Looking for the cheapest time to fly to China? Let me help you save a few bucks!

Flights are one of the biggest purchases for any overseas trip.

And if you’re headed for China, airfares can vary greatly depending on where you’re flying from and the time you travel.

I’ve flown to China many times, and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to save some money.

I’d like to share them with you, so you can have a good time and get a good deal.

1. Fly in the winter

Shanghai alleyway in Tianzifang during winter

Shanghai isn’t too bad in the winter. Image by Maoyunping on Shutterstock.

If you don’t mind traveling in December, January or February, then fly to China in the winter.

The north of the country (e.g. Beijing) is particularly icy, but cities in southern China like Guangzhou and Hong Kong are comfortable with temperatures no lower than 11°C (51°F).

Even Shanghai, which is on the central east coast of China, is bearable in winter. There’s no snow.

You can also find cheap flights in spring or autumn. The key is to avoid the peak summer season in the middle of the year.

2. Fly on Sunday

When I recently booked China flights, I noticed that Sunday was by far the cheapest.

This suited me, so I snapped up the tickets.

This isn’t always the case though, so check a wide range of days on the booking platform you use. It also helps if you’re not too stuck to a particular airline.

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The key is to be flexible with your travel dates if you want to save money.

And, it’s a good idea to book a few months in advance if you want to save even more.

3. Fly during the day

Often, the most expensive long-haul flights are evening flights, where you sleep on the plane and arrive in China the following day.

I’m not 100% sure why this is, but I’d hazard a guess it’s because people like spending the day packing and doing last-minute things before getting to the airport in the late afternoon.

This demand causes evening airfares to surge, making the daytime flights a little easier on the hip pocket.

(Side note: take a look at my China packing list – it’s the most comprehensive one you’ll find.)

4. Fly outside the major holidays

Busy airport terminal in Xi'an with many passengers

A busy airport terminal in Xi’an during summer holidays. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

The two biggest holiday periods you should avoid are:

  • Spring Festival, which runs for about a week in January or February depending on the lunar calendar (you can check dates here)
  • Summer school holidays in July and August

In all my experience traveling around China, July and August have been the most unpleasant times to travel to the southern provinces, where it’s crazy humid.

But even in the north, like in Beijing, summers can be unbearably hot.

Also, tourist attractions across the country are more packed in the middle of the year.

So, you’re actually doing yourself a favor by avoiding travel at this time.

5. Fly when you have points

If you’ve accrued mileage points, then why not use them for your trip to China?

Admittedly, I’ve never done this as I’m not a member of any frequent flyer program. I prefer to shop around for the cheapest flights or best connections, rather than be stuck to one airline.

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But I know some people who love points, so I’ve included this as a reminder.

Let me know in the comments below if you recommend a great program (I can be persuaded).

6. Book with an aggregator

This one is not so much about the cheapest time to fly to China, but the cheapest way.

In my experience, Trip is one of the best aggregators (online travel agencies) because it specializes in China. The other ones don’t, or the sites aren’t in English.

Tap on the button below to find some of the cheapest China flights.

I’ve lost count how many bookings I’ve made using Trip. They also have great deals on hotels, and sell high-speed train tickets too.

If you don’t mind spending more time in the air (and airports), then indirect flights can be much cheaper than direct flights.

I tend to agree with Frommer’s that Google Flights is one of the worst booking sites around.

7. Book a no-frills ticket

Donghai Airlines airplane

Domestic connecting flights in China are usually fairly cheap. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

To finish off this list, here’s another method to save on your China flights.

If you just want to get from A to B (or should that be C for China?), consider flying with a budget airline.

I’ve compiled a list of Chinese airlines which may help, but basically if the airfare is dirt-cheap and you’ve never heard of the airline, then chances are it’s a budget airline.

A few years back, I booked a Melbourne–Qingdao flight with Beijing Capital Airlines. It only cost US$300, which is an insanely cheap airfare for that distance.

However, the customer service was poor and the in-flight experience was terrible (you can read about that here).

Having said that, I arrived in one piece. And that’s the main thing, right?

I hope you liked my article. If I’ve managed to save you a few dollars, then mission accomplished! Let me know in the comments if you have any of your own hacks for cheap China flights.

Keep discovering China

Main image credit: Jeffry Surianto on Pexels.

FAQ about cheapest time to fly to China

When is the cheapest month to fly to China?

The winter months (December, January, February) are generally the cheapest months to fly to China, but not always. The key is to book ahead, compare different booking sites, and avoid Chinese holidays.

When is the best time to fly to China?

I’d say spring or fall, as that’s when the weather is the most pleasant in most corners of China. The best time is not necessarily the cheapest time though.

Are nonstop flights to China the cheapest?

They’re usually not the cheapest fares. If you don’t mind spending more time getting to China by airport hopping, you can enjoy lower prices on your flight.

What is the cheapest Chinese airline?

Low cost carriers that have international flights include Spring Airlines and Beijing Capital Airlines, but there’s also Scoot which is Singaporean based and flies into China. Domestic flights in China are often very cheap with most airlines, especially Spring Airlines.

What is the most expensive Chinese airline?

Usually, the biggest full-service airlines are the most expensive, including Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and Xiamen Air. But you should always compare flight prices because sometimes there are good sales.