Planning an epic year of travel throughout Africa and the African Diaspora on a Budget
My destination bucket list is filled with a number of African nations and countries with people of African origin living outside of the continent (to find out why, click here). However, I'm a budget lux traveler at heart and there is nothing that pains me more than forking over $1000s on a flight. Between flights, vaccinations, and visas, the places I long to visit most, seemed so far out of reach. Yet, with a little strategic planning, travel hacking, and a bit of favor (yup, I'm a strong believer in manifesting and prayer) you and I will find ourselves exploring the beauty of Africa without breaking the bank.
8 Travel Tips for Cheap Flights
Let's begin by mentioning some important, but often overlooked travel hacks, to lower the cost of your vacation regardless of the destination.
1. Travel with flexibility - Google Flights as well as Kayak Explore allows you to play with a number of dates to find the cheapest airline tickets. Additionally, consider visiting destinations during the low season. Low season travel is often less desirable due to weather conditions, however if you book shortly after high season ends or right before it picks up again, you can benefit from many of the perks without the cost or crowds.
2. Search, search, and search - Use a number of flight search engines when looking for the lowest fare. Try Sky Scanner to initiate your search. You will love the destination feature that allows searches of a continent or region, like the Caribbean for example, instead of a specific country or city. The results are then listed from lowest to highest price to help you choose the most budget friendly option. Sky Scanner even allows you to search by "cheapest month" to save you more coins.
Another incredible search engine is the map interface for Kayak Explore. It shows you a world of options, literally, once you set the departing airport, travel days/months, price range, and other parameters. Try using the app to avoid the common loading delays on the mobile website.
A good, old fashion Google flights search can still render the best results since its flight matrix literally changed the travel search game and it is constantly innovating to find the best deals.
Side note: Searching/purchasing on a specific day of the week is valid. 2018 data has shown that people who purchase flights on Sundays pay significantly less than those who purchase on other days of the week for almost all destinations. Farecompare.com argues that Tuesday morning or midday EST will score you the best deals. Additionally, consider purchasing flights on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and national holidays to find the least expensive tickets.
3. Shh...Keep it on the down low - Multiple articles and experts state that using incognito or private mode to search and purchase a flight saves money, however some major outlets like Travel and Leisure argue that this is a myth. According to T+L, there are better ways to find cheaper tickets. For example, If you know when you want to fly to a destination, and you're planning with sufficient lead time, they suggest setting up fare alerts on Google Flights, Hopper, or Cheap Air.
Side note: Find flight deals and fare glitches before they sell out by signing up for multiple flight deal websites like Abena's Flight Deals (brought to you by your's truly geared towards inexpensive African travel), Travel Pirates, or Secret Flying.
4. Group trip, anyone? - If you prefer traveling solo, think again when planning a trip to the motherland. In general, adding a friend or two to your adventure will cut down costs for accommodations and ground transportation drastically. Just make sure you can get along with these friends. Far too many relationships have ended over a vacation gone wrong.
Side note: Most popular airlines have discounted and competitive group rates for 10 or more people. The policies vary from airline to airline, so check out a few here : South African Airways, United, American Airlines, British Airways, and Qatar Airways.
5. Buy in person - Depending on the airline, it might benefit you to leave the comfort of your own home and head to the airport to secure your flight. Budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit impose an extra fee on customers purchasing tickets through their website.
6. Get the most out of your layover - Layovers can actually save you money. Not only are these tickets cheaper than direct flights, but they allow you to explore a few other cities along the way to your final destination. You can limit your search for flights of any destination to airlines based in Africa since they often have layovers in their main airport hub (i.e. a flight to Amsterdam on South African Airlines will take you to Johannesburg first, before you hop on a connecting flight to the Netherlands. For more advanced searches, you can use Google Flights multi-city feature to assist with planing.
Side notes: Some airlines offer free perks for extended layovers. Allegedly, Egypt Air will cover your hotel and meals for overnight layovers and/or layovers longer than 8 hrs according to some Trip Advisor forums. This information is not found on their website, so consider calling for more details.
7. Rack up/use those points - Sign up for free loyalty programs. American Airlines, Hilton Hotels, or Marriott/Starwood Hotels to name a few, allow you to enroll in their programs free of charge for rewards that can be applied to future bookings. Book flights and accommodations through a shopping portal like Rakuten (formally Ebates) for cash back on your purchases.
Contrary to popular belief, it is best to stay away from credit cards for the sole purpose of accumulating travel miles/points. The business model incentivizes spending, however creditors make their money knowing that most will accumulate debt and interest that far exceeds any rewards that are paid out.
8. Stay local - once you arrive to your destination, consider Air BnB, homestays, or even Couchsurfing for accommodations. The beauty of these experiences is that you have an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, make deeper connections, and save some coins.