Do you want to find cheap flights from New Zealand for your next holiday? You might know someone who always seems to be travelling? My friends might say that's me.
Today I'm going to give you 15 of the very best ways to find cheap flights and travel cheaper on your next holiday. Why waste money when you could spend it on hotels, food or entertainment when you get there?
Most of these recommendations are free, but if you want fast results direct to your inbox then you should join a flight club and have deals sent to your email daily. If you want to do it yourself, and learn how to travel as cheaply as possible, keep reading!
How To Find Cheap Flights NZ
1. Join A Flight Club
The easiest way to get the best travel deals direct to your inbox is to join a flight club. These are membership sites that offer the ability to choose a departure airport such as 'Melbourne' or 'Auckland' and every day you'll get an email with the cheapest flights.
Some flight clubs offer free subscriptions with limited deals, but to get the best deals you'll need to sign up for a premium membership for $5-$10 per month.
Mighty Travel is one of the best such flight clubs and each day you get an email with the best airfares their team of travel geeks found over the last 24 hours. You'll get economy, premium economy, business class and hotel deals.
Here's an example of an email I received this morning.
Here's an example of a return business class fare:
You get the price, mine is set to AUD but you can choose NZD. You get the dates, a list of possible dates, as well as the airline, baggage allowance and sites to book the fares.
A cool feature is the text highlighted in yellow. Flying to Dublin could save you $2,404 and then you'd take the 2 hour bus or train to Belfast.
The best feature is the frequent flyer stats. They provide an estimate on earnings and which mileage program to credit your frequent flyer points to. For this flight it's Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan rather than using Cathay Pacific.
And an example of an economy class fare, $380 for return flights to Beijing.
Here the price is very cheap for this flight and you're told to credit your miles to XiamenAir for your best earnings on frequent flyer points.
You can customise your settings in the Mighty Travels Premium Dashboard. For example you can change the departure city, add additional departure cities and see even more details from around the world.
You can get a free 30 day trial to Mighty Travel, I've found many great airfares via this platform such as Auckland to London for under $1,000 return!
2. Browse Flight Blogs
If you're not convinced on buying a premium flight club membership, you can still find great deals on travel blogs. These sites make money through affiliate links and advertisements, and in return give you the best flight deals for free.
Sites such as SecretFlying have been around for years and offer deals all over the world. You'll find a few flights from New Zealand, but mostly they cater to Australian, European and North American visitors.
You can also find SecretFlying in the app store for iOS and Android. You'll get push notifications to your phone should a deal in your city get published.
There's even search engines that compile all the best deals posted to blogs, in one easy to use location. The best example of this is called Hack The Flight.
You can search by location such as 'from Auckland' and view all the deals. If you simply search 'Auckland' you'll get all the deals of flights to NZ.
There's many blogs like this, most of them republish the same deals as other sites, while others simply post deals from flight clubs.
It's a well known fact, site owners take time to write and post deals so signing up to a flight club guarantees you early access.
3. Find Flights On Expert Flyer
Expert Flyer is a pretty cool website, often used by those in the know, business travellers and those who like to redeem points for flights.
You can get a free 5 day trial to test it all out, no credit card required.
Some of the things you can do with this platform include:
- Find reward availability to use points
- Find flights on specific dates including the cheapest
- Find specific routes, airports and airline codeshares
- View the seat map on the specific flights
- Check how many seats are available on flights.
One of the ways I use this platform is to find cheap flights on specific days.
Another way is to view the seat map to choose the best seat on the plane. Some airlines won't let you book seats in advance while others show generic seat maps which differ from the plane you'll be flying on.
Here we can see the seats still available on EK449 from Auckland to Dubai on March 16th in economy class. If you hadn't booked your seats yet, it would give you an idea of how full the plane is. Check this a few hours before departure for best results at securing a free seat next to you.
You can setup seat alerts and aircraft change notifications.
Lastly I use this platform to find award flights to use my Qantas and Emirates points. Airline websites are pretty poor for finding reward flights, whereas Expert flyer makes this a breeze as it shows availability for upgrades.
On 16th March the direct EK449 flight has no award space. The later flight EK451 via Bali does offer 7 business flex award seats available. Then I'd go and book that upgrade.
I'll be doing a full write up on Expert Flyer in the future.
4. Search On ITA Matrix
Hardly anyone has heard of this tool, but it's used by so many travel agents in a similar way, they just don't know it.
