Interesting tool for finding well-priced flights

We’ve been hearing a lot about the AirWander website for finding well-priced international airfares.

This site is for travellers who want to include stopovers in international flights.

Stopovers tend to be particularly attractive to people who are not necessarily on a tight schedule.

The principle is simple: you take a round-trip itinerary and split it into multiple bookings with multiple tickets.

And then you add a stopover, which is a break of more than 24 hours between your origin and your destination.

This allows you to visit two or more locations on your journey at a cost that can be similar to the original point-to-point round-trip.

We’ve heard of travellers adding a stopover and saving money, although Australia’s isolation makes us sceptical.

Type a proposed destination into AirWander and it offers possible stopover locations and fares. Then fiddle with cities and dates in a bid to get the lowest fare.

When doing your sums, costs such as accommodation at the stopover site obviously need to be taken into account.

AirWander then refers you to third-party booking websites, in the same way as sites like Skyscanner and Momondo.

And, of course, there is always some connection risks – such as flight delays and missing luggage – with buying separate tickets from separate airlines.

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Travel tip: carefully select an arrival airport

Travel is personal. 

For example, we try to avoid all-inclusive offers – opting instead to forge our own travel paths, which we believe gives us flexibility and competitive costs.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we try never to pay anyone for doing anything that we could just as easily do ourselves.

And, of all the tricks we’ve learned for keeping travel expenses down, one of the best tips involves careful airport selection – especially if you are flying into Europe.

In choosing an airline, we also take care to also select an arrival airport with both lower taxes, fees and operating costs, where the savings are therefore usually passed to travellers.

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Heathrow Airport, London

For example, if  possible, we avoid Heathrow airport in London, sometimes described as one of the most expensive airports to fly into.

Instead, we’ve flown into London Gatwick and to Manchester – as well making Athens, Rome and Berlin our European entry point –  from where you can usually get plenty of low-cost fares to the UK.

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Athens airport

Colleagues also recommend Warsaw, Dublin and even Moscow.

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Berlin Tegel airport

We use websites like Skyscanner and Clever Layover to carefully compare airline prices at various European airports – and work it out from there. 

It isn’t always feasible; is usually not the fastest option; and sometimes the savings can be small. 

But, over the years, we’ve found that every saving, regardless of the size, is important in an overall travel budget.

Of course, the same benefits – or more – can sometimes be achieved by flying into one of the less-costly airports and then completing your journey by a transport network like GoOpti – or by coach or train.

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Moscow airport

You can also reduce costs by spending a little time to make wise accommodation choices.

Although it is not always the case, accepting accommodation in the heart of popular cities often brings a hefty pricetag. 

For example, last year we were back in Venice, Italy, for a brief one-day stay en-route to Central Europe.

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Venice

Rather than arrange accommodation near the gorgeous Venician canals for one night, we decided instead to stay on the mainland at Venice Mestre – a 10 minute train trip from the beautiful waterways. 

Good quality accommodation at Venice Mestre  – in this case The Plaza Hotel – was about one-third the price of the equivalent on the island.

And, we were also only a few Euros from the Marco Polo airport by local AVTO bus.

We enjoy using public transport, so this proved a smart option for us.

This saved a substantial amount of money for spending later – and gave us a good quality of accommodation only two train stops from the heart of the beautiful Italian city.

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Tips

More airlines offering stripped-back fares

More airlines are offering stripped-back fares to help compete in the growing market of budget-conscious travellers.

European airlines, KLM and Air France are the latest so-called legacy carriers to introduce a reduced fare that doesn’t include seat selection, check-in luggage or the ability to change a booking.

Reports from the UK say that the fares – scheduled to start in April on transatlantic flights – are part of a growing trend among European airlines.

Alitalia is also offering an Economy Light fare that limits passengers to one piece of hand luggage and does not offer booking amendments or ticket refunds.

Lufthansa also offers a similar fare.

A few months ago, we were charged a fee to slightly amend two tickets on Aegean Airlines.

American, Delta and United airlines also offer basic economy fares – some of which do not allow use of overhead lockers.

And British Airways made headlines last year after it announced that people who bought its basic fare would board its planes last.

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Google Flights has many features for finding airfares

We’ve been taking a look at Google Flights, an interesting tool for finding bargain airfares.

The site has lots of fancy features – and seems to be one of the fastest of the flight search engines.

For example, by setting a broad area like “Europe” or “Asia” as a destination, you get a map of main and regional airports and the cost of flying to each. Now, that’s definitely a feature!

Flight suggestions can also be based on your interests like culture, history etc.

There’s also an ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button that gives Google’s idea of a good destination for the days you selected.

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Illustration courtesy Forbes magazine

If there is a similar but less expensive option to a flight you are interested in, the site has a “Tip” bar that says how much money you would save if you were perhaps willing to fly earlier, later, or from a different airport.

Google’s ‘Best Flights’

Once you set your destination and flight day, you get a list of airlines making the trip, including Google’s idea of the ‘best flights’ – apparently combine low cost with reasonable departure times and the fewest stops.

Prices can also be shown over a month.

‘Best flights’ aside, we tested the ability of Google Flights to get a bargain fare, regardless of flight duration and departure.

As an example, we checked four online sites to find a cheap one-way fare from Sydney to Athens on August 1 next year.

When we searched, Google Flights quoted $847 AUD for a Qatar Airways flight – about the same as offered by Qatar Airways itself for the same flight.

Cheap Flights quoted $766 AUD for that flight, followed by Skyscanner at $794 AUD.

As a matter of interest, low-cost carrier, Scoot, indicated that it would fly that same route the following day, August 2, for $688.87 AUD – plus booking, checked baggage and food fees if you want them.

Of course, airfare prices can change quickly and this may be out of date already.

Our opinion

Google Flights is yet another useful addition to the online arsenal for travel planners.

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