Finding the best flight deal - our top ten tips!
Whether you’re a solo traveller or in charge of booking the family vacation, finding the best flight deal can make a huge difference on the overall cost of your holiday.
There are many sites out there that claim to know how to beat the airline systems on booking. In reality you can’t, they are just too clever, and it is largely a waste of your time. That said, there are ways to maximise airline savings when you know the system.
So, forget waiting to book until a Tuesday, but do try some of our other tips to help to keep the pennies in the bank and finding the best priced holiday for your needs.
1 – Use Skyscanner
Use Skyscanner to start your search. They search the widest selection of budget through to major airlines. Showing results that are easy to filter to get what you want. They are our preferred search engine of choice but Momondo also perform very well and their app scores highly in Google and Apple ratings.
There will be others, whoever you choose it’s certainly a good place for finding the best flight deal.
2 – Consider mixing up your airlines & airports
If you book solely through one airline direct, you will only be offered the prices of that airline and its affiliates – this will seriously limit your options.
Using Skyscanner, it is simple to look at all airlines, for all parts of your route. If you have a connection, it may be simpler to book the whole journey with the same airline, but it is unlikely to be the cheapest flight available.
This is what most third-party booking websites like Kayak do, advertising that they can collate your trip and get you the cheapest price – but do they?
Take a look here on Google maps for all airports in your destination – you might find one that is just a little bit further away but cheaper – or which has your preferred day to fly! In example for the popular Costa del Sol in Southern Spain, Malaga (AGP) and Granada (GRX) are a similar distance. But do remember to factor in the costs of travelling the extra distance to those further away airports!
3 – Be careful of the hidden fee
Budget airlines can often advertise flights without the extras that we would consider a necessity. So, look out for hidden fees such as the cost of carry ons, checked bags (watch weight limits) some even charge for printing out your boarding pass or using a credit card. Make sure you are comparing apples for apples and have all costs accounted for before booking.
4 - You can save when not flying direct
When flying short haul, you are unlikely to want to consider a stopover. However, on a long-haul flight it is worth considering. For example, we saved a considerable amount of money (and got our preferred airline) by flying London to New York via Amsterdam. For us the difference in the flying time was negligible and worth the saving.
If you’re doing this, you should allow a minimum of three hours between your connections – allowing you time to collect and re-check your baggage. It is your responsibility, if you miss a connecting flight and have used separate airlines, you won’t get a refund and the plane won’t wait. It is also beneficial in insurance claims as most insurance companies will not pay out for claims of delays less than 3 hours.
Obviously, this method can be beneficial if the saving is significant but does involve more work.
You will also see online that many advocate ‘missing a flight’. Unbelievably, you can often book a flight, travelling to your chosen destination (as the stopover) which then connects to somewhere else. This can be cheaper to book, than just booking a direct flight to your destination. Ever been sat on a plane, waiting for someone to show? This is why we don’t personally use this method.
5 - Be flexible with dates, days and times
Airlines are aware of major events in every city or country, they know when school holidays commence in each area. So if you want a summer break but it doesn’t need to be in the school holidays you will automatically save yourself some money. Many European countries shut down in August, so those locals are off on their holidays making this month a busy and expensive time to travel Europe. In America, Thanksgiving is an expensive time of year, if you’re going for the Xmas shopping, check out various dates. Being flexible and considering the events of your destination as well as your departing location can save you a hefty sum.
Many will be chasing the winter sun and consequently places like the Canaries are expensive in the winter. But if you’re looking for a culture holiday where the weather is less important, you can pick up a bargain city break. We have a cheeky weekend away every January, visiting European cities on a budget. We have had fab sunshine in Malaga, Barcelona and Lisbon, but there was so much to do it would not have mattered if it was overcast.
Most importantly vary the dates of your departure and return to get the best price around your preferred dates. Midweek flights are almost always cheaper than weekends. Prices tend to drop after a major holiday too, much cheaper at the end of the summer school holidays.
Early morning and late-night flights are generally cheaper as there is less demand, choosing one of these can make for significant savings on flight prices. Remember to give thought to the time on arrival in your destination.
6 - Sign up for emails on latest deals
Join the mailing list for some airlines, quite often they offer cheap flights for a 24 hour period, prices increase as bookings are made – so you want to be early.
Sign up for last minute deal websites like Last Minute Travel who specialise solely in last minute holidays. Holiday Pirates offer last minute holiday deals for those that book ahead and early bird travel deals for those that like to plan. But do your due diligence and check before booking that they really are ‘great travel deals’.
7 - Use frequent flyer programs
Once you have made your purchase sign up for the free frequent flyer programs and airline rewards programs – they work in much the same way as a loyalty card from your favourite coffee shop. There are opportunities to save and get upgrades, members are often the first to know of any upcoming flash deals.
Read this blog from the Flightcentre on the benefits of frequent flyer schemes
8 - Group tickets will incur the highest cost
Even if you are travelling together, don’t book together. When answering a group booking enquiry the airline will always show the highest price in a group of tickets.
In example, we take our January break with another couple. If we search for the four of us, the airline automatically searches for four seats together. Therefore, if aisle seats are cheaper than window seats and we have two of each it will automatically price all four seats at the highest price. Searching prices as an individual generally saves you more money and then you can select the seat you want during checkout enabling you to sit together.
9 - Book early (ish)
Airline prices increase the closer they get to departure date, but they will drop and rise during this time. On average they are cheaper around 2 months before departure, 3 months if it is high season. This is not an exact science! So, if you know your exact destination, set up a Sky Scanner alert that notifies you of daily prices and you can pick up quickly on a significant price drop.
10 – Buying tickets in other currencies
My partner’s favourite tip (he is paid in a different currency to our home country). If the currency in your location is strong against the currency of your destination, search in the currency of the weaker country.
If your country’s currency is currently strong compared to others around the world, search airfare in a country where the currency is weaker. Doesn’t always work, but is certainly worth a try, sometimes saving money doing this even with exactly the same airline on exactly the same flight.
But if you do this you need to use a card that gives you a free or low-cost international transfer fee. We use Wise (formerly Transferwise) for this, but there are many that offer the same so find one that works for you.