One of the questions I get asked a LOT is how I manage to find such cheap flights. Here follows a guide on all the things I do to snap up those bargains.
Skyscanner has to be my favourite website. If you ignore every other tip on this page, please for your bank account’s sake pay attention to this one. It’s a flight comparison tool that allows you to browse any flights by month to find the best (aka cheapest) dates, plus add filters based on whether you want direct flights or multiple stops, what time you want to fly etc. Of course to get the best deals you should view everything without filters to start with – but when you decide you really don’t want to get up at 3am and stop off in multiple places for what should be a 2 hour flight, they’re extremely useful.
There are others too like kayak, but this is my favourite. I will do another post at some point going into all the many ways to use it including multi-stop, cheapest month and fly everywhere options.
Avoid school holidays
If you want or need to travel in school holidays, it’s going to be difficult. Everyone knows that prices double or more as soon as the date ticks over to that first day of the summer holidays. Bank holidays can also have the same effect. If you can, avoid travelling during these periods – not only will it be cheaper but you’ll also avoid a lot of crowds (and screaming kids). But don’t despair if that’s not possible, refer to the rest of these tips to get the best deal you can (and maybe look into air miles).
Fly on a weekday not a weekend
It’s nice and convenient for work to leave and return on a Saturday with a clean week away. Which also means that flying on a weekend is much more popular and therefore more expensive. Look into flights leaving on a weekday rather than a weekend – this can easily knock hundreds off the price. Skyscanner’s price browser is particularly useful for this.
Consider your destination
Consider your destination carefully for anywhere that might be in its own shoulder season rather than the peak of summer. Just remember to check its not hurricane season! And obviously the further you go the more it will cost (having said that, you can get sub-£300 direct flights to the Caribbean if you book it right, so don’t always think somewhere exotic is out of your reach).
Book at the right time
If you book a couple of weeks before you go, unless you manage to find an excellent last minute deal you’re going to be paying through the roof for those last few available seats. But booking too early might not be any better – a year in advance, a lot of the airlines will not have released their flights yet. For flights in Europe, even 6 months ahead might be too soon. Look ahead in advance at the prices available to get an idea of when the cheapest time to book is (bearing in mind holiday seasons). Also be aware that more people book flights on the weekend, so make sure to check the prices on a weekday as well to see if you can get it cheaper.
Book a flight with a stopover
Not worth the hassle for short haul as far as I’m concerned, but for long haul don’t immediately discount any flights with a stopover. They can dramatically reduce your costs, and if you’re very lucky you might get to spend an extra day in an entirely new location. When I go to New Zealand next year I’ve wangled it so I have two days in Bangkok on the way there.
If you have very specific dates or location you have to travel on/to/from it makes it much more difficult to shop around. I always find the flights I want to book first, checking various nearby (or not so nearby) airports, then book holiday from work around them, rather than the other way round.
Check prices in a private browsing session
When you start searching for flights normally, it’s all stored in your browsing history. This can sometimes boost the prices up (I assume because the website thinks you’re more likely to buy something so you don’t see the very best deals). There’s some debate as to how much this holds true, but at least check the price in a private browsing session before buying.
Dedicated flight tracker websites
This is where to go for the simply unbelievable deals – but you need to be spontaneous. Both of the above websites work tirelessly to post up the best flights they can find, be it last minute deals, flash sales (Ryanair’s £1 flights come to mind) or error fares…
London->Bangkok->Auckland->London: £400 (normally £750)
Budapest->Tokyo->Budapest: £170 (normally £400)
Both of the error fares above I booked thanks to Holiday Pirates. I booked the flights to Tokyo 6 hours after spotting them, and the flights to Auckland I booked 1 hour after. This is what I mean by spontaneous. These deals do not come along often and as soon as the airline becomes aware they will fix it. Sometimes you will get to the final page and the price will suddenly hike up to normal. Sometimes the route you would have to take is just so convoluted that it’s not worth it. But when you get an insanely good deal, it’s worth it.
With error fares you also need to be aware that airlines can legally cancel tickets bought at a low rate due to a genuine mistake, but if it doesn’t happen within a couple of weeks you should be safe. This is the one time when you can’t be that flexible – check the different dates if they’re available, but you just need to hope that it fits in with your schedule.
Hopefully these tips have helped – go forth and book your next flights safe in the knowledge that you are not overpaying!