real life

How to never miss out on an early bird airfare again. Seriously.

Jetstar
Thanks to our brand partner, Jetstar

The early bird catches the worm. I’ve heard that phrase a million times, and yet my inner early bird somehow turns worm-like when booking a holiday. I find it hard enough trying to plan my week in advance, let alone planning a budget-friendly, perfectly timed break sometime later in the year.

I always end up feeling FOMO every time a friend boasts about some amazing deal they scored through an “early bird sale” that I didn’t even know was on. Inside, I cry. Outside, I say “wow, that’s amazing” in my best “not jealous at all” voice. Not jealous at all.

I’m not completely disorganised. I subscribe to various travel email alerts and constantly see Facebook ads selling those picture-perfect escapes to Bali, Thailand or Vietnam (Facebook knows me all too well). But that early bird bargain always seems to fly away (play me a small violin, please).

That all changed recently. It happened just after I returned from a holiday in Bali with family. We stayed with a relative who moved there a year ago, and we got to live like locals. Sunsets on the beach, coconuts delivered by the coconut man in the morning, yoga in the backyard – it’s hard to come back to the real world after days like these.

This kid has his priorities straight. Image: iStock.
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But they say that the best way to beat those post-holiday blues is to book another one. Calculate work leave, figure out the budget, time it with the next school holidays or on a weekend – you do what you've got to do.

After recently flying on Jetstar's smooth, spacious and seriously sexy Dreamliner, I wanted to suss out where I could go next without bruising my bank account too much.

I went to their website and saw "Club Jetstar". It's a newly relaunched subscription membership program for – wait for it – EARLY BIRD bargain hunters. Unleash my early bird. I beg you.

Club Jetstar launched only recently, which is why I hadn't heard about it. You pay $49 a year and get access to early bird sales and member-only sales throughout the year. The club offers early access to Jetstar's biggest flight sales of the year (from end of financial year to Christmas and more). That means you're first in the gates (excuse me while I go and humble-brag about it to my friends...who better not go taking my deals).

On some return flights you save $20, others you save $40, which is a blessing when it comes to booking for a family or a small group. Yes, that's the best part – the club isn't just for you. You can book for yourself and up to four additional people, which means that $49 annual fee is well worth it in the long run.

And then something happened in my first week as a member. Club Jetstar sent an email alert about a 10-hour member-only sale: Flights from $13. My inner early bird fluttered. Fly, early bird, fly.

I thought it was too good to be true. But on the day, I received an email alert a few hours before so I could frantically line up the ducks if I needed to. At 12pm I went straight to the deals: Melbourne. Byron Bay. Cairns. Gold Coast.

For Ballina-Byron, it was $13 one-way for October to early December 2017. That's a whole lot cheaper (and faster) than driving our car up there like we did during our last winter break.

Byron Bay
Last year's trip to Byron: The stunning 10m-high Killen Falls. Image: Adam Bub.
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The cynic in me is going "yeah, but that's only on certain dates". This is true, but every sale around has blackout dates. Even if it's not $13 when I want to go, it's still discounted from what's out there.

Before going on my bargain hunt, I'd read online that you can find cheaper rates with airlines if you fly out on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Friday, Sunday and Monday are generally the busiest days, thanks to people taking weekend breaks or flying out on business trips at the start of the week.

So I investigated Club Jetstar's rates on both weekdays and weekends: Of course the weekdays are cheaper, but the weekends aren't too bad either with the member discounts. It's mapped out clearly on the site's flight calendar, a handy visual way to see the price difference on the dates around your departure and return. The club rates appear in blue and the regular sale rates in orange, so you know exactly what benefit you're getting immediately.

The final thing I noticed was that you get 20 percent off bags and seats on new bookings from the website from Aussie airports, as well as discounts on car hire and travel insurance partners. Always a plus if you like road trips and Bali getaways like I do.

So, thanks to some bargain hunting, I'm right on track. I know the $13 sales won't come around every day, but it's promising that these flash sales even happen for the early bird set. Which I'm now a part of.

What's your best tip for saving money on holidays? Share with us in the comments section below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Jetstar

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