How to Save on Flights to South America
The cost of flights to South America has historically reduced over the last few decades however your international flight continues to be one of the highest expenses when you travel to the southern continent.
With the recent announcement that Air New Zealand will now join Lan (also known as Latam) and Qantas in flying Australian travelers to South America from the end of 2015, the entire industry and travelers are bracing themselves to see if this new competition will lead to cheaper airfares across the board.
But in the meantime, here are some ways we recommend travelers can save on the comparatively expensive flight costs to South America so you can enjoy an amazing trip even more and perhaps use those pennies towards your experience of the continent instead.
Here are seven travel expert tips on saving on flight costs to South America:
1. Travel during non-peak season
It is understandable that everyone wants to travel between the Christmas and January holiday period to South America but if you can program your holiday outside of these dates, you can make some considerable savings. The difference between travel during low season and the high and peak season dates can sometimes be between $1,000 to even $1,500 per person depending on dates and availability. Low season varies between airlines but is usually between February 1 and November (just last week Lan extended this to 30 November) and not only will you benefit from lower rates from airlines, but sometimes the attractions and hotels will have lower rates as well.
2. Plan your flights to South America early and book well ahead of time
If you aren’t as flexible with the date you can depart, it is always a good idea to book well in advance to secure the cheaper flights as these are usually the first to sell out. Generally Australia travelers will book their travel to South America between 6 to 12 months in advance and if you are looking at booking during busy travel times such as school holidays, you should try and book as early as possible. You may need to be strategic in scheduling your reservations, because airline systems usually show only flight information for the next 300 days. Most South America travel experts can work in advance and prepare a draft plan or outline for you so you are ready to book once your flights appear in the system.
3. Stretch your international flight further
It may seem counter-intuitive to extend your international airfare to the furthest point possible rather than the closest and what often seems the cheapest stop but this trick used by expert travel agents often works out cheaper buying separate flight sectors. For example, rather than just fly into Santiago from Australia, consider extending this up to Lima or even Cuzco by using stopovers if you are planning to visit Machu Picchu. How does this work? Well it may be a few hundred dollars more expensive for your international flight, but this may still be cheaper than purchasing the Santiago to Lima plus Lima to Cuzco sectors separately. By including multiple cities in your itinerary within one trip, you are maximizing your international fare and planning your trip wisely. And as most Australian travelers to South America will visit more than one country at a time, South America travel specialists often use special airfares that allow us to plan trips in this way.
4. Go for weekday flights to South America
Just as cheap fares on peak travel dates tend to be sold quickly, economical fares tend to sell rapidly especially those leaving on weekends. So if you were not able to book early, your next option is to consider flying during the weekdays because you’ll have more choices of seats (and rates) during those times. Often if you are flexible on the departure date, your travel agent or flight booking engine can look for the best seats within that week so you can structure your journey around this.
5. Return from South America on a weekday
The same rule applies when you are coming back to Australia from South America. Flights arriving back on a Sunday tend to fill up first and it can be cheaper to come back on a Monday. Please bear in mind that you will loses 1-2 calendar days on your flight home as you are going against the international date line. (As a plus, you will usually arrive into South America on the same day you flew out which gives you the illusion of going back in time.)
6. Keep an eye out for airfare specials
Just like most other destinations, fare specials and flight promotions do apply from time to time so it is a good idea to keep an eye out for them or enquire if there are any around. Please note however that specials during high and peak season occur less often than during less popular travel times.
7. Consider using frequent flyer programs to reach South America
Yes, if you’re a Qantas frequent flyer you can use points to reach Santiago. If you intend to return to South America, you may even consider the Lanpass program with Latam. Either way, if you want to use frequent flyer points, it is always a good idea to try and secure these as early as possible to ensure you can use them for your intended travel dates.
Want to know more about travelling in South America? Check out our special Go To Guide featuring a brief summary of 32 of the most popular destinations.