How to book cheap flights

Published in Travel Tips & Tricks

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.
Be flexible

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.

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Reward Credit Cards

Published in Travel Tips & Tricks

Reward credit cards

There is nothing more promising than free travel and many large banks and credit card companies know this and maximise this opportunity for new customers in the promise air mile incentives and hotel Program points both in spending and in opening new accounts with them. The main sectors we see this is in travel credit cards. These cards that I will explain in more detail offer joining bonuses in air miles, which could jet you off to New York or Dubai for free or upgrade your flight for free is used correctly.
The type of card you can get differ from location of where you are based as the currency of the card plays a large part in if you eligible i.e someone in the UK would find it hard to apply for a reward travel card in the US and vice versa. But we will discuss the options available below;

Top charge card
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card

This card unlike the others is a charge card and not a credit card, so you have to pay your balance off in full at the end of each month but there is no spending limits or interest charges. It also comes with a very hefty 20,000 bonus Reward points when you spend 2,000 in your first three months, which could take you too many locations on them miles alone. But it again does have a annual fee of £140 but is £0 in the first year.
Need to knows

  • Transfer your points to 15 major frequent flyer and hotel programmes.
  • Two complimentary Lounge visits per year to use at over 350 airport lounges globally.
  • 10% off Hertz base car rental rates, plus a one car class upgrade and additional driver fee waived (Upgrades are subject to availability)
  • $75 USD hotel credit and room upgrade where available at over 350 hotels globally including Hilton, InterContinental and Sofitel.
  • Earn one Membership Rewards Point for virtually every £1 spent on your Card and two additional points for virtually every £1 spent with American Express Travel.

Overview- this card is one of the best on the market for avios points or to be exchanged for the many hotel programs such as Club Carlson, Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest. This card has the most generous point scheme and with no fee in Year one you could use it then cancel before the renewal date. Also with AMEX policy you could open both the BA Amex and the Gold card to receive the Maximum air miles.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 5/5
Apply online

Top credit cards for UK residence
Airline cards (Avios and Virgin Flying Club)

British Airways American express premium plus card

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a jet setter then the BA Premium PlusAmex* card can reward you with free flights. Plus, if you're accepted you can get 18,000 bonus Avios points. But you need to be quite flexible with your dates as seats can be limited. You can also get a 'free' companion ticket if you spend £10,000/yr on the card.
Need to knows
•    18,000 bonus Avios welcome offer
•    This card does have an annual fee of £150 (but if accepted you can keep for 3 months and downgrade to the standard BA Amex credit card – see bellow. )
•    Companion Voucher each year when you spend £10,000
•    Automatic enrolment to the British Airways Executive Club.
•    Travel and shopping protection – this card gives you Travel Inconvenience insurance covering flight cancellations, delays and delayed baggage when flights are purchased on your Card. This is very convenient if you travel frequently.
•    This card also gives you 1.5 Avios points per pound spend and 3 avios points spend with British Airways which can certainly build up.

Overview – this card is very good for air miles and to put into perspective 15,000 airmiles could get you from London to Rome or many other great locations in Europe return. Or you could upgrade a flight from economy to business for 12,000 miles. I recently used this offer to travel from London to LA return on Air miles alone. The great feature of this card also is the travel inconvenience insurance whereby if your flight is delayed you're entitled to compensation through AMEX themselves but it does come at a cost of the annual fee.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 4/5
Apply online

British airways American Express credit card

Like the British Airways express premium plus card credit card this card offers a joining bonus of 3,000 points when you spend £500 within the first 3 months but doesn't have a joining fee so holding this card is completely free. Although you will only earn 1 Avios point per £1 spent on this card it is a great card to start saving if your not expecting to travel for a while and are going to use this card for your day to day spend.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 Avios point per £1 spent on the card.
•    Spend £500 within the first three months and you'll get the bonus 3,000 Avios points.
•    Spend £20,000/year, and you get one free 'companion ticket' when booking a flight. The free ticket can be used to get the same ticket type as the cardholder (if you go first class, so do they), though only on BA. But you'll still need to pay taxes and charges on top.

