I get asked this a lot: how do I find cheap flights?
It’s a great topic to explore especially now that airlines have dropped fuel surcharges, a move mandated by the government when oil prices dropped. Last year, a “piso” flight from Cebu to Singapore (that is, a flight with a base fare of PHP1) cost me around PHP5,000 all-in; right now, a similar “piso” flight would just cost around PHP1,400.
(In Cebu Pacific’s piso sale last January, I was able to snatch a round-trip ticket to Tokyo for only PHP1,212.92 — imagine that, going to Japan and back for less than the price of a fancy dinner buffet!)
As “veteran” deal hunters know, finding the cheapest flight is a bit of a game and involves a fair amount of luck but you can increase your chances of spotting and grabbing the best airfare deals by following these tips.
Stalk the airlines on social media
The thing we have to understand about seat sales is that airlines only put a few seats per flight on sale (otherwise they would lose money). The best way to get the cheapest fares is to book as soon as the sale starts, and the best way to do that is to make sure you KNOW that there is a sale.
Social media is where the airlines announce their latest (and sometimes even upcoming) promos, so:
- Follow them on Twitter.
- Like their Facebook page. On Facebook, make sure that you’ve checked “Get Notifications” — go to their page, hit “Like” if you haven’t already, hover your mouse above the “Liked” button, and on the drop-down list click “Get Notifications” — so that you’ll get alerts whenever they have a new post. Of course this means that you’ll also get notified of less important posts (like cliché travel quotes) but at least you can be sure you won’t miss sale announcements.
- Subscribe to their email updates. You can do this via the airline’s website. Their emails are usually a few hours behind their Twitter and Facebook announcements, but they’re still useful. Personally, I try not to follow too many airlines on Facebook because I would then get flooded with notifications. Instead, for those airlines whose promo seats don’t get gobbled up as fast — for example, international airlines such as Singapore Airlines, KLM, and Etihad — I just subscribe to their email updates. I’ve found that these are especially useful for staying informed about promo flights to Europe.
When I spot unbelievable airfare deals, I usually share them on the SGMT Facebook page, so make sure you Like our page as well. Check Get Notifications — very important. I don’t always share seat sales — there are some that I feel would still result in expensive fares, even with the discount — but I usually make it a point to post cheap Batanes flights.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Where and When
Even before a seat sale starts, try to form a concrete idea of where you want to go and when.
- WHERE — You can find out which destinations each airline flies to by looking at the route map and/or flight schedules on their websites. Then if, for example, you learn through Facebook that Air Asia will be having a sale in two days, you can start looking at the list of Air Asia destinations and make a wish list of where you’d like to go.
- WHEN — Keep a list of Philippine holidays on hand and examine your schedule to see when would be the best times for you to travel. That said, it’s also important to be flexible. The sale travel period might not include your desired date, so be open to other possibilities. During booking, PAL shows lowest fares for the week surrounding your preferred dates. If there are no more cheap seats on the date you want, perhaps another date will do just as well, so keep an open mind. (Note: This paragraph used to include the statement “Cebu Pacific has an option for Monthly View, where you can see the lowest fares per day for the entire month” but this is no longer true. Instead, Cebu Pacific just has a weekly view, where you only see the lowest fare for the date you selected, and the tabs for the other days of the week do not show lowest fares. Gotta hand it to Cebu Pac: their talent for finding more ways to be less helpful to customers is unparalleled.)
When you have a good idea of when and where you want to go, you won’t have to waste time during the sale deciding destinations and dates.
Keep a file of the information you will need to enter when you book a flight. This includes full names, birthdays, addresses, passport numbers, and credit card information (but keep the file secure). That way you can just copy and paste the data — the less time you spend on filling up the booking forms, the greater your chances of getting the lowest fares.
No, I’m not exaggerating. I actually tried having gotten to the last page of the booking process — I had entered my payment details and all — and when I clicked Continue, I was informed that someone else had paid for those seats first. I had to go back to the start, and when I did, there were no longer any promo fares for that date. So sometimes minutes (or probably even seconds) do matter!
