04 Jun How to Find Cheap Flights – 26 Tips to Book Cheap Airfare
Snagging a cheap flight is the Holy Grail for all would-be travellers. Wherever you are flying to, saving money on your journey means more money to spend when you get there.
If you are prepared to put enough time into your search, and able to be flexible on where and even when you travel, there are deals on flights to be had. You can easily pick up cheap hotels, and even cheap package holidays, but because of the way airlines price their tickets, finding reduced airline tickets can be a full time job. Start early, prepare to shop around and with a fair wind and a bit of luck, you may well be able to secure a flight to your dream destination at a price that won’t give you nightmares.
If you are looking for flights around the globe that don’t cost the earth, these tried and testing tips could help.
Whilst it is true that you can sometimes pick up a bargain on last minute ticket sites, generally they ramp up the price the nearer you get to your ideal departure date.
Airlines can release tickets as early as 11 months in advance, so if you are the organised type, you could save pounds by starting your search early. You may even find that you have to search on a regular basis over a period of many months before you find that perfectly priced flight.
According to some flight savvy savers, the optimum time to find discounted tickets is around 7-8 weeks before you travel. Flight search website Skyscanner offers a handy tool that allows you to see exactly when flights to your preferred destination fall the most.
2. Prepare To Work
When seeking out cheap flights on the internet, one thing is for sure, there is no simple way to find them. Let’s face it, if there was, we would all be doing it. It can take hours, days, or even weeks scanning the web for that incredible deal, but once you find what works for you, you’ll know how to approach your next flight search. It just takes time and dedication.
3. Have A Price In Mind
Reduced flight fares are not reverse auctions. If you are waiting for the lowest price ever seen to appear, you may well be disappointed. Flight prices are live and will fluctuate depending on supply and demand.
Set a price bracket that YOU are comfortable with, can afford and are willing to pay. If a flight comes up within your range, go ahead and purchase it. Waiting for it to fall again could be a false economy and you could end up paying more than you bargained for.
4. Be Open To Visiting Anywhere In The World
If you are looking forward to a fortnight on the beach, there are thousands of beaches to choose from, some significantly cheaper to fly to than others. The same applies to city breaks, skiing holidays, backpacking adventures and many other types of holiday.
The awesome power of the internet has made it really easy to find great value flights to anywhere in the world. Travel planning website Kayak for example, offers a very usable explore tool that allows you to see where the cheap flights are at, without having to input a destination, region or even country.
You could also try the slightly superior Google Flights online flight finder which will give you an instant idea of the cheapest destinations around the world. If you can remain flexible about your destination, chances are you will be able to find a bargain that suits. It is super easy to use too, simply visit Google Flights, click the map, enter your dates of travel and boom! Click on any destination that takes your fancy to get prices.
5. Try Being Flexible With Your Dates
If you could somehow swing it that you can travel anywhere at literally any time, you would probably have no trouble being able to source really cheap airfares. In reality, many of us have to work around real life commitments, but if you can be flexible with your dates, you could score savings here too.
Airlines price their tickets based on days of the week, months of the year and traditionally busy periods like Christmas and school holidays. The weather also hikes up prices, as certain countries are nicer to visit at different times of the year. Because of this, there is no one cheap time of the year to fly, but prices can be reduced significantly after school holidays, and outside of traditionally busy times.
6. Consider Changing Your Days
Say for example you really need to visit Barcelona in March, you will probably find that flight prices will be more appealing during the week, than they would be on a weekend. Tuesdays usually achieve the lowest rates, so see if you can extend your long weekend, or maybe have mid week city break instead. Sunday’s also usually offer lower ticket fares, so maybe start you week away at the end of the weekend, instead of the beginning.
This is not a hard and fast rule, but you could certainly see some day-related savings, depending on where you are flying and at what time of year.
7. Fly Early Or Late
If you can find a flight that leaves early in the morning, or very late at night, these too are usually cheaper, because, obviously not everyone wants the inconvenience of getting up early or waiting all day to fly.
A simple flight from London Gatwick to Barcelona, for example, starts from as little as £55 if you are prepared to be there in time for the 6.00am flight, whereas a more reasonably timed 09.45 am flight jumps up to as much as £147 for the same journey. While this is also not always the case, you could save a few pounds if you are an early riser or a bit of a night owl.
8. Do Your Own Research On Dates
Another thing to remember on the subject of when you fly, is that airlines are not daft. They know exactly when something major is going on, from music festivals to sporting events and everything in between. This means that trying to sneak over to the other side of the world to catch a big football match on a bargain budget, probably won’t happen.
If you find prices are looking unusually high for your preferred destination, have a quick look at what is happening there around the time you wish to travel and you will soon see what is drawing them in.
9. Keep Your Searches Secret
Often considered a bit of an urban myth, there actually is some truth in the fact that flight prices do appear to change after you have searched for the same route several times. This is because the cookies in your browser alert the host websites that you are continually searching the same destination. Airlines want you to book, not browse, so they effectively scare you into hitting the ‘buy’ button by gradually increasing their prices.
