You don’t need to dig a hole to get to China when you can find a flight to Asia for less than a birthday dinner in New York City.
The beaches of Thailand, the rice paddies of Bali, and the Great Wall of China are, for many people, “dream” destinations. When you live in the western hemisphere, traveling to Asia is often something that people say they’ll do “one day” because flight prices can make a trip like this seem completely out of the question. Taking a quick glance and you may see fares to Asia that hover around $1,500. But, if you’re a little more patient and open-minded, you can actually fly to the continent for around $400.
INSIDER TIPDepending on where you want to fly, consider departing from a city that has a large population of people from that country.
Fly Into and Out of Main Hubs
In addition to navigating websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to find the cheapest options to Asia, there are other techniques that are worth trying. If you want to find cheap flights to Asia from the U.S., then you’ll generally need to fly out of a major hub, which, in this case, typically refers to a big city or a coastal city.
For instance, you’ll usually find cheaper flights from New York to Beijing and from Los Angeles to Manila than, say, Kansas City to Kyoto, Japan. Similar to Europe, it’s easy to then find a budget flight from one destination in Asia to another. If you’d like to go to Phuket, for example, then it may make more sense to fly into Bangkok or even Beijing, then catch another flight from there. But always be sure to do the math when it comes to flight lengths. After all, it may be worth it to spend an extra $100 if it means you’ll get there a day earlier.
Book Flights With Layovers
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Speaking of reducing your flight time, one of the best ways to find $400 fares to Asia is to specifically look for a flight that has a layover. Most people tend to look for only nonstop flights, as the trip is already long enough without one. But booking a flight with a stop is not only a great way to save money, but also a chance to see another city and/or stretch your legs along the way.
Best of all, many airports and airlines have layover programs that offer perks like free tours around the city, free accommodation and transportation to and from the airport. What about visas? Some countries in Asia offer them to travelers who are just passing through. China, for example, offers a 72-hour transit visa for travelers with long layovers in the country.
Check Flight Prices Consistently
Aside from traveling outside major holiday times (both in the U.S. and in the respective country you plan on traveling to), it’s important to check flight prices consistently in order to catch a flight when the price drops. There’s no magic rule regarding how early you should book it (contrary to popular belief), except for that you should book when the price is right for you.
Of course, this might mean traveling outside of typical travel seasons and taking some time each day to check to see if the price has dropped. To save time, you can set up price alerts and flight trackers on most flight searching websites, like Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Hopper, which specialize in this. There are also airlines and search engines that allow you to pay a little money to lock in a good price when you see it, so you don’t have to worry about losing that deal if you still need time to figure out your plans.
Don’t Disregard Certain Airlines
Some airlines have a better reputation than others, and when you’re flying such a long distance, it’s important to fly with an airline that’s less likely to have any issues as well as one that’s going to be comfortable. This generally means that people tend to avoid even looking at airlines that they haven’t necessarily heard of, as well as airlines that have super cheap flights because it “could be a catch.” But, don’t let that deter you. Many of the international airlines that fly between hubs in the U.S. and Asia (particularly China) are just fine. Some are actually quite good, like China Eastern.
Take a Look at Tours
If you’re the type of person that takes time to search for cheap flights, then there’s a good chance you’re also the type of person that avoids traveling on tours in order to save money. The thing is, traveling on a tour can actually save you money when it comes to traveling to Asia. Even if you just do part of the trip on a tour and then extend your trip, it typically pays to do it this way, especially if the flight portion is covered. Groupon is a great place to look, offering some tours for around $600, including airfare. When you break down the costs you’ll be surprised to see how inexpensive the flight portion is.
Provide a Service or Exchange
One way to get to Asia for cheap is to be willing to provide a service or exchange as part of your flight ticket. For long-distance routes especially, there are many ways to do this. You can sign-up to be a courier for a flight, or use a service called Airmule which lets you sell your extra luggage space on your ticket. You could also consider asking at the check-in counter if the flight is in need of “volunteers” which means you’re willing to get bumped to the next flight in exchange of a voucher, sometimes worth the amount of two flight tickets (though, there are no guarantees).