Maintain a healthy travel fund. Nobody outside of the airlines themselves knows when they will have seat sales. (Well, usually they will have sales on occasions like Valentine’s or Labor Day, but we don’t know if it will be a piso sale or just a modest discount.) When there is a piso sale, we have to grab that opportunity because it doesn’t happen very often, and we can only do that if we have enough money to pay for flights. The budget required can seem daunting, especially if you’re dreaming of traveling outside the Philippines, but just as cliché alert a thousand-mile journey starts with a single step, a PHP10,000 trip can also start with just PHP10.
For a common-sense approach to building your travel fund, read:
Cheap flights to Europe
Before going further, I’d like to say that I’m not an absolute expert on European flights, so I’ll just share what little I know. On my first ever trip to Europe — see “Love at First Sight: Paris” — we flew Air Asia X from Kuala Lumpur to Paris Orly, but they’ve unfortunately discontinued that route. Last year, we flew KLM from Manila to Amsterdam for USD888 v/v — we booked the January flight during a September sale, which we learned about through KLM’s Facebook page.
One of my favorite blogs Are we there yet? recommends following HolidayPirates, Fly4Free, and similar sites. They’re always on the lookout for travel deals and post them on Twitter. (They also have newsletters.) Many of the deals they post are within Europe, but sometimes I’ve seen them post great airfare deals to/from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
Aside from signing up for social media updates, you can also check for cheap flights at Skyscanner. I’ve seen them display round-trip flights to Paris for around PHP25,000, which is a pretty good deal. Skyscanner isn’t a booking site, but they’ll show you what airline to take, on which dates, and you can then go to that airline’s website and book the flight directly. A lot of people also recommend using Google Flights.
Update (31 May 2015):
Skyscanner seems to have changed its pricing algorithm, such that there is a slight-to-significant difference in the prices they show and the actual price when you book. (They also seem to be making a greater push towards third-party booking sites now — probably not a coincidence.) This is an example of their results for a July 20-29 Kuala Lumpur-Paris return trip.
It shows a price of PHP16, 479 but the lowest actual booking price, when I played around with the different airlines, was around PHP30,000. This major price jump doesn’t happen all the time but enough that you need to be aware and not get your hopes too high up when you see something that looks too good to be true.
…Cheap flights to Europe continued
Finally, you can also consider booking piso flights to major hubs in Asia and flying to Europe from there.
- Some travelers recommend booking a Cebu Pacific piso flight to Dubai, which has many flights to Europe.
- In my case, I live in Cebu, and the two airlines that usually have piso sales, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, fly direct from Cebu to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. I can then use Skyscanner to check for cheap flights from these 3 cities to Europe (or anywhere else, for that matter).
- Postcard Pretty recommends going to Hong Kong, and booking budget airlines from there to Europe. She was able to get return HK-London tickets for only PHP30,000, including checked baggage fees!
- Jasmin of Artistitch (they recently made a personalized luggage tag for me and it looks awesome) recommends Cathay Pacific, especially for those flying out of Cebu — no need to stop by Manila and they often have great December deals.
- Cebu Pacific also flies direct from Cebu to Tokyo, and Air Asia flies direct from Cebu to Kota Kinabalu, but I’m not yet sure how easy it’ll be to get piso fares to these cities or cheap flights onwards to Europe.
- Postcard Pretty recommends going to Hong Kong, and booking budget airlines from there to Europe. She was able to get return HK-London tickets for only PHP30,000, including checked baggage fees!
- One route I’m also looking at is Manila-Bangkok-Copenhagen/Oslo/Stockholm, the second leg via Norwegian. I haven’t tried this yet, but it looks promising. For example, there are November 2015 flights from Bangkok to Copenhagen for €180, to Oslo for €169, and to Stockholm for €167.
