Image: Michal Bednarek/123rf

Ever excitedly planned a trip abroad with your friends just to have your spirits dip once you see how exorbitant the flight ticket prices are? It can put quite a dampener on your wanderlust and set a bad beginning to your vacay.

Flight-booking is an art unto itself, and there’s a specific formula to get the best deals in the market. Here’s some key tips that will save your time, frustration and most importantly, money when planning your next holiday. Translation: This leaves you with a bigger spending budget during the trip!  

1. Sign up for email alerts
Prices change… a lot. Sometimes as much as three times per day. If you don’t want the best deals to slip through your fingers, sign up for newsletters from your favourite airlines. It may mean more To Be Deleted emails in your inbox, but it will all be worth it once you land say, a $280 flight to Japan.

2. Use an Incognito Browser
Ever searched for a flight, got distracted by the new episode of Game of Thrones, returned to re-search the same flight just to see a massive price hike? That’s because your search history is being monitored by airline companies! It’s a clever strategy they use to scare you into buying the tickets quickly before the prices “rise” any further. Use a private window in your browser to avoid these sneaky price hikes.

3. Book peak holiday season tickets ASAP
Planning to travel during peak holiday season? So is everybody else. Dally no more and book those tickets now. Don’t bother scouting for a cheaper flight because there will be none to be found. Your best bet is to book now before the ticket prices rise any higher.

4. Know your stuff 
Here are some general rules to keep to when booking flights:

1) The best time to buy tickets is six to eight weeks from the take-off date. With the exception of flash sales, of course!
2) Aim to travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Flying mid-week is usually the cheapest time of the week to fly. And the most expensive? Sundays.

Kayak.sg is a fun little tool that scans other travel sites to give you the best (and cheapest) results. They have also mapped out the best times for Singaporeans to book and travel to popular destinations in the handy graph below. Their list is incredibly useful and worth bookmarking!

5. Make stopovers
One of the best ways to save money on flights is to make stopovers along the way. Flights with transits are almost always cheaper and they’re the perfect excuse to go on a short visit to a country or city you wouldn’t have visited otherwise. For example, I deliberately chose a Scoot flight to Melbourne because it had a 21-hour transit in Sydney. Not only was it $80 cheaper than a direct flight to Melbourne, I also got a photo with the iconic Sydney Opera House!

6. Compare all your options
Taking some time to do a manual search for the cheapest flights will do your wallet a huge favour. Don’t take too long, though, as flights will only get more expensive with every passing day. 

If that’s too time-consuming for you, we have technology to thank for all the many readily available travel apps that make our lives so much easier. Skyscanner and Hopper are wonderful tools that provide data-driven research in a click of a mouse, helping you to book the cheapest flights, hotels and vehicles hires. 

7. Travel off-season
This is an obvious one, and one of the easiest ways to score a great bargain. An airline is a business after all, and operates on the universal law of supply-and-demand. There’s no demand during off-season periods, so prices go down! If you’re not too picky about destinations, take a trip somewhere that happens to be off-season. Going somewhere totally new and unexpected can be daunting but trust me, experiencing a city when the streets are flooded with rowdy tourists is something you’ll regret!

8. Collect mileage points
If you have a favourite airline and travel fairly often, it’s definitely a good idea to stay loyal and start collecting mileage points. Lots of airlines have loyalty systems to reward longtime customers. There’s no reason not to sign up for them (even if it means paying a small sum of money), because you’ll receive free seat upgrades and ticket discounts just for sticking to that particular airline! My favourite is Krisflyer, Singapore Airlines’ Frequent Flyer programme.

Got all that? Now go book the cheapest flight ever.