I have always felt that booking a flight out of the US is the most challenging part of planning a trip overseas, so I have compiled a list of the information I use to get me anywhere in the world for the cheapest price. I hope you find this useful.
- Flying direct and without stops will always be your most expensive option.
- If your destination is a former colony fly from the colonizing hub. For example, if you wish to get to Cape Town in South Africa there will be cheaper flights to and from Amsterdam and London. Buying 2 roundtrip tickets, the first from US to Europe and the second from Amsterdam/London to South Africa, could potentially save you thousands of dollars.
- London’s recent hike in airport taxes could mean this hub is no longer a cheap option. Try Amsterdam, Rome, Paris or Madrid as an alternative. These fees and taxes are always changing so be diligent in your research.
- Flying between countries that share a common language is also generally cheaper. For example flights from Spain to South America, or Portugal to Brazil will be less expensive than flying from the UK or Germany.
- Use regional airlines to travel within geographic regions. The following website has a wealth of information, great maps, lists of regional airlines and ground travel options. www.attitudetravel.com (Can’t seem to get this link to open properly when I click on it so best to cut and paste this URL).
The international airports listed below are the current places with the greatest (and often cheapest) connecting flights using local airlines. (Subject to change without notice, in other words these are guidelines)
West coast – Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle/Vancouver → Hong Kong, Bangkok, Narita (Japan), Seoul (Korea), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
East Coast – New York/Boston →Europe
Miami → Caracas (Venezuela), Lima (Peru), Quito (Ecuador), Costa Rica, Mexico City, Cancun.
The busiest airports are generally in the capitals of the countries with the exception of Cancun, Mexico.
Southern Africa – South Africa particularly Johannesburg.
East Africa – Ethiopia and Kenya.
West Africa – Dakar (Senegal), Casablanca (Morocco) but you’ll probably have a layover.
North Africa – Egypt and Morocco.
Bangkok → SE Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia), India, Nepal
Hong Kong → China, SE Asia
Singapore → India, Asia
Seoul → SE Asia
INDIA Delhi is becoming a new hub for this part of the world.
DUBAI is almost the central hub for the world.
NOTES OF PURCHASING YOUR TICKETS
I usually use www.cheaptickets.com to book my international airline tickets. One of the advantages of this site is you can check out the prices of airline tickets where your point of origin is outside of the United States. When comparing prices, please note carefully if the airport taxes and fees are included in the stated price. In some cases the taxes and fees can equal or exceed the base fare.
- The prices of airline tickets are constantly changing depending on the day of the week and also the time of day. For this reason start checking fares several weeks before you plan to book and track how the fares are changing over time. I can’t tell you exactly when the cheapest fares will show up but it is often at those times when the least number of people as looking for and booking flights (I think the most common times to book flights are weekends, lunch hours, after work, the beginning and end of the work-week).
- If you can, book your tickets as early as possible although I have found great bargains 24 hours ahead of boarding a flight.
- Be flexible if you can. Most of the cheaper fares are mid-week.
- Be fully aware of the baggage limits and charges, particularly on regional airlines, and always read the fine print on refunds, check-in times, and cabin carry-on sizes. On small, regional airlines, the dimensions of carry-on bags are smaller than found on US carriers and they adhere to check-in times with almost military precision. If you check in just 5 minutes after the deadline you probably won’t be on that flight and will have to purchase another ticket for the next flight.
- Bring your own food and water for the flight. A water bottle can be emptied before going through security and then refilled from water fountains in the boarding areas.
CREATURE COMFORTS ON LONG FLIGHTS
Reserve a seat you can easily leave so you can stretch your legs and meet fellow travelers at the back on the cabin. Below are the items I have in my carry-on bag:
- Inflatable neck pillow
- I have a silk sleeping bag liner I picked up in Thailand for about $15USD that scrunches into a 3×2 inch cube. If the cabin is particularly cold and there aren’t sufficient blankets I slip off my shoes and crawl into the silk liner. This also works well on cold bus rides.
- A good book and perhaps music. I don’t get out my laptop and may never use a kindle. I love passing on my books to other people or exchanging them at one of the many used book stores found all over the world.
- Shoes that are easily slipped on and off and will accommodate slightly swollen feet when you land.
A final word – invariably there will be delays and inconveniences when you are trying to get from one part of the world to another and there will also be chaos around the gate while the poor airline attendant tries to quell passenger anger and soothe nerves. Look around you and you will find a group of passengers reading a book or chatting amongst themselves – go and join this group as they are seasoned travelers and very often interesting people to hang out with until your flight departs.