That’s it! I’ll make sure to update this post if I discover more ways to score cheap flights. In the meantime, anybody else have tips? Share them in the Comments section below. Happy travels, everyone! 🙂
“Piso Sale! How to Get the Cheapest Airfare Deals” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.
Great insight and what perfect timing–i’m also currently writing a blog post on Cebu Pacific Travel Hacks and included this on one section of the blog too. I’m an avid promo flight traveler as well!
Haha! Great minds…! ^_^
By the way, I also book a Ceb-HK piso flight and fly from HK to Europe. Many airlines such as Aeroflot offer great deals (i got a HK-London for only 30,000 php round trip!)
Oh yay, thanks for that tip. 30k isn’t bad at all! Do you mind if I put that in the post and link to your article?
by the way, the 30k already includes everything including baggage allowance. 🙂
Updated! Thanks for sharing that tip! 🙂
Oh my gosh! Bangkok to Copenhagen is like only 9k. For reals!? Are you also planning to take part in the Yi Peng/Loy Krathong Festival this November?
Right?? When I first saw those fares, it took a lot of effort not to book right away. (Of course, it helped that I didn’t actually have 9k to spare, but, yeah.) That fare is only one way, though, and it doesn’t include check-in luggage, but it’s still pretty good. Northern lights!!
I’d *love* to participate in Loi Krathong this year but I can’t. My Tokyo flight is in November and I can’t afford two international trips in 1 month! Actually, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go ahead with Tokyo either because I had a lot of unexpected expenses cropping up this year, but fingers crossed! (Sorry for the long reply! Hehe.)
So I checked skyscanner and saw a route bkk-oslo-copenhagen and copenhagen-london heathrow-hk-bkk for only 26k. Even if it runs 30k, it’s still a cheap and good deal! All I need to worry now is my visa. #savehardprayharder
If you ever want to see Loi Krathong and you want someone to come with you, I’m always up for it. I’m thinking of stopping by at Chiang Mai before my Seoul trip this November too since most people I talked with told me that I don’t need a lot of money to see Thailand.
I hope you can push your Tokyo trip. November is such a good time to see the autumn in Tokyo. Just imagine those temples filled with orange and yellow leaves. But if ever you don’t, there’s still the Sakura festival on May next year. 🙂
And I don’t mean to be rude, but I wanna ask how much do I need to get a schengen visa – in terms of saving, just let me know if I crossed the line by asking such specific amount. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t wanna post it here and I’d understand if you won’t answer. 🙂
Thank you and sorry for the long reply too! Hugs and kisses, I super duper love this post btw. I can finally see myself flying out to Europe!
Haha! I think our long replies just mean we’re so enthusiastic about travel. 😀 😀 I actually really want to do the Bangkok-Chiang Mai train and time it for Loi Krathong…maybe next year?? 🙂 If you don’t go this year, let’s go next year! 🙂
Regarding how much you need to get a Schengen visa — I’m assuming you mean, like, how much should be in your bank account, right? I don’t mind; actually, somebody asked me that already…you can browse through the comments in this post https://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2014/04/02/getting-a-schengen-visa-at-the-french-embassy-what-you-need-to-know/ and just let me know if you want to know specific things not mentioned there. 🙂 xx
By the way, if you’re going to London, don’t forget you’ll also need a [separate] UK visa.
Yes! Next year would be great. I don’t have any plans for next year. I’m actually looking at 2016 as my saving year for the dream euro trip I want to have in 2017, but I think Chiang Mai won’t hurt. 😉
And oh my gosh, Camie Juan posted a comment. Okay, I love her blog and I’m so glad to read that I don’t need 500k in my bank account to obtain a visa but I’m not sure if Mom’s willing to write a sponsorship letter. Lol, she’s actually against me traveling to Europe using my savings yada yada. So I guess I should pray harder as well.
