While airfares are yet to return to the levels seen pre-pandemic, there are still ways to save money without hopping in a time machine. Sean Nugent shares some tips.

Thinking of heading overseas next year? Finding a good deal can seem like quite the mission these days in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Airfares have skyrocketed, routes have been cut and cost of living has taken its toll.

But all is not lost. While airfares are still yet to return to the levels seen pre-pandemic, there are still ways to save money without hopping in a time machine. Here’s how.

Be your own travel agent

In this day and age, there really isn’t any reason to book airfares through a travel agent – unless of course you’d rather avoid the hassle of organising it all yourself. Travel agents add fees to airfares to cover the work of doing it for you. But doing it yourself isn’t difficult. Websites like Google Flights and Skyscanner are easy to use and show the best deals available for your dates of travel. Once you find what you’re looking for, it’s safest to book directly through the airline rather than an agency in case anything goes wrong such as your flight being cancelled.

Think about supply and demand

When it comes to getting a good deal, not every destination is the same. Factors such as popularity and airline competition play a big part in pushing airfares down. Take for example the difference between travelling to Los Angeles compared to Tokyo. Both are around the same distance, but the amount of supply and demand makes airfares to LA far cheaper. Air New Zealand are fighting it out with American Airlines, Delta and United for customers to LA, but are unchallenged on the direct route to Tokyo. This means they can dictate the market and price point on flights to the latter. The same applies when flying across the ditch. With the likes of Jetstar, Air New Zealand, Air Asia and Qantas fighting it out on the trans-Tasman routes, there are constant sales and deals as the airlines try to fill planes.

Seasons matter

Many destinations have peak seasons where prices are high. In New Zealand (and in many other places around the world) December/January is notoriously high, as is Easter. Travelling in these periods can be unavoidable for many, so if you are looking to travel at those times, book well in advance (at least six months ahead is ideal) and take advantage of any deals that may arise.

Some destinations have peaks outside of these times. The Pacific Islands are most popular during July and August when it’s drier and tourists from New Zealand and Australia are looking for a winter escape. The same applies for Europe and North America, while Japan’s peak season is in March when people flock to the country to see the cherry blossoms. If you can be flexible, take these times into account and consider travelling during the shoulder seasons.

Stopovers aren’t always a bad thing

When you’re flying to and from New Zealand to Asia and beyond, chances are you’re going to have to stop somewhere. While there are some direct routes, sometimes you can save a significant amount of money with short layovers. Heading to Asia for example, stopping off briefly in Australia can be very economical. This is because – going back to an earlier point – there are more airlines competing over more routes in and out of our trans-Tasman neighbour. It can also be a good way to split up a long journey and give you the chance to stretch your legs.

Budget airlines

Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines Group, says a bomb threat forced a flight to Perth to turn back to Singapore.

Budget doesn’t always mean bad. But it does usually mean that some of the amenities you’re used to when flying are cut. The likes of Air Asia, Scoot and Jetstar don’t provide entertainment, a free meal or check-in baggage included with your ticket, but the price of their tickets are usually significantly lower than flagship airlines.

You can take advantage of this by planning ahead. Pack light so you can take your luggage as carry-on, download some movies or TV shows onto your phone or tablet to watch on the flight, and grab a bite to eat before getting on the plane. These days, essentially all airlines big or small fly the same kind of modern Boeing or Airbus planes with the same seating configuration, so you don’t need to fear being on a rickety old DC-10 or Comet that might fall out of the sky.

Putting it all together

To conclude, if you can plan ahead, be flexible and forgo a couple of amenities, you can save hundreds of dollars on flights around the world next year. So go out and start planning your next adventure, wherever it may be.