How to Book the Cheapest Flights
Travelling is a dream for many but a reality for few when it can be so expensive. However, budget holidays are possible when you look for the cheapest flights so that you’ll have more to spend when you get there. This guide tells you how.
Choose the Best Time to Book
Booking too early can be just as much of a bad decision as waiting until the last minute to book flights. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on when airlines release tickets, but you do not have to settle for the initial fare. It is likely that prices will drop at some point in the time between ticket releases and the actual flight date. Last-minute deals are uncommon because the kind of people who book last-minute tickets are usually business travellers, who are able and willing to pay more. You should book flights at least 2 months in advance, or up to 8 months for long-haul international flights. It is best to book earlier if you intend to travel during a peak holiday season, such as summer, Christmas, and school breaks. The cheapest time of year to fly is usually January to March or September to November. You are more likely to book a cheaper deal if you are browsing online on a Sunday, especially if the flight is due to depart on a Friday.
Sign Up for Sale Alerts
The best way to snap up a cheap flight is to set up e-mail alerts. You can sign up for general e-mail newsletters with the airlines that you might travel with. They should notify you whenever they have a deal on. Flight prices fluctuate and sometimes there are flash sales with massive discounts available. Alternatively, you can track prices by registering for price change alerts for your flight route on a comparison website like Skyscanner. You can even set up notifications for the same route on different dates in case it is cheaper to travel on another day. Airlines will sometimes promote deals on social media only, so it is worth following some airlines on Twitter or Facebook. The easiest way to keep track of sales is to let the deals come to you, but sometimes you might miss something. This is why you should be checking regularly yourself as well, rather than trusting everything to e-mail notifications or any single price comparison tool.
Look for Error Air Fares
Sometimes, system errors result in airlines advertising much lower ticket prices than they should be. These rarely last more than a couple of hours, because the airline will fix pricing mistakes as soon as they can. This is why you should definitely book it if you come across an error fare or get a notification for one. The worst that could happen is that the airline refuses to honour the price and refunds your money instead. This is more likely to happen with budget airlines. Premium airlines are more likely to honour the ticket price that the customer paid. Around 60% of mistake airfares will be honoured by the airline, so it’s always worth a try. If it doesn’t work, you can get a refund and look for another flight.
Check with Charter Airlines
When shopping for cheap flights by themselves, most people think they need to stick to budget airlines. This is not a good plan for finding last-minute deals, as the prices for low-cost airlines will increase the longer you leave it. On the other hand, charter airlines like TUI often end up selling flight-only tickets if there are excess seats on a plane booked for package holiday passengers. This is a sneaky way to find cheaper fares for flights to popular holiday destinations.
Be Flexible with Flight Choice
One of the main things that will save you money on flight bookings is flexibility. Rather than being set on one departure airport, airline, destination, or date, keep your mind open. You are more likely to find a cheap deal if you don’t stick to rigid search terms. On Skyscanner, you can choose a departure airport and search for flights to “everywhere” to find the cheapest destinations at the time you intend to fly. If you are flexible about airlines, you could save money if you book with multiple airlines rather than a single round trip. Always compare prices before you jump at any one booking. If you find that alternative airports are cheaper, always make sure that you know where they are first. The cost of your airport transfer travel could end up erasing any savings you made on the flight fare if they aren’t near your destination.
Book Connecting Flights
Another way to shave some money off your airline travel is to fly indirect. This means splitting the outbound and/or return journey into multiple legs by catching connecting flights from layover destinations. Layovers can be boring and frustrating when you are stuck in the airport with nothing to do. But many airlines can allow customers to stay in a city for up to 24 hours before catching a connecting flight. This means that location and time permitting, you could spend a day in another city, possibly in another country. Indirect flights are cheaper than non-stop flights because they take longer to get to the original destination. If you are willing to spend time instead of money, look for indirect flights with stopovers in cities that you would also like to visit. Just plan it all carefully before you commit to an extensive layover.
Book Direct with the Airline
Travel agencies can get cheaper flights most of the time, but usually only if they are a part of a package holiday. It is normally cheaper to book a flight yourself directly with the airline. Use flight fare comparison services to identify the cheapest airline, then go to their website. You should be able to find the cheap fare there, and booking directly should entitle you to additional protections and maybe even perks. This includes things such as direct customer service, the first choice of seats, and frequent flyer loyalty scheme points or miles. Many airlines offer a price guarantee, meaning that if you find the same flight for a cheaper fare elsewhere, the airline should reimburse you for the difference in price.
Avoid Hidden Fees
You should always remember that a cheap flight ticket may not always be what it seems. There are often hidden fees involved which end up driving the price of the flight up. The high cost of checking hold baggage is one of the biggest culprits. You can avoid this by travelling with carry-on luggage only and packing your suitcase to maximise space. It is best to look for flights with airlines which allow 1-2 free carry on bags. You may find that the airline charges extra if you want to specifically select your seat on the plane. However, if you book all the tickets at once, it is extremely likely that the airline will assign your group seats together anyway without you having to pay more for them to do it. Many people also forget that there is an extra charge for checking in and collecting your boarding pass at the airport on the day of travel. It is free to check-in online in advance and download your ticket onto your mobile phone to scan at the airport.