We all know booking flights can be stressful. Getting the right flight can mean the difference between starting your trip off right, or creating a living nightmare that would threaten to put you off flying altogether.
Whilst we can’t guarantee ourselves a flight with no screaming children in the seat behind, or the person next to us being the world’s most intense snorer – there are some tips that can help you at least drive the cost down a bit when you’re booking. Let’s face it – not paying an arm and a leg to get to your destination can make everything else seem a little easier to deal with, and that extra cash you saved can go towards further holiday enjoyment.
1. Don’t stress about algorithms
Firstly – a common tip usually given, that is actually a myth.
You may have heard things like, “book flights on a Tuesday because they’re cheaper,” or “use the incognito browser to search flights. The cookies in your browser will drive prices up on repeatedly searched routes.”
Whilst it doesn’t hurt to do your searches in incognito mode, airlines are apparently no longer using algorithms in this way, so it makes no difference. You can use your normal browser to look for flights, and likely won’t notice a pricing difference after a few repeat searches. If you do, it’s coincidence. There is also no evidence to suggest booking a flight on a specific day i.e. Tuesday, will save you any money. Sometimes leaving on a weekday is cheaper, but this depends on a huge variety of things like; events, weather, demand, and time of day.
2. Fly with budget airlines
If the cheapest flight is your main priority – look into what your budget airlines are offering (RyanAir, Easy Jet, etc). These airlines will offer hugely cheaper airfares, however they can come at another cost – less leg room, no baggage allowance, and no snacks on the flight. Watch out for hidden fees too (read the fine print!) and be prepared for a possible lack of organisation compared to the more expensive companies.
I’ve flown a lot of trips with budget airlines and saved a lot of money – but sometimes you just want stress free travel, and to feel looked after properly. Hence why this year, I’ve opted to spend a little more to fly with “real airlines” as Riley calls them!
3. Be flexible!
Whether it’s with destinations, times, or dates – being flexible can save you heaps of money. Try to fly off-season, avoid big events/festivals, and fly late at night or early in the morning when no one else wants to. Airlines are aware of all these things and adjust flight prices accordingly.
Destinations are another thing you should try to be flexible with. You might even find it’s cheaper to fly to another airport miles from your destination, and catch a train in than go to the closest major airport!
4. Don’t always pick a direct flight
Choosing a direct flight can mean far less stress on your journey, however – if you are willing to break the journey up – you could save yourself loads. It will mean more flying time but that could be a much smaller price to pay. On my last trip to Barcelona, I flew via Munich, and saved about £100 on my flight than I would have flying direct from Glasgow (worth noting this was not with a budget airline). It took me around 6 hours travel time in total but I made sure I had enough time to make the change in Munich (around two hours but if you can find one with three even better!) and it resulted in a pleasant journey regardless of the time it took.
Just ensure you have factored in enough time for delays, or if you have to go through security/passport control. It’s no use booking a flight to Nevada if you’ve got less than an hour to change for it in Salt Lake City, and you’re flying internationally from Dublin. That is barely enough time to make it through border control in America, never mind that if you experience a delay – you’ll most definitely miss that flight!
5. Search Engines and Travel Agents
Check different search engines when looking as different websites may not include all airlines in their search.
Google Flights is my usual go to in addition to Sky Scanner, but I’ve also heard Momondo is very good for comparison. It’s also worth checking with your local travel agent if they can find anything cheaper for you. We have on several occasions now had STA Travel find us the best deal for flights to the US and Australia, by going into our local branch in person!
6. Keep an eye out for deals
My recent go-to has been Secret Flying, a site that finds the most insane deals for travel worldwide. They also include any error fares that pop up (when there’s a glitch or an airline makes a mistake in the airfare pricing – resulting in it being insanely cheap)! Definitely worth taking a look at – signing up for e-mails from sites like these or the airlines themselves, can keep you in the loop for the best deals on offer.
7. Don’t wait too long to book
Contrary to popular belief – flights don’t always get cheaper the closer it gets to departure. If you’re not flexible with dates, try and book your flight around six to eight weeks in advance (even longer if you’re going during peak season). If you are flexible however, by all means watch flights for a few weeks and play around with dates until you find a price you’re happy paying. Just don’t leave it to the last minute!
There you have it, several easy ways to find the cheapest flights. There are other methods like changing the currency you’re using to pay for the flight, travel hacking (check out Zero to Travel’s guide on this here), and booking each seat individually if you’re flying as a group/family – however they start to get a little more complex – and I’m all about keeping travel simple for now!