To avoid this happening, always search in secret. You can do this by activating private browsing mode. If you use Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”.
Browsing incognito will open a new browser window where information is not tracked, and cookies are re-set, effectively giving you a clean slate for every search.
10. It Can Be More Expensive to Fly Direct
If you are going a fair distance, it might actually be cheaper to take the scenic route, and take more than one flight. A long haul flight to Cape Town for example is almost half the price if you change over in Johannesburg on route. This is not always the case though and destinations likes Dubai, Los Angeles, New York and Miami are often cheaper to fly to direct.
Most flight comparison sites or search engines will give you the option to fly direct or include a change of flights on your journey, so click both to see which ones come up cheaper. Here’s good example of the kind of savings that can be made from the cash guru’s at Money Saving Expert.
11. Never Underestimate The Budget Carriers
Budget carriers used to only be good for short haul flights or internal ones. But these days they have upped their game to compete with the major airlines. Europe and the UK has a particularly wide choice of carriers that can take you all over the world.
If you are not sure which ones fly to where you want to go, then you can look up flight routes on their own websites, or simply visit the website of your preferred airport and they will have a list of budget airlines that service them.
In Europe, Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2, Flybe, Blueair, German Wings, Norwegian, Wizz Air and Veuling all offer low cost flights to a variety of destinations across the globe.
When it comes to long haul, Norwegian offers some of the best value flights in the world including London Gatwick to New York’s JFK for as little as £210 pp.
Be careful though, as we know with budget airlines, the price you see isn’t necessarily the price you pay. We will come on to that later.
12. Break Up Your Journey
We have already mentioned that you can potentially save money if you choose not to fly direct to long haul destinations, but you could save even more if you are happy to stop over for 24 hours or more. Generally speaking, flights to Asia, South America and Africa offer the best discounts if you are able to break up your journey somewhere in the middle.
Even with the cost of accommodation built in, you could still make some pretty hefty savings by turning your dream holiday into a multi-destination tour. Flights to Medellin in Colombia for example, can be purchased far cheaper from Madrid than they can from London, but you may not be able to link a budget flight to Madrid directly with the long haul flight across the Atlantic. So take a stroll, book a cheap hotel and enjoy a night or two in Madrid en route.
13. Stack Your Flight For Bigger Discounts
Package holidays are usually more expensive than flying direct and sourcing your own accommodation. This is a known truth, but there is still something to be said for booking your flights, hotels and even car hire all at the same time.
Flight brokers, or online travel agents, often offer extra discounts for combining all of your travel and accommodation in one go. You will also get extra protection via the travel giant ATOL, even though a combined booking is not the same as a package deal.
Websites like Expedia, Opodo, lastminute.com and Netflights all offer this service, and if you are prepared to be a little bit flexible on where you fly to and when, you can quickly reap the rewards. Plus, you entire itinerary will be taken care off so it’s a win/win all round.
14. Travel Like A Local
Here in the UK, we are home to an array of nationalities from over the world, many of whom regularly travel the globe to visit their homelands. This means we also have airlines or agents that deal specifically with certain areas. Niche travel agents may not be so easy to find online, but a trip to their offices can see some serious discounts available.
If you live in London for example, Golders Green has travel agents that specialise in cheap flights to Israel to serve the large Jewish community that live there, while certain areas in South London can save you a small fortune on trips to the Caribbean.
If a trip to China is on the cards, the UK is lucky enough to have an amazing Oriental travel specialist in the form of Omega, which has offices in London’s Chinatown, Birmingham, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Edinburgh that will usually beat High Street travel agencies for flights to the Chinese continent.
Always compare your prices before you book, but flying like a local could save you pounds.
15. Harness The Power Of The Internet Search Engine
Most of us probably use search engines on a daily basis. Whatever information you need is available at your finger tips, 24/7.
There are a huge variety of search engines purely designed for sourcing flights all around the world. Many of these don’t list the budget carriers, but may have details of out of season, off peak deals from the major airlines.
A few of the best are:
Momondo is a very strong tool for finding flights as it is one of the few that does list budget airline prices, and also any deals to be had from non-English websites. Whatever you do though, do be sure to compare the prices available from at least a couple of them. Many of them have access to different deals at different times and you may be able to buy cheaper by taking the time to compare.
16. Take Advantage Of Flight Insights
Search engines like Momondo and Skyscanner have the ability to give you useful insights on flights booked through them. For example Momondo gives you “flight insights” on some routes that can help you to pinpoint exactly when is the cheapest time to fly, which days of the week have lower fares and even which months of the year have better bargains.
A good example would be London-Phuket prices were cheapest in May and June and most expensive in December and August. The time to book is 60 days before departure for the cheapest flights. Yet for a London-Melbourne search, it’s best to book 59 days in advance and it’s cheapest to go in November or March.
When you are looking for cheap flights, you need that kind of data in your life!