Overview – This card defiantly is good but we would advise to join the Platinum card first for the joining miles then downgrade to this card once you have received your joining fee and pay the annual fee of the Platinum card pro rata (i.e only the months you used it)
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
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Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

This Credit Card comes with both an Amex card and a MasterCard offering 1.25 Avios per £1 on the Amex and 0.25 Avios points per £1 on the Mastercard. This card does not have any sign-up bonus but does offer 5,500 Avios if you are referred before the 31st March- email – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.25 Avios point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.25 Avios points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months and no foreign Transaction fees on using the card abroad.
•    Voucher to upgrade a reward flight by one class when you spend £7000 in the first year.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £24 annual fee

Overview – This card is very good for the non-sterling transaction fees and is defiantly an all-rounder with both the Avios points and interest fee spending but does not offer the high joining miles we see with other cards, Although is defiantly a good card when using abroad.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
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Lloyds Premier Avios Rewards American Express and MasterCard

Like the Lloyds Avios rewards card the Premier Avios reward card offers air miles per spend but at a higher rate at 1.5 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.3 miles per £1 on the MasterCard. This card also does not offer a sign-up bonus but unlike the Lloyds Avios reward card there is no referral bonus. This card does also have 0% fees on using the card abroad but does come with a hefty fee of £140 annually. But does offer the upgrade of a flight by one class when you spend £5,000 in a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.5 Avios point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.3 Avios points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months and no foreign Transaction fees on using the card abroad.
•    Voucher to upgrade a reward flight by one class when you spend £5000 in the first year.
•    Worldwide Companion Ticket with annual spends of £12,000 on BA and Eurostar.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £140 annual fee

Overview – This card is very good for the non-sterling transaction fees and is defiantly an all rounder with both the avios points and interest fee spending but does not offer the high joining miles we see with other cards and does not offer the referral option. It also have quite a high annual fee and for this reason alone you may be better with the standard Lloyds avios rewards account if air miles is what you are after.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Lloyds Choice Rewards American Express & MasterCard

This card offers 1 mile per £1 for Amex and 0.2 miles per £1 on the MasterCard and has a low annual fee of £24 like the Lloyds Avios Rewards card but does offer the feature of a choice if you want your points for flights, shopping vouchers, cash back or travel.  So it has that little bit of extra flexibility on what you want to spend your earning points on.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 choice* point per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.2 choice points per £1 on the MasterCard.
•    Double miles on the Amex card for the first Six months
•    You also get 0.2 points per £1 balance transferring.
•    0% on balance transfers for 30 months and purchases for 12 months
•    £24 annual fee
Overview- This card is good if you aren’t sure how you want to spend your points and you can mix and match on travel and on shopping but does not offer the benefit of the 0% non sterling transaction fees.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Virgin Atlantic White American Express and Visa

This card offers 1 mile per £1 for Amex and 0.5 miles per £1 on the Visa and has no annual fee. It also offers a 3,000 virgin flying club miles (not to get mixed up with Avios miles) with your first purchase or 6,000 if you are referred by an existing card holder (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info). It also offers double miles for spend with Virgin and an upgrade after spending £10,000 a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 flying club mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.2 flying club mile per £1 on the Visa.
•    Double miles for spending on Virgin.
•    0% on balance transfers for 6 months
•    Companion voucher when you spend 15,000 in a year.
•    NO annual fee

Overview- This card is good if you plan on flying Virgin and they offer a wide range of flights worldwide and with no fee is superior to other cards but doesn’t offer no worldwide transaction fees. It also requires 35,000 miles to get an economy return trip from London to New York which will take a bit of time of spending.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
Apply online

Virgin Atlantic Black American Express and Visa

This card offers 2 mile per £1 for Amex and 1 miles per £1 on the Visa but has a £140 annual fee. It also offers a massive sign up bonus of 18,500 virgin flying club miles (not to get mixed up with Avios miles) with your first purchase or 21,500 if you are referred by an existing card holder (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info). It also offers 4 miles per £1 for spend with Virgin and an upgrade after spending £5,000 a year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 2 flying club mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 1 flying club mile per £1 on the Visa.
•    Double miles for spending on Virgin.
•    0% on balance transfers for 6 months
•    Companion voucher when you spend £7,500 in a year.
•    £140 annual fee
•    Receive a premium upgrade when you spend £5000.