The tool is the backbone of Google Flight Search, but offers way more features.
You enter your travel destinations and dates and it will search for the cheapest flights with up to 2 stopovers. You can compare economy, premium, business and first.
The really good feature is their 'Search calendar of lowest fares' which allows you to enter a date such as May 21st and how many dates you'd like to stay. The tool then looks at all the dates within 6 weeks of the date to find the cheapest flights.
Look at this, I've chosen May 21st for Auckland to London. If we fly on May 23rd or May 30th for 21 nights it's the cheapest at only $1,458 on Air China, a saving of $90 or $300 on the price on every other day.
When you click on your chosen date you'll see the flights.
You can expand the flight details out on the right drop menu. You'll then see the price, the routing, i.e. Auckland to Beijing to London. You see the class, whether you get a meal and how long the connection and flight times are.
You can't book your flights on this tool. You'll need to take this document to a travel agent such as Flight Centre or use one of the best online travel agents such as those mentioned below in point 4.
ITA Matrix has some other clever features, which I'll talk about in a full guide soon, but their multiple destination search is worth a look too.
On the homepage you can enter your starting point. Now in the destination you can enter the place you want to go. Then click 'Nearby' and change this to within X miles.
If you just wanted to get to Europe and didn't care where, changing this to 2000 miles will show destinations from Athens to London. Click 'Select All'
The destination box will now be full of 3 letter airport codes. You'll need to choose 'exact dates' for this method to work properly. So I did May 12th - 21st.
We can see here there's an awesome deal with Air New Zealand to Vienna with codeshare star alliance partners. Now if you weren't planning on going there, maybe you would now consider it as you'll save $100?
You could also try and book a free stopover in Shanghai and Bangkok which might be more appealing than a stopover in Doha or Dubai?
5. Book With An OTA
OTA stands for online travel agent and they are in effect a way to book flights with airlines on your behalf. If you've ever used Skyscanner, you'll see these booking sites come up when you try and checkout.
Some have unbelievable prices, with others around a similar price. The cheapest ones usually have hidden fees such as hefty credit card fees which you get hit with.
Others have hidden fees or exclude baggage. Some are so bad they end up going bankrupt such as Fly365 and BestJet.
There are four that I'd recommend using:
I've used all four of these platforms, they are owned by Flight Centre Group which is the largest travel agent in New Zealand.
Exercise extreme caution using sites such as Travel2Be, TravelGenio, MyTrip, FlightNetwork, FlyFar, eDreams, Opodo, Kiwi.com, GoToGate, Globehunters, TripAir, BravoFly, BudgetAir, Skiddoo.
While they are mostly genuine, if they go bankrupt before your flight, it's likely that your flight will not have been paid for and will be cancelled by the airline.
They make their money from ticket changes and administration fees which cost lots of money. Make sure you have fixed dates and won't be changing to save money.
A name change can cost upwards of $250, a date change can be $500+, a refund can cost you up to 90% of the price paid.
6. Book Flight & Hotel On Luxury Escapes
I'm not really a fan of travel agents such as Flight Centre. Ultimately they have to make their money to pay their staff somehow so are often more expensive if you're just booking flights.
If you're looking for hotels to then combining your flights with the hotel can actually work out cheaper when using an Australian website called LuxuryEscapes.com
This website specialises in one time, unique experiences in luxury hotels around the world. They offer a lot of deals in the Pacific, Australia, USA and Europe.
If you look on the dates calendar, you can see a 'hotel+flights' option. Some flights can work out much cheaper than if you were to book alone, thanks to their partnership with Qantas and other One World members.
7. Fly Mid Week
School holidays starting on Saturday? Yeah you want to be out of the country on the Tuesday night at the latest or else you're going to be paying a premium.
Flying on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly usually, but most would say Saturday is hit and miss. I disagree with Saturday and would say Thursday is a better day to fly instead.
If you're flying internationally you can save money by flying mid week.
8. Fly To Australia First
It's no secret that flying from Australia to Europe or United States is much cheaper than flying from New Zealand. You can pickup a cheap flight on Jetstar to Melbourne or Sydney for around $150 if you're early enough, stay a few hours and fly on.
Now try looking at your flights dates from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and see how much cheaper the same flights could potentially be.
If time isn't an issue, some flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco will even fly via Auckland again, which will only cause more head scratching as to why you couldn't have just flown from Auckland in the first place..
