In May 2012, Erin and Josh Bender sold their cars, rented their home in Perth, Australia, and booked a one-way ticket to Bali for themselves and their two children, Mia, now 6, and Caius, 5.
What started as a “six month adventure” turned into much more, they tell Business Insider. Today, nearly four years later, they’re still travelling non-stop around the world.
They have been to over 60 countries as a family and have booked about 40 flights along the way. They have also become quite savvy savers: “The first year of travel, we ended up saving $40,000,” they say. It was a combination of staying in more affordable countries — they spent half the year in Asia, where cost of living is much lower than in Perth — mindful spending, and not having to cover expenses such as utilities, gas, internet, and car insurance.
“Flying is the most expensive part of travel, but it doesn’t have to be,” Erin writes on their blog, “Travel With Bender.” She also shares their secrets to finding cheap flights. Here are some of our favourites:
1. Be flexible.
'You need to be flexible on dates to get the best prices,' Erin writes. 'While we were in Manila, I was keeping my eye on the local airline, Tiger. One day it popped up with a one peso fare (two cents) to Boracay. There was only one flight left for the fare and it was the following day. We took it. We ended up on one of the world's most beautiful islands.'
They recommend searching Skyscanner.com or momondo, which both give you an idea of the cheapest days and months to book a flight. The sites will also email you a daily alert, updating you on the price of the flight you searched.
Thinking long-term and planning ahead always helps, too. 'One year I was booking flights to Bali from Perth and I noticed I could get two people to Kuala Lumpur for $350 return,' Erin writes. 'I bought the tickets as an anniversary surprise for my husband a year in advance and he never noticed because he thought it was the tickets for Bali.'
2. Do your research.
Start by checking all of the possible alternative routes. 'If the flight has more than one leg, search the separate legs yourself,' Erin writes. Breaking up a direct flight into two or more smaller flights has saved the Benders up to $400 on one trip.
You'll also want to make sure you look at all of your airport options. Many cities have multiple airports, and oftentimes, flying into the secondary airport will be cheaper. Of course, you'll want to make sure the airport isn't too far out of the way, Erin notes: 'Sometimes the small amount saved is lost in the extra transport required. Keep Google Maps open so you can calculate exactly how long the drive will take.'
Finally, check the ticket price for one person before checking the price per family, the Benders recommend: 'Many airlines price seats differently and will charge you the higher price if you are requiring more then one seat. If you choose just one seat, view the price, and then change your quantity, you will lock in the cheaper price for all seats.'
3. Check the airline website for promotions.
Even if you've found what you think is the best deal on a third party booking site, you should still check out the airline's official website. 'Once I've searched Skyscanner.com or momondo, I will head to the airline's official website to see if they are holding any specials or promotions,' Erin writes.
Booking direct can also save in other areas, she explains: 'Sometimes if you require extra baggage or other 'optional extras,' a third party booking agent website may not account for that, and the official airline site will. So if you need more flexibility sometimes it pays to go direct.'
4. Find the coupons.
Look for discount vouchers, which can make the world of difference for frequent travellers. The Benders use CheapOAir to find voucher codes. 'I often get over $50 off,' Erin says. 'It just takes a few seconds and could shave dozens or even hundreds of dollars off your flights.'
Also, join airline email lists, which feature sales and bargain prices. 'While slightly annoying, you can end up saving a lot of money,' says Erin. You could even end up with a free flight, which happened to the Benders thanks to an Air Asia newsletter.
5. Skip the extras.
Most airlines, particularly discount airlines, will try to make money by letting you choose a specific seat for an additional fee. 'You really don't need to choose your seats,' Erin writes. 'Just go with a random seat, and use the extra cash to treat yourself to a bigger cocktail when you arrive at your hotel.'
Also, avoid paying for extra airline food at all costs and pack your own snacks. 'Obviously, most airports won't let you bring water through the security checkpoints, but you may be able to snap these up near the gate and usually this will be cheaper than purchasing at 30,000 feet,' she explains.
6. Book it yourself.
Forego using a travel agent, Erin -- who used to work as one -- suggests. 'They will not check all low-cost airlines, nor will they check multiple days or separate legs,' she writes. Ultimately, 'they need to make money, so rarely will an agent find you a cheaper flight than you will or me!'
7. Pack efficiently and lightly.
'Think twice about everything you pack into your bags,' writes Erin. 'Most discount airlines will charge you for every piece of checked in luggage. So the further you fly, the more you are paying for that big bag on wheels you're carting around. On a recent solo flight, Josh only took a small carry-on bag and saved over $100 by avoiding extra baggage charges.'
Plus, if you don't check any bags, you don't have to wait around for them after de-planing.
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