A big part of the digital nomad life is traveling around the world. If you don't want to spend all your time looking for flights, baggage, and visa information you must master the art of booking a flight. When you plan a short vacation you usually don't put too much effort into planning the flight itself. On most occasions, the flight is included in the vacation 'deal' and is rarely subjected to changes. When booking flights for a long-term trip, on the other hand, you have more things to consider. Travel expenses, baggage costs, and multi-city flights are just some of your new worries. In this article, I covered most of the issues you may run into when you're booking a flight for your long term trip.
Find a Flight
There are countless of flight search engines out there where you can find a flight, but only very few of them are suitable for the nomadic life. I recommend starting with the following tools:
Skyscanner– By far, my most preferred flight search engine. This tool will provide you with maximum search freedom as possible. It has endless options for searching a flight: multi-city searches, show fare by calendar or by graph, flexible location tool, explore destination map and more. Since it searches with a lot of big flight search engines in one go it saves you the trouble of doing so yourself.
Google flights – This is a great tool if you have no idea where you want to go, and want to quickly find out how much will it cost you to get there. Google flights contains an "Explore destinations" Map, which let you simply click on a destination and immediately get the flight fares. After the destination has been decided, you will find features like flexible dates and price graph to help you find a cheaper flight. In addition, you can filter the flights by stops, price, airlines, times and more.
MTA matrix– A flight engine, that was acquired by Google at some point. Here you will be able to define how far are you willing to go to the airport with a "nearby" tool. As a result, your search will spread on a bigger range of flights and the odds of finding a cheaper flight will be increased. The big plus for this engine is that from time to time you can find here cheaper flights than anywhere else (I'm not so sure why). On the other hand, you can't order your flight directly from it and have to contact the airline and tell them the flight code in order to get the price that is on the screen. I usually just check this tool to see if there is a chance to get lower fares than the other two tools detected.
Word of advice: While there are endless flight engines out there, it is pointless to search them all before every flight. Select your favorite one or two engines and use them every time you need to fly. This way, you will not spend hours searching for flights and locations on every move.
More tips for finding cheap flights: I gathered some great articles you can get great tips from. In my opinion, they pretty much cover all you need to know about getting great flight deals:
- 19 ways to score cheap airfare in 2016
- How to Book the Cheapest Flight Possible to Anywhere
- 7 secrets of finding the best low-cost flights
When booking a flight for a long-term trip, you will have to carefully plan what you are going to take with you. It's not only because you don't want to forget the things you need, but also because you have to consider not only the current flight baggage policy but possible future flights policies as well.
Let's say you booked a flight from somewhere in Europe to Bangkok, and the airline you took to lets you carry up to 23KG with no extra cost. So you packed up your bag, checked that your baggage doesn't exceed 23kg and what seemed like a million hours later – you got to Bangkok. You spend some time in Bangkok, and now you want to fly over to Phuket. But the airline for this flight will only let you carry up to 20kg. What will you do with the extra 3kg you have?
To avoid mistakes like this, here are some tips for the road:
Pack 2 bags
I usually pack a large bag and a smaller bag. The large one will never exceed 20 kg (it is usually about 15kg – just in case) and the small one will always stand in the cabin baggage restrictions (i.e. its dimensions will not exceed 55 cm × 40 cm × 20 cm and it will not weight more than 10 kg). This way I can play a little bit more with my stuff. For example, If I don't need the small bag I just fold it and put it in the larger bag or If I want to take a low-cost flight somewhere else for a short trip, then I can take only the small bag and leave the large bag in a storage.
Wear Your heavy outfit to the flight
The important thing to remember is that while the airline may weigh your baggage, it will not weigh you. Therefore if you take out the heavy stuff from your bag, and put it on yourself – this weight will not count. That is why I always fly wearing my jeans, hiking shoes and a coat (which is very handy when they freeze out the airport).
Don't pack things you can easily buy at the destination
The first stop in a new destination is always the pharmacy store. There you can equip yourself with soap, shampoo, sunscreen or whatever it is that you put on yourself on a daily basis. So there's no need to carry those around half way across the world. There goes down 2 more kg. boom!
Don't bring too many books
Although bringing a book is a must for me, I usually stick to one book. After finishing this book you will find that there are a lot of places on the way where you can replace this book with another (you'll have higher chances if your book is in English). You can also replace it with your fellow travelers once they finished theirs. If you didn't find a place to replace your book – just leave it behind and go to the bookstore. Books in English are almost always available.
Country entrance visas
Every country has its own rules for country entrance. It is super important to check whether you can travel to the destination country without a visa, or you should apply for a visa beforehand. In case you need a visa – it is also important to check where it can be issued. Some countries will only allow you to issue a visa in your home country, while others will allow you to issue a visa in other countries as well.
This nice Project Visa tool will help you get started by searching for the destination country, and let you know all the basics rules for entering there. In addition, it will contain links to the country's embassy site and visa information. Check those sites to make sure the information you got is correct. I must admit that I did find some mistakes in the information provided.
Another important thing to know about country entrance is that booking a flight through a country is not like entering a country. The airport is a safe international space, that allows people from all countries regardless of their eligibility for a visa. This means that even if you are not allowed to enter a country, you may still have a layover there (in most cases,at least. checking is on you). In a lot of cases, this information will help you reduce the cost of the flights. For example, if you are an Israeli citizen flying to Thailand, you can still fly through Dubai and reduce your costs significantly.
Extra tips for Extra Fun
Now that you got all the important stuff covered, it is time to make sure you have a pleasant flight. Here are some good reads before your flight:
- The Ultimate List To Travel Better And Cheaper/Part I
- 50 insider travel tips & tricks: what we’ve learned about traveling
- 12 tips for a better flight
Booking a flight is just the beginning of your journey. Once you arrive at your destination – a whole new story begins. Once you practice your flight booking for a couple of times, it will start being routine and stops being a hassle.
Are you doing things differently? have some top secret tips that no one knows but you? Remember – sharing is caring. So drop a comment and let me know!