Word of warning though, you won't be able to skip the return leg from Auckland to Australia on the way back, unless you've only got carry on! Plus airlines might ban you, as you'll hold up the airline while they look for you before departure.
9. Fly To Nearby Airports
Airports around the world charge airlines and passengers a departure tax. Your ticket price includes these fees. Some popular airports have really high fees and this is why your flights to and from a certain airport might seem expensive.
The best example here is London, which has extremely high fees. Manchester on the other hand is much lower, so why not fly to Manchester and then take the $10 bus down to Manchester?
The further east you go, the lower the airport charges are likely to be. Paris for example is an hour's flight on a budget airline or 3 hours on the train, but the airport taxes are much lower than London.
The cheapest airports you should consider are Budapest, Belgrade, Cairo and Istanbul.
But how can you find which airports to fly too? You can use Google Flight Search and simply enter 'Europe' or 'Asia' in the destination box. This will then show you all the airports available for your dates. Then figure out how to get to your final destination.
Flying to Paris, Munich, Moscow, Helsinki, Madrid, Barcelona is up to $200 cheaper for our random dates in June. For a family of 4, that's a saving of up to $800!
10. Book Open Jaw Flight
You don't need to book a return ticket these days and doing so can actually save you money. Open jaw means flying to one city and returning from another.
You could fly from Auckland to London and then make your own way to Paris and then fly from Paris to Auckland. This can sometimes work out much cheaper than a return ticket to London, thanks to those taxes I mentioned in point 9.
For best results you need to choose an airport that your outbound airline flies from, but this isn't always the case as you'll see in point 11.
11. Transit Twice With Different Airlines
Another way to score a cheaper flight is to find an open jaw route with multiple airlines operating under a codeshare agreement.
Take this route for example, Melbourne to London via Abu Dhabi on Etihad. You then make your own way to Prague, Czech Republic where you fly back. Etihad don't fly to Prague but Etihad are codeshare partners with Czech Airlines.
So your return would be Prague > Frankfurt (Where Etihad do fly from) on Czech and you'd connect to an Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi to Melbourne.
Czech Airlines are sharing the route with Etihad and this can lower your ticket price dramatically. You're not flying back from London and you're transiting twice with two different airlines, on the one ticket!
Here's another example on a one way business class from Prague to Wellington via Frankfurt, Singapore and Melbourne. It's $3,276.
But if you start in Frankfurt by yourself, for the exact same flights you'll end up paying $5,553 for the same business class flights. Starting in Prague you'd save $1827!
If you end up missing a connection, all the flights are linked together so you'll get put on the next flight. If you can find these types of fares you can save a fortune, especially with business class fares!
12. Book A Fuel Dump Flight
Fuel dumps are becoming harder and harder to find. A few years ago there were tools out there that would help you find them. Now you'll be lucky to see these being mentioned on forums and blogs.
A fuel dump works similar to the above point. You'll book a return trip with Airline X and then you add a 3rd flight for sometime in the future with a different airline that codeshares with Airline X.
Airline fares are made up of various fees, with one being the fuel surcharge. On some airlines this is quite high, while on others it's absorbed into other charges.
Using the ITA matrix you can find the fuel surcharge for a flight by looking in the fare details. It's usually labelled as a YQ surcharge. Above you can see the fuel surcharge on a return ticket on United Airlines is $580 USD which is quite high.
On Emirates though, there's a no surcharge (see below), so you can't dump the fuel surcharge on this flight.
When you add that 3rd flight, that airline contributes to the fuel charges and effectively dumps the fuel charge from your first flights.
So now your ticket will have much lower fuel charges, thus lowering your ticket price.
Most people don't even turn up for their 3rd flight and you've saved yourself a lot of money. Others do turn up for their 3rd flight but it's optional.
The hardest part about fuel dumping is finding that first flight with a fuel surcharge and then adding the third flight to dump those charges.
I once met a guy who successfully did a fuel dump and his third flight was between Fiji and Tuvalu. Go figure how he managed to find that flight...
13. Fly Back From Cairo
This one is specifically targeted at those of you flying to Europe or the Middle East.
It's a well known fact that Cairo is one of the easiest airports in the world to score yourself a cheap one way flight in business or first class. Economy passengers probably won't notice the price difference too much.
This often works well as Egypt Air partner with other airlines such as Etihad and Singapore Airlines which lower the price of the subsequent flights.