Overview- This card has one the highest joining incentives about and could almost get you a free trip just from opening the account, the down side is the annual fee and it can not be cancelled or downgraded pro-rata which has to be weighed up with the white card but overall a very good card with a lot of incentives if you feel you will be flying with virgin more than once. You also can exchange tesco clubcard points for virgin miles or exchange amex miles at a rate of 1:1 so the white card might be better for a first timer.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 4/5
Apply online

Other Airline cards (excluding Avios and Virgin Flying Club)
American Airlines AAdvantage American Express and Visa

American airlines AAdvasntage American express and visa account issued by MBNA has No annual fee and you earn 1.5 miles per £1 amex and 0.75 miles per £1 visa. With a sign- up bonus of 5,000 miles with the first purchase this could go towards a trip or upgrade on an American Airlines. They also offer 0% interest for 12 months on all American Airlines card purchases.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.5 miles per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.75 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with American Airlines
•    0% on transferring money from this card to your current account for 6 months.
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- The 5,000 joining miles is a start but isn’t no where near enough to get a flight and most of the flights with American airways are US or Asia based, but once in a while AA offer a joining bonus of 15,000 which just ended and I will post info once this happens. But overall this is an ok offer especially with no fee and interest free on bookings for 12 months but isn’t ideal for UK customers.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
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Emirates Skywards American Express and Visa

The Emirates skywards American express and visa card is issued by MBNA have no annual fee and you earn 1 skyward mile per £1 Amex and 0.5 skyward miles per £1 on the Visa card. It comes with a decent 5,000 Emirates Skyward miles with your first purchase. It also comes with 0% interest on Emirates.com purchases for the first year.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1 skyward mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.5 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with Emirates.com
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    10% discount on Emirates Holidays
•    25% off purchases of Skywards miles.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- The Emirates Skyward account does have no fee but 5,000 Emirate miles isn't an awful lot of miles on its own when compared with over cards and unless you where going to use this card for your spend on the Amex to earn miles it might not be too helpful but with no fee applying can't hurt to start you off and the 0% interest for 12 months on purchases with Emirates.com is a good way to book a flight 0% interest and gain points on that flight plus the welcome bonus and the spend.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 3/5
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Emirates Skywards Elite American Express and Visa

Like the Emirates Skywards American express and Visa card this card is issued by MBNA and earns skyward miles for every pound you spend at a rate of 2 miles per £1 Amex and 1 mile per £1 on the Visa. This card has an annual fee of £150 which is quite large but does come with a sign up bonus of 10,000 skyward miles.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 2 skyward miles per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 1 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with Emirates.com
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    10% discount on Emirates Holidays
•    25% off purchases of Skywards miles.
•    £150  annual fee
•    An Emirates Skywards Companion Reward Saver Business Class or Saver Economy Class ticket when you spend more than GBP 15,000 in a year
•    150 discount on an Emirates First Class or Business Class ticket
•    Emirates Business Class Check-in for Economy Class

Overview- The Emirates elite Skyward account does have a large £150 annual fee but you get this directly from a business or first class ticket, it also has quite a high rate of earning but 10,000 skyward miles isn’t an awful lot when you consider the annual fee so unless you are expecting to travel more than a one-off journey with Emirates I would compare this card with other offers about or wait until the rate changes, sometimes Emirates up the signup bonus to around 20,000-25,000 points. So keep an eye out and I will give any updates.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 2/5
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United Airlines MileagePlus American Express and Visa

The United airlines mileage plus American express and visa is issued by MBNA. You earn 1.25 miles per £1 on the Amex and 0.625 miles per £1 on the Visa. It has no fee but does not have any sign- up bonus.
Need to knows
•    You'll earn 1.25 mile per £1 spent on the card on Amex and 0.625 miles per £1 on the Visa.
•    0% interest for 12 months on card purchases with United
•    0% on transferring balances for 6 months.
•    NO  annual fee

Overview- This card overall as a credit card is good but with no sign-up bonus and with quite a low earning rate you aren't going to get much benefit out of this card unless you already have some miles with United.
Beatthetravelagent review score of 1/5
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Beatthetravelagent is not a credit broker – although we are giving our personal advice on the credit cards above we are in no way taking any fee or service from the lenders. We also advice to make sure you are reasonable borrowing and understand the financial risks of borrowing. We advice to seek advice from the bank or building society if you have any questions about the cards and there rates.




 

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