But if it’s just a layover in London, the embassy wrote that no transit visa is needed if I get in and out of the place by air and won’t cross the border and if my flight is within 48hours or something like that. I guess I’ll save London for last. 😉
Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate it. 🙂
Yay! Sige sige, I hope God blesses all our plans. I’m so excited for you, it’s really looking like your plans are shaping up. 🙂 🙂
Nice blog. 🙂 I just found it because of a search I did looking for others feeling the frustration I am regarding Cebu Pacific and yours came up in the results.
But after reading your article, I am confused.
Let me explain… I’ve been using their website to look for and book tickets to the Philippines for a couple of years now. I’ve always found it relatively easy to use and they occasionally have some amazing deals, so I was a happy camper.
Then, a couple of months ago or so, I noticed that the monthly view had disappeared. I used it often to plan my trips because my schedule is quite flexible and I would look ahead by several months. Especially when they offer a promo between say, July 15 to Dec 15, that’s five months so the monthly view was of course the most convenient way to do that. But it was gone! Just like that. No notice, no nothing. I actually thought maybe my browser was broken. It made no sense. Why on earth would it be removed purposely? No way. No one is that stupid. But the other browser showed the same thing. OK, maybe the website is having problems? Nope. Several days later and it still hadn’t come back. So I made a comment on their FB page and their response was “thanks for letting us know how you feel”, which, roughly translated to normal English is, “we don’t care what one person thinks so don’t expect anything to change unless we make a LOT of people angry with this and lose money for it”.
So I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to click four times more than before, having to go through the schedule week by week. 20 clicks to look through five months of flights might not seem like a huge deal, but when you consider how slow their site gets sometimes, it’s a seriously irritating PITA. But OK, it’s still just barely usable. Not quite enough for me to abandon yet.
Now today I go to have a look at what’s on offer and what do I see? All the prices have been removed from the tabs in the weekly view! Until a day or two ago, the weekly view would show you the prices for each day and you would then select the day for more details. But now it just says “All-In Fare” and you have to click on each and every single day to find out the price for that specific day!
I was stunned that they would remove the monthly view but this move is truly mind-boggling. The site went from easy-to-use to a pain-to-use to now impossible-to-use.
You can’t plan a trip this way. I don’t have the time or the patience to click on each and every single day of the next six months, obviously. Sorry for the long post but I’m so mad with them for doing this. I am literally in a state of disbelief right now. Mouth agape, stunned.
But then I did a search to see if anyone else might be upset about these changes. Maybe there is a group of people that feel the same way and if we all get together we can get them to revert the changes, I thought. Instead, I found your post that says they have monthly view. I noticed that you wrote this just today (nice timing!!! haha) so I was wondering if maybe the changes I’m seeing are because I’m not IN the Philippines? (In Japan.)
That would certainly explain the lack of backlash! Are they just trying to make it hard for people not in the country? (It would at least make a bit of nationalistic sense to keep it easy for Filipinos and harder for foreigners to find the great deals. lol)
Are you still seeing the monthly view calendar and prices on the tabs for weekly view these days?
Again, sorry for the long rant post!
Hi Syl! The monthly view was still there last time I booked, but that was a couple of months ago, and you’re right — I checked today and it’s gone, and while there’s a sort of weekly view, the prices aren’t displayed on the tabs.
I suspect Cebu Pac removed the monthly view so people would just get tired of scouting for cheap fares and book the one that they see right away. Just a suspicion, but why else would they remove it, right? I can certainly understand your frustration. Cebu Pac is not known for being customer-friendly. Their CS reps try their best, I think, but it’s management that comes up with these sneaky maneuvers. They know they will still have customers anyway because among the budget airlines, they have the widest reach. But, seriously, people who have aneurysms or hypertension or serious risk of heart attacks should not book Cebu Pac.
I will revise the post. Thanks for the heads up.
So it’s not just me then. I was really thinking that they kept it for those in-country because I don’t see anyone else complaining about it at all.
