How I Got Round-Trip Flights To Southeast Asia for Only $412

Behold, I am the ultimate flight hacker. And I do it WITHOUT credit cards that give me miles or programs that give me perks towards airlines. So how do I do it? Well, I am very happy to reveal my secrets to how I navigate the many, many flight search sites that always give different dollar amounts and the frustrations that come with trying to book a simple trip somewhere without breaking the bank. At the end of the day, it comes down to flexibility, a willingness to do what others won't, and a simple "formula" that lets you get the best price possible.

My boyfriend and I have been wanting to go to Southeast Asia for a long time, but I was always worried it was going to cost so much for the flights that we'd never be able to get there on our lack of savings from living in the expensive NYC. But I finally said, "Enough is enough! We just have to find a way to go!" and I went searching for the flights to make that happen. Upon my first search, a round-trip flight from New York City to Bangkok was coming in at $800+ per person, which was getting a huge naw from me, since this was going to be a gift from me to my BF for Christmas, and I did not have $1,600 just sitting around for both of us to go traveling on.

Most of the time when I've found great deals in the past, it's been because of sites like Secret Flying or The Flight Deal, but sometimes you have to go looking specifically for something and that's when sites like Momondo and Google Flights come in very handy because, in my experience, they've ended up showing the lowest fares vs other flight search engines.

After I sat and thought about it for awhile, I realized that we didn't just want to go to Thailand on our trip, but other parts of Southeast Asia as well. And it wouldn't make sense to have to try to get back to Bangkok to fly home when we could make a more convenient route. I looked at a map and thought that perhaps we could make our way East and leave from Vietnam instead and that way we could pass through Cambodia on our way. After doing a multi-flight route, the price went down from in the $800 range all the way down to $550. This seemed a bit more appropriate to me as a way for us both to be able to go.

But then I thought, "Why not test this even further?" and I did what everyone should when they're searching for flights, I played around with my options. What if instead of arriving into Bangkok (the city I'm looking forward to the most) all jetlagged and dead from the flight, we switched the itinerary and arrived into Ho Chi Minh City first, gathered ourselves there with lots of Phở and other Vietnamese food for a couple days before heading to the other places we are perhaps a bit more excited about. With this in mind, I reversed our entrance and exit locations, and to my amazement and surprise the flight went all the way down to ONLY $412 per person. This is the lowest I've ever seen flights to this region. That's only $206 each way, which is INSANE!

Obviously, I called my boyfriend, asked him if these dates were okay (we're going in April, which is the off-season, which is also how the flights could be cheaper), and I immediately booked them with my credit card (knowing I'd use my upcoming tax return to cover them) and the rest is history. So now we can both go to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for only $824, which was the original price of just one ticket.

So here is the process I like to take when hacking flights without using points or special deals:

  • Check deal sites just in case there are flights to the location you're interested in.
  • Be flexible as hell with your dates because just one day in either direction can be a big difference in $$$.
  • Go in the off-season so you have a better chance of lower flight prices.
  • Round-trips to and from the same location can be more expensive, so if you're going more than one place, check on muti-city flights for potential deals.
  • Reverse your route to see if it's cheaper.
  • Dedicate multiple hours to this process to make sure you find the best deal before you commit to a price you've seen.

Good luck in your flight hacking and comment if you've ever found a great deal.