Frugal flights may seem like history, but there are still bargains to be found.
Soaring living costs and high inflation are eating into travel budgets and, to make matters worse, airfares remain stubbornly expensive.
According to a survey in August by comparison website Finder, 13 per cent of us simply can't afford to go on holiday.
"Sadly the days of the $19 Tiger Air flight are behind us," Finder's travel expert Angus Kidman says. "There are still cheap airfares out there, but they're not quite as common and they're not quite as cheap. But you can still get them if you're prepared to be a bit patient and a bit flexible."
With the summer holidays fast approaching, here are some of the best ways to nab some bargains.
1. BOOK AHEAD
Booking in advance is the number one rule for bagging cheap flights. Airlines typically release airfares about 350 days in advance. The sooner you book, the cheaper they'll be. Buy at the last minute and you'll pay a premium for the privilege.
2. TRAVEL OFF-PEAK
If you're able to travel outside of school holidays or you're prepared to travel to Europe in spring or autumn rather than mid-summer, you're far more likely to find reasonably priced return flights.
"Timing matters," says Skyscanner's travel trends and destination expert Jarrod Kris. "We know that if you book for the last week of January instead of the first week of the school holidays in December, you can save 30 per cent to 40 per cent."
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3. FLY MID-WEEK
A few days of flexibility can really boost your travel budget. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the least busy days for airlines and when you'll find the best deals.
4. BE OPEN TO NEW PLACES
"If you're not set on a particular destination and are open to less expensive options, that can help," says Kidman.
Skyscanner's Explore Everywhere search tool brings up a list of possible destinations in order of price for the dates you want to travel. "It's a great way to discover new destinations," says Kris.
5. MIX IT UP
While returns used to be cheaper than buying two separate flights, that's generally not the case anymore, with most flights sold as separate components. If you're not wedded to one airline and are happy to fly out with one carrier and back with another, or you blend different airlines for long-haul travel, you can bring down your price.
6. COMPARE DIFFERENT SITES
Many people are unsure whether to buy direct from the airline or use search engines or third-party sites like Skyscanner, Expedia, Kayak, Cheapflights or Google Flights.
A spokesperson for Choice says these booking sites can offer great fares but can cost more in the long run.
"We generally recommend booking directly through the airline. If something goes wrong, you'll want to deal directly with the airline otherwise you'll be navigating two sets of terms and conditions. Airlines usually charge fees for cancellations and changes, but booking sites will often hit you with an extra set of fees of their own."
If you've found the cheapest price on a third-party site but would rather book direct, ask the airline to match or beat it, the spokesperson adds.
7. STOP MORE THAN ONCE
If you're in no hurry to reach your destination and are happy to make multiple stops in less-known airports, you can certainly save some cash, and this is where aggregators that search multiple airlines can be really valuable.
But if you've booked with different airlines via a third party and you miss one flight, the connecting flights still stand, Kidman warns.
One way to minimise this risk is stretching out the journey, which could actually make it more fun, he says.
"You get to see other cities on the way and you're giving yourself more space if things go wrong."
8. FLY TO SMALLER AIRPORTS
Airports apply taxes to flights that use them, and major airports charge higher taxes. If you don't mind the airport commute, use Avalon for Melbourne and Gold Coast Airport for Brisbane.
Europe is full of sister airports outside major cities that offer cheaper deals and if there's a decent shuttle bus, it's not that much of a hassle in the end.
9. FLY DOMESTIC FIRST
You don't have to fly out of your nearest airport. Taking a positioning flight to another domestic airport that offers cheaper international fares can sometimes help. Melbourne, Darwin and Perth are 24-hour airports that can offer cheaper flights in the small hours, for example.
But sometimes it's Australia's secondary international airports that offer the best deals.
"The cheapest flights to the US go out of Brisbane because those flights don't fill up at the same speed as the Sydney and Melbourne ones," says Kidman.
10. LOOK OUT FOR SALES
There are often sales on specific routes, though they're unlikely to be in peak periods. The best way to find them is to subscribe to airline newsletters. Virgin and Jetstar send out an email with discounts every week; Qantas less often.
Some booking sites and airline sites offer price alerts, so they'll email you if the price on your route goes up or down.
Before you get too excited about the flight price, consider the total cost of the journey.
11. USE LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Frequent flyer programs are free to join and you can gain points towards a flight as you do your grocery shopping.
12. GO INCOGNITO
If airlines or booking sites see you're searching for the same route over and over again, some people claim the fare will go up, which is hard to prove.
"If you're concerned about that, just open up an incognito window on your browser. Then the site doesn't save the cookies and can't do that tracking," Kidman says.
13. BEWARE OF HIDDEN COSTS
Remember that budget airline fares get you on a plane with seven kilograms of hand luggage, but they don't get you a decent seat or a meal. And red eye flights might be cheaper but you may spend those savings on an Uber to the airport if there's no public transport running.
"Before you get too excited about the flight price, consider the total cost of the journey," says Kidman.