Getting the cheapest airline ticket

imgCheapAirlineTickets 300x228 Getting the cheapest airline ticketSince my travel planning began a few months ago (quit my job, sold nearly everything I owned, rented my house, and found my way to south east asia without breaking the bank), I’ve learned a TON of travel trips. Today we’re gonna focus on one aspect of getting from point A to point B: airline travel.

There are a lot of travel agencies, online discount ticket services, and “deals” to choose from. When it comes to getting cheap airfare, you’ve got to start thinking outside the box. (this will require time and effort – you’re gonna get good at internet searches very fast)

The first thing to realize, is that (most) airlines operate under what’s known as a “hub and spoke system.” Think of the visual that’s described in the name. The hub of a bicycle wheel has a lot of spokes going out to the edge of the wheel. The hub represents a city where a lot of flights can arrive and depart whereas the spokes are the actual flights themselves. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio where Delta still maintains a “hub.” When I went to college in Daytona Beach, Florida, I had to fly from the Cincinnati hub, to the Atlanta hub, then finally down to Daytona Beach.

Now let’s expand this view to international travel.

I started in Cincinnati, but wanted to get to Chiang Mai, Thailand (why start there you ask? why not? – we’ll save that topic for another day). I opened up my handy dandy iPhone 5¬†and navigated my way to my Kayak app. So far, Kayak and Cheap O Air seem to be the two services I use most often to start my airfare research (combination of price and service). My first search (1-way fight from Cincinnati, OH to Chiang Mai, Thailand on a specific date +/- 2 days) returned 86 different options on a myriad of airlines ranging in price from $1,524 up to $4,645. Let’s take a look at the cheapest option and begin to break it down to see where we can shave that price on our own.

The least expensive option was on China Airlines. The flight departed Cincinnati, OH, had a stop in Los Angeles, then another stop in Taoyuan (the largest airport in Taiwan… how did I know that? I googled it of course, because I had NO CLUE where Taoyuan airport was. USE GOOGLE. It’s a valuable resource), before finally arriving in Chiang Mai. Take note of the cities where those stops/layovers are located.

Now lets look at the second and third least expensive options. $1,781 and $2,071, both on Trans States Airlines with a route of Cincinnati, Chicago, Narita (Japan), Bangkok, then finally ending in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Think of most of the “stops/layovers” along the route as hubs (except maybe your starting and ending points). Let’s see what the difference in price is to get (1-way) from Cincinnati to Bangkok. Kayak to the rescue: 508 options ranging in price from $1,010 to $8,316. $1,010 is $500 cheaper than our original lowest price of $1,524. We did two searches, and have already saved ourselves $500. Not bad for a little extra time searching.

Now that we’ve gotten our price down $500, let’s see if we can drop that price again. Being a seasoned employee in the aviation industry since 2000, I know that Cincinnati IS a hub, but it’s not a very large hub, so just for arguments sake, let’s look at the largest hubs in the USA: Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. Time to repeat our most recent search, but alter our starting point. We started by searching for prices from Cincinnati to Chiang Mai. Then we altered it from Cincinnati to Bangkok (since Bangkok is the nearest major hub to Chiang Mai). Time for step 3 – Hub to hub. Lets try Chicago to Bangkok, New York City to Bangkok, and Los Angeles to Bangkok. $1,174, $1,173, and $995 respectively. Since the lowest price in this search didn’t net us any major gains (in this case, only an additional $15), we’ll stop there and focus on the finishing details.

NOTE: If the least expensive option from our third search would have saved us $100 or more, then we would have started to search for bus/train tickets from our hometown starting point (Cincinnati in this case) to the nearest major hub (Los Angeles since it had the lowest price out of all of our searches). The cheapest advance ticket I can buy from Cincinnati to Los Angeles is on Greyhound Bus service and costs $129. Cincinnati to Los Angeles on Amtrak train service is $253.

Now that we’ve found an inexpensive plane ticket from Cincinnati to Bangkok, it’s time to complete our research and get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Start with Google. Search for “bangkok to chiang mai.” You’ll learn quickly after reading a few of the results that traveling by train in Thailand is very inexpensive and also a very common way of getting around. Time to find a rail ticket. Google “Thailand train tickets” and “Thailand train reservations.” The State Railway of Thailand seems to be a popular place to reserve train tickets online. Sure enough, after 1 quick search, we find that a train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai will range from 791 to 1953 THB. A quick currency conversion from Google (click here) tells us that’s $26 – $64 USD. The difference in price is first class vs. second class. Google “first class vs second class train thailand” and you’ll learn quickly that first class is the way to go (the added benefits easily justify the extra $30 – ESPECIALLY on a 15 hour overnight train ride like this).

First search from Cincinnati to Chiang Mai – $1,524

Second search (includes bus / train / etc from any deviations) from Cincinnati to Chiang Mai – $1,074.

This comes out to be a savings of $450. If you’ve done some research on Thailand, you already know that you can live like a king for less than $500 per month (including rent, transportation, utilities, eating out 3 meals per day, frequent massages, entertainment, etc.). So in a sense, the ~1 hour of research we did, just saved us enough to stay 1 additional month in Thailand. SCORE.

Be well. And namaste.


Where are you heading for your next adventure? Send me your city pairs and I’ll give you some pointers and options to research.

Related Reading:

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: