How to get cheap flights
Whether it's your first time booking your own trip or you’ve experienced the tiresome repeat flight searching to get the best possible flights, finding affordable flights can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Here are some tips that will save you time, frustration and most importantly money when booking your next flight.
It may sound simple but one of the main ways to reduce costs on flights is by having flexible travel plans, you can change your hotel/accommodation options to suit your budget but with flights its a very limited choice, you need to work around the airlines and find that perfect flight. Broaden your spectrum of dates/destinations/airports/flight times can really save you a lot of money. If you start with the mindset of; I want to travel to New York from the 3rd December- 6th December on an early direct flight in to JFK Airport more than likely it’s going to get expensive, but if you broaden your search to travel to New York in the first two weeks of December flying anytime during the day to any accessible airport with a maximum of 1 stop over you open a wide variety of prices for many different airports/dates/times/airlines. Flexibility is key with flights & can be the difference of saving hundreds of pounds.
Use the best flight search engines
So where do you start? your dates or travel plans are flexible, you're ready to start getting those cheap flights. Unfortunately, no search engine is consistently perfect although we find sky scanner to be the #1 choice, we would advise trying a combination of search engines to make sure you're not missing any results.
- Skyscanner (or download the app) - your starting point & first choice.
-Kiwi.com (combines all airlines to create routes that are cheaper than booking with just one airline & is our next go to after skyscanner)
- Momondo (a broad search engine that sometimes shows cheaper fares) check out our new TripFinder helper that makes it a little more user-friendly
-JetRadar (includes budget airlines, which many search engines don’t)
-AirWander (lets you extend layovers into stopovers to visit 2 destinations with 1 trip)
-Google Flights (good tool to quickly compare flights, also brilliant for free flight price tracking see more info below)
Track your flights & book at the right time
So when is the right time to book? To not sound cliche but the right time to book is when you're comfortable with the price before you plan on going away, set yourself a budget of what your willing to spend. There's no point in adding an extra stopover or flying with a budget airline if it's only going to save you a minimal amount. REMEMBER the hidden extras of flying; baggage fees, transport to that airport vs another, meals when travelling and of course time which sometimes can be the most important. All that said though, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right time to book, if you have set dates & your fixed with your travel plans and destination we advice to book as soon as possible, but if you have flexibility we would say the best time to book is 6-8 weeks before your flight (off-peak) and 3 months peak times such as holidays/main months in summer.
One of the main ways we know when its the right time to book is through google flights, they offer a free flight trends overview of prices and let you track your flights free of charge. They will email you updates on a particular flight or route and the change in prices to your email, which has certainly saved us a fair few pounds for other holiday activites.
Befriend budget airlines
One of the best ways to get significantly cheaper tickets is through budget airlines but of course, this can come at a value of compromised leg room, no complimentary food/drinks & most importantly strict rules and regulations that you need to be careful of. Overall if it's for a short haul flight this may be your best option. We fly budget airlines regularly for trips under 4 hours & can't complain. In the day and age were you can get flights from the UK to Europe for half the price of a train ticket from London to Newcastle, you have to half a certain bit of flexibility with what you're expecting for your money. Not all budget airlines are on Search engines so here's a comprehensive list of some of the best budget airlines per region, check out their websites for prices & check whats included/excluded.
Top tips for booking with budget airlines
-Check where the airport location is (some budget airlines fly to airports further out of town).
-Ensure you’ve booked & paid for your luggage allowance. Adhere to restrictions on weight, height, and the number of bags allowed. Some airlines (e.g. Ryanair) will charge a hefty fee if you’re over.
-Print your own ticket- some airlines have printout fees which can sometimes be more than the flight.
In a nutshell, always read and follow instructions! & Tweet us @beattravelagent if you have any questions.
Discover nearby airports
Do you know what airports are near you? You’d be surprised how easy it is to get buses/trains to nearby main airports. Many budget airlines only operate out of the larger main airports so be sure to check. When on Skyscanner or other search engines click the add nearby airports button and see your nearby options.
Clear those cookies
Unfortunately, in this day and age flight companies save all our details so the more you look at that flight with certain travel booking companies and flight companies the price will go up. Use a browser such as google chrome or safari to go into Incognito mode to look like your a new customer.
Embrace the single life
Now don’t go leaving your other half at home, it seems some airlines, especially budget airlines seem to have tickets cheaper for single purchasers and seem to hike the price when you buy multiple tickets. So check the price first for your group then check it singularly and make sure it isn’t cheaper to book singly. Afterwards, in the checkout process, you can pick your seats so you and your family are sitting together.
Locate those airlines errors
Yes that's right, everyone makes mistakes and when it comes to flight companies this seems to also be the case, whether it be a system error, human error or a wrong currency conversion, airlines do make mistakes and there are websites out there to take advantage of them. Sites like Airfarewatchdog has a dedicated team of deal hunters, who frequently post to their deals blog and keep you in the loop, also check out SecretFlying & Fly4Free.
Use Air miles
If you thinking of getting a credit card or looking to get that free upgrade or free flight (minus taxes) Air Miles could be the next step to lying on that beach. There are many different companies such as AMEX, Chase, Flybe & MBNA who are providing Cards that both come with free air miles when you join & Air miles when you spend. Check out our article here to find the best card; as you may need to research what airline you plan on using or provides the most routes so you can spend those earned points.
Make an airline buddy
No, we don’t mean making friends with that passenger next to you on the plane (although why not), but rather make friends with the airlines. Subscribe to their email newsletters, join there reward schemes, follow them on Facebook/Twitter and keep track of the voucher code and deals. As many times a year airlines will have discounts and sales and their followers will have first notice of the deals. What we do is have a separate email address just for tracked flights & flight and hotel newsletters to make sure we keep on top of the latest offers. Also, make sure to check out HotUKDeals and Vouchercodes to see what deals and promo codes are out there before you book your trip.
If you can’t beat them join them
That's right, sometimes the travel agent is the best place to book a flight package, due to a lot of flight companies like Thomas Cook/Thomson Airways etc. owning their own airlines. They can offer undercut rates & run services to the busy destinations around the holiday times at a slight discount that other airlines providers, although that doesn’t make them the cheapest if your booking an all-inclusive or package holiday your cheapest option is probably going to the travel agents themselves. Still, price check the flight without accommodation and with it and see if they can beat or match your own quote.
Check back and track
So you’ve got yourself a good deal, your flights are booked but your a bit worried the price might change today or tomorrow morning, its not over yet though any ticket sold in the US, for flights from the US, even if they’re on a foreign carrier must allow for one of two things: a 24 hour hold guaranteeing your fare before purchase OR a 24 hour risk free cancellation entitling you to a full refund. This isn’t the full case in the UK but many airlines such as BMI, British Airways, Virgin & some easyJet tickets offer this service so that you can cancel within 24 hours. So what we normally do is set an alarm to check in 23 hours or so to see if there was any price change. Just make sure to protect yourself when booking anything for a holiday over £100 on a credit card to protect yourself under section 75.