Flight hack: how to get cheap snow airfares
I spent some long hours toiling away on flight comparison site Skyscanner and came up with some very interesting information for those thinking about a northern hemisphere ski or snowboard trip this winter.
I’ll leave it for some other time to extol the virtues of various ski resorts across the globe or compare the prices of various accommodation or lift pass prices. Here, purely and simply, is the dirt on flying from Australia to the US, Canada, Japan or Europe – when to go, when to avoid and where to save a buck or two. Other points include:
– The sneaky time to get to the States (in school holidays)
– Why Europe actually represents awesome flight value
– How to save real money if you are prepared to stop off
– Some Japan hacks too.
Time to go: Mid-January to mid-February. Bonus here is the powder – it is generally speaking peak winter so the chances of getting that combination of a good base and fresh winter snow are likely best at this time. You’ll also avoid American school holidays.
Time to avoid: Leave your trip for after Martin Luther King Day which falls on January 16 (as well as the two days before). Schedule a return before February 18th because that is the weekend before the Presidents Day on the 20th.
Sample airfares: Prices drop right off from mid-January so if you want to take the family and still get everyone back just about in time for the new school year in Australia you can sneak in a nice 12-day trip somewhere say from around January 18-30th. Virgin had this particular flight at $A1204 (return to LA). From Melbourne it was around $1550 direct on these dates but you’d save several hundred by going at least one way via Sydney. Add approximately $250 return for Denver, Salt Lake City or Reno. Similar prices looked to be available in February. The same flights with Qantas from Jan 8-20? Try $2118 – ouch.
Prepared to detour?: Fiji Airways will get you there (via Nadi) on some of these dates for $938 return. It seems to add 4-5 hours to the trip.
Time to go: February/March. See the sample airfares I have listed below but the bottom line is you don’t look to be getting much love for direct flights from the Australian to Vancouver even later in January. If you’re thinking Alberta (ie Lake Louise) you’re probably also less likely to get one of those bitter cold snaps that can send the mercury dropping to -30 than you’ll see in January.
Time to avoid: Not quite as much an issue as in the USA but Family Day in BC is Feb 13 while in Alberta it is Feb 20. The two days before those Monday holidays will invariably be busier than regular weekends at resorts.
Sample airfares: February seems to be better than January (ie a Feb 2-20 trip from Sydney direct to Vancouver with Air Canada drops to $1419. You can do $1525 from Brisbane on the same days and $1559 from Melbourne via Brisbane or Sydney). Similar deals look to be available in March. January is tough. Leave in the early part of the month from the Australian east coast and expect to cough up $3k+ for direct flights and $2k+ via San Francisco.
Prepared to detour?: Go from Sydney to Vancouver via Seoul in March and you can do it for around $1050. It seems to add around 3 hours from a trip that goes via Los Angeles, though somewhat more from Melbourne.
Time to go: Second week of February to early March at least with the powder, potentially scoring a bit better the further north you are.
Time to avoid: There’s a raft of national/bank holidays in the first week and a half of January so it’s best avoided. The next holiday is not until February 11. Chinese New Year period in 2017 is January 27-Feb 2 – avoid that period in Niseko.
Sample airfares: The best direct to Tokyo from Sydney on my 18-30 January example is $1187 through ANA but you’ll save around $200 if you’re prepared to take a pitstop somewhere like Brisbane. I saw a great Jetstar deal on these dates at $901 if you’re going from Melbourne. Oddly enough Brisbane was more expensive at $948. There’s plenty of good deals from Vanilla Air if you want to get to Sapporo, over those dates from as little as $A140 return. Feb 21 – March 6 example you seem to be saving a few hundred dollars from a Jan trip so it stacks up.
Prepared to detour?: If you want to go via Kuala Lumpur I saw return flights to Tokyo for as little as $584. It can add a fair whack of time however.
Time to go: Europe surprised me. In terms of bang for your travel buck – that is distance for dollars – you’ll actually get the best value of anywhere on this list. Any time from mid-ish January looks a pretty good bet.
Time to avoid: There’s no major holidays in France to avoid, while in Austria, Italy and Germany January 6th is observed for the Epiphany (so 4th, 5th, 6th will be busy).
Sample airfares: Using the 18-30 example you can travel on Etihad from Melbourne to Munich for $1252 return. Add another $120 from Sydney. Brisbane to Munich via Bankok on Thai will cost you $1288 (A few hours on a train from Munich will get you to the Austrian alps). Prices to Geneva for ready access to Switzerland appear much the same. There doesn’t look to be massive variations for these flight prices into February.
Prepared to detour? As direct is not an option like the US, Canada and Japan you should be getting the best airfares with one stop. It’s just a question of where is cheapest on any given day (ie Dubai, Bangkok etc).