparing through Squaremouth.com.
Stay tuned for how to rack up thousands of dollars worth of points through credit card churning, a genius way to use sign up bonuses and credit card rewards to your advantage. I’ve flown free all around the world this way!