17. Make Your Age Work To Your Advantage
When you are young, some things like car insurance cost an arm and a leg. Flights and travel on the other hand, can become much cheaper. Student discounts are usually available to anyone who is in full time education and under the age of 26. Even if you are not studying, companies like STA Travel or Flight Centre can still offer savings on flights for the youngsters out there.
Traditional backpacking destinations like Australia, Thailand and India can be amongst the most expensive, but take our earlier advice about breaking up your journey and you could be quids in.
18. Subscribe To Email Promotions
Frequent flyers, airline rewards programmes and even just email subscriptions can offer discounted ticket prices on some flights. If you don’t mind dealing with a very full inbox, you could be in luck when it comes to cheap ticket promotions. Some airlines even offer partner schemes that offer discounted flights to countries that they don’t fly to.
19. Become A Frequent Flier
Airline reward schemes are a great way to earn frequent flyer points that save you money in the long run. They can also help you to score free upgrades and free companion tickets if you work the system well enough. Even if you don’t fly very often, it is still worth signing up to airline reward schemes when you do. Many airlines have partner airlines too, meaning you can still earn points even if you are not travelling on the same airline every time.
The ultimate prize is to fly often enough to rack up enough “points” to be eligible for free flights. Even if you cannot do this, these kind of schemes will still offer you special offers via post or email or travel rewards like parking discounts, free baggage checks and priority boarding. They also often have handy promotional offers when purchasing goods or services from shops, hotels and retailers using their airline portals or websites to earn more points.
20. Search For Single Ticket Prices
Airlines know that most of us go on our holidays with our friends or family. Because of this, they often hike up the prices for group bookings.
A family of four booking at the same time will often be based upon the most expensive seats if you choose to sit together (which of course, you will). Try instead to search for single ticket prices, then choose your seats next to each other to help keep the prices down. The checkout process will allow you to pick your seats and with a bit of luck you can all sit together, without paying extra for the privilege.
21. Book Tickets In Other Currencies
Searching for an airfare in a country where the currency is weaker can produce significant discounts. You will, however, need to do your research on which currencies are lower than GBP and be prepared to take the time to convert them before booking. This works particularly well in countries like New Zealand where the NZ$ is weaker than the pound, but they still operate many of the same major airline flights to and from the country.
Also, to avoid additional fees popping up on your booking, use a credit card that does not charge extra for foreign transactions.
22. Know Exactly What You Are Paying For
This takes us back to budget airlines, or prices that look too good to be true. Spoiler alert, they generally are. Budget airlines in particular are famous for offering dirt cheap transport fares, but then charging you for meals, baggage check-in, seat allocation and a variety of other essential extras.
Luckily enough, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) website has a useful airline charges comparison table which shows extra fees for a host of big airlines, as well as luggage allowances, seat selection charges and whether a meal’s included with your ticket. This helps you to see the real cost of your ticket, and enables you to decide whether or not that budget ticket really is cheaper than flying with a more prestigious airline.
23. Watch Out For Credit Card Fees
Despite the fact that online transactions are responsible for more ticket purchases than ever before, sometimes you can still be charged extortionate fees for using your credit card. Before you hit “pay” on your flight booking, read through the small print to see if you will be charged a fee for using your credit card, and if so what the alternatives are.
Be aware though, that your credit card still offers the greatest protection should you carrier go bust.
24. Don’t Forget The Bigger Airports
Often we assume that smaller, regional airports will offer better prices that the major transport hubs. This is not always the case. Bigger can sometimes be better for the value flyer as they have more carriers with more seats available. To give you an example tickets from London Gatwick to Malaga in March are only £85, whereas they rise to as much as £103 from Bradford Airport.
A good way to find the cheapest airport for the particular route you wish to fly is to use the “add nearby airports” option on Skyscanner and see which airports offer the best deals for you.
25. Combine Carriers
Airlines used to reward us for our loyalty by offering better deals on return trips. These days though, it is every man for himself as return fares are not necessarily better value using the same airline.
When you are searching, consider your outbound and inbound flights as two separate entities. With easy to use online boarding passes and early check in, it makes no difference who you fly with, there or back. You may find that by mixing up your carriers, you are able to save a few more precious pounds.
26. Set Up A Price Alert
If all of the above painstaking searching seems too much for you, then set up a price alert to get instant updates delivered to your inbox. Sites like Kayak and Skyscanner both allow you to set up alerts for specific dates, destinations and routes and they will send you price changes on a regular basis.
Of course, they will only advise you of the airlines that they compare prices with, so you may still want to check budget airlines or foreign airlines yourself.
Simple sign up for an account, and enter the details you need to set up automatic alerts.
Find Your Perfect Ticket Price Today
Low price flight deals are out there, you just need to be tenacious enough to find them.
However you choose to travel, there are bargains to be had. With a little dedication and determination you may well be able to afford to go further than you ever imagined.
Take advantage of all of the tools available to you, and don’t just accept the first flight price you find. Put the work in and you will be rewarded with discount airfares all around the world.
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