I was thinking the same as you about their reason for doing it. It’s the only thing that “makes sense” but it still doesn’t make sense. Not really. I mean, if they don’t want people getting the promo fares, why do them in the first place? I’m trying to think like a company here. Advertising low fares will get people to my website to book. OK. Make it harder for them to find the advertised low fares and they book the higher fares instead. OK. So far so good. Except that in this case, I’m assuming that there are thousands of customers looking for the promo fares. Maybe I won’t sit here and click for an hour to find them but someone with more patience than me surely will. Those promos are going to get sold no matter what. And that’s where I don’t see the logic anymore.
Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter. There’s not much we can do. The only way they will add back those things is by having a few hundred or thousand customers complain on their FB page or by email and no one seems to be bothered by it.
By the way, sorry for the double post. It didn’t show up and I thought it had disappeared, but it looks like it did go through.
OMG… I just spent 30 minutes typing and when I clicked “post comment” it asked me to login to WordPress.com for some reason. I did and it brought me back to the post without posting my comment. Now it’s gone… 🙁
Long story short cuz I can’t type it all out again…
You mentioned that CP has monthly view but as far as I can tell, they removed that feature from their website two or three months ago. I complained on their FB page but they just said “thanks for letting us know”, which means that one person complaining doesn’t matter.
Today, I noticed that they’ve now removed the prices from the tabs in weekly view too! Just says All-In Fare and you have to click on EACH tab to get the price.
Too bad. I really liked CP until this. With no monthly view, the site is a PITA but still usable. Now, if I have to click on EVERY day to get the price, it’s useless. I have a flexible schedule and I look ahead months at a time. Have to click once for each week is one thing (still unnecessary though! should have monthly view!!!) but clicking for each day? LOL No way. They just lost a customer. I don’t have the time or patience to click 180 times to get through six months of flights – and that’s not even mentioning how slow their site often is.
Anyway, your mention of monthly view has me confused. Can you still see the monthly view? Can you see the prices on the tabs without having to click each day separately?
It never occurred to me that they might be doing this on purpose to people outside of the Philippines. I’m in Japan. Maybe they want to give an advantage to Filipinos for getting the deals? haha.
I don’t know but I haven’t seen monthly view for months and now I can’t even see prices on the weekly view anymore.
I’m sad because I loved visiting the Philippines. Beautiful country and great people. Oh, and don’t get me started on Lechon Manok from Sr. Pedro’s. I could eat that every day! Gosh, my heart is breaking just thinking about it. LOL
Just wanted to add… if the monthly view has been removed for everybody, why can’t I find anyone else angry about this? It’s killing me. I was shocked when they removed the monthly view because I can’t imagine why they would want to make things more difficult for everyone but today I am beside myself. To remove the prices from the weekly view? I’m not shocked – I am completely stunned. This make NO sense whatsoever. Regardless. I’m just curious to know why there hasn’t been any backlash that I can find. Didn’t see any negative comments on their FB page when I posted there either. Kinda strange considering how the site has become virtually useless now.
Good tips, I’ll bookmark this blog post for the near future! Thanks!
Thanks, I hope they’ll be helpful when you come over. 🙂
Dont forget to include Cathay Pacific promo usually for the whole month of december. It flies out of Cebu, shorter layover time, and more importanly, no need to transit thru Manila. Their promo is more competitive on long haul flights like europe. But for asian cities, nothing beats piso fares still.
Ooh yes! Do you mind if I put that in the article and credit you?
No need to credit me. Just include it in your article. :).
Hi! Gi unsa nimo kuha ug schegen visa? Through travel agent? Thanks
Ako-ako ra ang ga-process.
You can read about it here:
France – https://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2016/02/27/schengen-visa-french-embassy-new/
Netherlands – https://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2014/04/08/getting-a-schengen-visa-at-the-netherlands-embassy-what-you-need-to-know/
Germany – https://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2016/08/13/schengen-visa-german-embassy-philippines/