Time to travelThis is what booking tickets often feels like.

Ask everyone on a flight what they paid and you’ll get a different answer from nearly every passenger. Tell people that your ticket cost less than theirs and you probably won’t make many new friends.

But why? Airlines use a little voodoo for determining ticket prices. I consistently get good prices on my tickets between the U.S. and Asia/Europe — and it doesn’t require animal sacrifice.

Here’s how you can throw your own bones to beat the system and save money on your international trip.

First, check out part one to this series for booking cheap flights!

Split Up Your Ticket

The first flight search that I do is from my ‘home’ city (LEX) to Bangkok (BKK). This establishes a baseline price. Rarely are these the cheapest tickets, so next I start checking the two biggest hubs: NYC and LAX.

Like an aspiring actress tired of corn fields, you’ve got to go where the action is: New York and Los Angeles. I typically check for prices from LAX to Bangkok first.

Remember the lesson in Part 1 about finding volume based on demographics? There are a lot of Asian people living in Los Angeles. They like to go home to see family, conduct business, and escape American food. Lots of Asian airlines operate out of LAX to accommodate their traveling back and forth — take advantage. You can deal with the terrible Adam Sandler movies these Asia-based airlines inexplicably love.

Next, I check domestic flights between my home city and LAX. The idea is to split the trip between two different carriers. The tricky part is lining up the timing of the flights so that a delay doesn’t create disaster, but keep them close enough that you don’t start to feel like Tom Hanks from The Terminal missing your dear Krakozhia while you live in the airport.

I typically fly into LAX on the latest evening flight available, then leave for Bangkok on the red-eye flight the next morning. This gives me about six hours to kill in the airport, but I typically save at least $400+ this way.

I’ll get paid to read and nap any day.

A Real-World Example

So, my latest flight-booking adventure puts me flying out of New York this year rather than California. Here is what I found:

  • A flight from Lexington to Bangkok was $1,326. (did not book it)
  • A flight from New York to Bangkok was $616. (booked it)
  • A flight from Lexington to New York on a different carrier was $170. (booked it)

So the total for my two flights is $786 — not bad when you consider that I am crossing North America, the Pacific, and a big chunk of Asia.

I have four hours between my two separate flights to kill in JFK Airport, but I save a whopping $540! That will buy a lot of pad Thai once I’m on the ground.

I’m saving over $125 an hour just because I was flexible and split my trip to book cheap flights.

The Rush

Clicking on that final purchase button for a flight to the opposite side of the planet is a feeling like no other. What a rush. You’ve just sealed your destiny for a given day in space. Whom will you meet this trip? What adventures will you have? How will this trip change you?

My hands are usually shaking while the printer hums out my e-tickets. Not often can you roll the ball of the unknown with a single mouse click. Be warned: Even with these flight booking tips, this is one expensive and dreadfully addictive hobby.

Here are some other tips and secrets for how to find cheap flights.

Vagabonding 2013 begins!