For those in New Zealand, a good flight to lookup is Cairo > Wellington in business class. This follows the route Cairo > Frankfurt/Istanbul > Singapore > Melbourne > Wellington. You can normally score a business class ticket for $2000 - $2,500.
EgyptAir lowers the price of this route. If you were to fly from Frankfurt or Istanbul to Wellington on the same flights, you'd end up paying $4500 - $5,000. A huge saving!
14. Book A Youth Fare
If you're lucky enough to be under the age of 31 and you've found yourself some flights on Google Flight Search or another site then you should head over to STA Travel and look up your flights.
STA Travel is one of the only booking agents in the world that partners with airlines such as Emirates, Malaysian Airlines and Qatar to offer 10% discounts to students.
If you've got an emirates flight for say $2000, you can probably get a youth or student fare from STA travel for less.
You'll need to buy a youth ID card for $25 if you haven't got one already but this can be done during the checkout process.
Some flights don't have discounts such as those nearly sold out, so be sure to book well in advance for the best chance at a youth fare.
Others allow you to pay a $99 deposit and the balance over a set period before your flight. This is a good way to buy flights on layby.
15. Book Two Return Trips
This last method is for those of you who like to travel a lot. If you know that you're going to be flying the same route twice, you can book two flights together, one within the other.
Let's say you're flying from Auckland to Sydney twice. If you book two returns to Sydney at once, often the price will be cheaper.
Another scenario is, imagine you want to go to London first, then Dublin then back to Auckland. This could be expensive. You could simply book a return to London and then book another return trip with a different airline, say Ryanair.
How To Get Free Stopovers On Flights
Did you know that airlines offer free stopovers on your flights? While not all airlines offer this, most do. You can use the ITA Matrix to check if a free stopover is allowed.
Simply search for your flight using the 'one way' or 'return' options. Find the best price and then expand the ticketing information. Click on 'rules'
Now there's a lot of jargon on this rules page. This basically covers the rules around the ticket, including any refunds, date changes, routing and free stopovers.
You can search for 'stopover' on this page to find the relevant section. Below is a flight from Auckland to London on Emirates.
This ticket says you can stopover in Dubai for free twice. So once on the way and once on the way back. If this flight stopped in Melbourne on the way back as well you could either pay $150 to add this stopover or skip Dubai and stop in Melbourne instead.
You can stopover for up to 30 days at a time.
To book these flights, you can use an OTA such as Aunt Betty and use their multi-stop search functionality.
Some airlines such as Etihad will even give you a free hotel to encourage you to stop in Abu Dhabi. Initiatives like this are often put in place by local Governments to boost tourism in the region.
After all, giving you a free 4* hotel will encourage you to spend more on tours, food, retail purchases etc thus boosting the local economy. Your Instagram photos will also help to encourage other like minded tourists to stop off too.
This can help you save up to $200 per night on hotels and visit countries you might not have considered visiting.
There's many other airlines that offer similar services such as free hotels or discounted hotels. Some of these include, Qatar Airways, Air China, Emirates, Air Canada, South African Airlines, Iceland Air, Royal Air Maroc, Korean Airlines etc.
If in doubt, call the airline and ask, or a quick Google search.
How To Lay-by Flights In New Zealand
Traveling is fun but that often comes at a cost, high ticket prices. If you want to book your flights now because of a global sale, or crisis such as coronavirus (cheaper flights) then you can use a few travel agents to layby your flights.
STA Travel is the best travel agent to use for lay-by flights. For only $99 you can lock in your flights on various airlines such as Emirates, Virgin, Fiji Airways etc with the balance to be paid off over the next few months before your trip.
You must pay the balance 10 weeks before you travel.
They also offer lay-by on tours with G-Adventures and Contiki from $149 - $250.
There's no additional fees and you pay the same price as the cash price. If you're a youth and under 31 you can often get their blue ticket fares which save up to 10%.
However, STA Travel is not the cheapest online booking agent for those over the age of 31 and for airlines that don't offer layby options, so buying your ticket for a cash price is often much cheaper using other OTA's (Refer point 5).
When To Buy Travel Insurance For Flights
It's important to buy travel insurance as soon as possible when booking flights.
Even if you're just flying to Australia, a good travel insurance policy can make your trip run like clockwork, knowing you'll be covered for any accidents or illnesses during your trip. Many people think they don't need travel cover for Australia but this is a common misconception.
Buying travel insurance early is better than buying it the day before you leave.
There's many places to buy travel insurance but World Nomads is definitely my go to place for buying cover. It's affordable and reliable.
You can read about the best options here.
Don't Book With A Travel Agent
Travel agents are great for those that want to sit down and talk to someone and have them book everything for them. Those who go on holiday once a year, love them.
They can usually package hotels together with flights to make things seem cheaper, but when you actually do it yourself, you can save a fortune.
Hotel sites are almost always cheaper than package holidays if you are smart.
And if you're looking for cheap flights, you shouldn't use a travel agent. Some high street travel agents are notorious for offering amazing window deals, i.e. London for $999 return. But when you go inside, you'll quickly find it's impossible to get that price.
In the small print, that price was found on one day in the next 6 months. It's likely one customer booked that deal and guess what? The normal price is now $1500.
The get out clause travel agents use to avoid a confrontation in store is by saying, 'We need your dates to check the price.' If you reply, 'I want the $999 price and can travel whenever' you'll get a disgruntled employee who already hates you.
Before you know it, you've bought flights that are no longer cheap and were probably cheaper online if you'd actually checked.
So always look and buy online if you're just buying flights, you will find the cheapest prices online guaranteed. There's low overheads, less staff and more competition, resulting in lower prices.
How To Not Get Ripped Off Travelling
The simplest way to protect yourself when travelling is to book everything yourself. There's far too many horror stories of travel agents going into administration without paying airlines for flights passengers booked.
Save yourself all the hassle and use a reputable online travel agent for flights or better still, book directly with the airline and use a credit card, not a debit card.
Book hotels directly with online booking sites such as Booking.com, Expedia or Hotels.com and avoid booking package holidays with travel agents.
Choose hotels with free cancellation up until the date of arrival. This means you'll not get charged if your plans change.
Book airfares that offer a low change of date fee, or offer a refundable ticket. It might be more expensive but if your plans change then you won't be out of pocket.
Buy travel insurance as soon as you book your flights to avoid any issues such as a health scare, family death or another illness preventing travel.
And remember, travel agents are convenient, not cheap. If you want to save money you need to research flights, book them yourself and be smart when it comes to routing.
Just changing from one airport to another nearby can save you a fortune!
How To Get Free Flights
Free flights do not exist. But if you're wondering how all those travel bloggers and Instagram stars travel around the world in business class for free manage to do it, then the simple answer is points.
All airlines offer a loyalty program, the more you fly the more points you get. These include status points and air points.
Status points give you access to lounges and extra baggage, priority upgrades etc. Airpoints give you access to discounted flights or upgrades.
Unfortunately Air New Zealand is pretty poor when it comes to earning points. You can fly for hours and earn few points, especially in economy class.
You can get more points flying in business class.
Be sure to register for a free airpoints account and enter your frequent flyer number during the checkout process of your flights. If you use a travel agent, tell the agent at the checkin counter to add it.
So how do you get free flights? Once you have enough points you can trade your points for flights. Air New Zealand offers a dollar for dollar value, i.e. 500 points is $500 off your flight. Other airlines offer points such as 1 point is worth 1.5 cents.
You can earn airpoints a number of ways. The easiest is to get yourself an Airpoints credit card and you'll earn points for every $100 you spend.
Alternatively you can fly more and earn points for each flight.
Or you can use this guide and learn how to earn more points and fly for free.
Why Are Flights From New Zealand So Expensive
New Zealand is a small country in comparison to countries such as Australia, USA, Canada and Europe. There's few airlines that fly to NZ in comparison.
There's less flights to exotic destinations so supply and demand forces prices up.
Auckland Airport is the main airport and offers a long runway. Wellington airport is small and the runway is too short to let larger planes such as the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 land with a full capacity.
Christchurch is larger than Wellington but the local population is far too low for major airlines to fly directly there. Instead they focus on Auckland, giving Auckland Airport the ability to charge higher landing fees, gate fees and departure fees.
How Do I Pick Plane Seats Online?
If you booked with a travel agent or online travel agent, you'll get an airline booking reference once your tickets have been issued.
Simply google the airline + manage my booking.
Now find the login and enter your booking reference and last name. You'll now be able to book your seats using the online seat map.
Some airlines such as Emirates and Air New Zealand charge for seat selection. Others are free such as Qantas. You'll nearly always need to pay for emergency exit rows, bassinets seats (where kids and babies should be) and any other special seats such as blocked areas or 2 seaters on a primarily 3 seater plane with any airline.
Seat selection can cost anywhere from $25 - $250 per person.