The hardest part of travelling is deciding where to go.  Once you’ve got that nailed, you’ll more than likely have to get a plane to get to that destination.  With airline tickets rising more each year as fuel costs rocket up, things are getting costly for the average traveller.  Flights are often one of the biggest single outlays a person pays, so lets get you there for the cheapest possible price we can.  This method may take a little bit longer to get the tickets you want but it could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of pounds/dollars, and you’ll feel pretty smug being the one of lucky ones who paid half the price as the person sat next to you on the flight.

1) Use comparison sites.

This is the first thing we check out.  We don’t book any flights without checking www.skyscanner.net first.  It compares all airlines and brings back to you the cheapest airline, which flies that route.  Think you will be stuck on budget airlines?  Think again.  We have used this method and enjoyed flights on many of the more premium airlines at a rock bottom price.

A common misconception is that sites like Expedia or Lastminute.com offer cheap flights.  You need to search as many flight search websites as possible, as many sites don’t list budget carriers because those airlines don’t want to pay a booking commission.   So as well as Skyscanner, look at www.momondo.com , www.google.com/flights , www.kayak.com or www.hipmunk.com .  Also, once you find which airline is the cheapest and get the flight details, rather than booking through the comparision site, consider opening up a new tab and booking direct with that airline, to avoid the ‘convenience fee’ the comparison sites might add on to the ticket price.  This doesn’t always apply and sometimes booking through the comparison site is actually cheaper than booking direct.  It makes no sense, but ah well, whatever is the cheapest wins out.

2) Be flexible with your dates.

Ticket prices vary greatly depending on the day, time of the day, time of the year or any special events (eg World Cup, the holidays or a specific festival).   School holidays are often the flight price increase times, so if possible, avoid going to ‘family destinations’ then.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally the cheapest days to fly out on so consider that whilst booking.   Weekends are, not surprisingly, the peak times and prices are reflected to show this.

Likewise, the time of the day can make a massive difference in price.  Most people want a convenient time, which is often in the day.   With demand, comes the price tag.  We always pick the night flights as they can be literally half the price.   The key is, you want to fly when no-one else does.

Being flexible with the time of month you fly can also save you big bucks.  The graph below shows flights from London Heathrow to Brisbane. If you are flexible with your dates you could fly one way for £574… if you must go on the 13th then you will be stung for a fare of £1453 one way.  By checking when flights are cheap before you book your holiday off work could save you (in this case) £879 – which is a great saving in anyone’s book!

On a flight we have recently booked from California to Peru we were initially quoted £962.  In the end we paid £605.  This saving could have been even bigger had we not been fixed on dates. 

3) Be flexible with your departure airport.

The UK has A LOT of airports in very close proximity.  There can be a huge difference in price just by putting London Gatwick instead of London Heathrow.  If you’re northerners like us, don’t just stick to popular Manchester airport, consider Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, Blackpool, etc.  This system also works with many other westernised countries, were people have several departing airports to pick from that are a realistic option of leaving from.  Of course, consider the travel costs (eg taxis, trains, fuel in the car etc) if you’re open to departing from somewhere new to your usual.

4) Be flexible with your destination.

If you are flexible with where you want to go you can also save an absolute fortune.  Google flights has a feature that allows you to put in your departure airport and see route prices all around the world by simply putting “anywhere” in the search tab.   Whatever comes up as the cheapest in the area we are interested in, we often go there eg when we did our North America overland trip Los Angeles was the cheapest arrival airport from the UK so we started the trip there.  It’s surprising to many people given the hundreds of other airports in America and Canada that are a lot closer to the UK than LAX and there’s also busier airports that are often the ones that hold those cheap connecting flights.

5) Fly budget.

We have never understood how people have loyalty with airlines and will only ever fly with Virgin airways for example.  Being loyal can often do you no favours and you’ll miss out on good deals with the budget airlines, such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2, Air Asia and there are a handful of ones in America too.  They’re all over the world though, so find out your continents no-frills airlines.  Often these airlines will offer low cost fare tickets where you just pay the taxes.  We went from Manchester, UK to Barcelona, Spain once, paying just £10 ($15USD) for a return.  There are even 99p ($1.50USD) flights.  Madness. 

The aircrafts are basic, so don’t expect meals, a television to yourself or those little goodies in the packets.  There can also be additional costs like charging for a check-in bag, a compulsory fee to pick your seat, using a credit card to pay etc, so be sure to take the initial price with a pinch of salt.  However, for the deals you can get, they’re completely fine for short-haul flights.

What’s even better for travellers, is that many of these cheap airlines are now operating cross-continent flights at a fraction of the cost of their ‘posher’ competitors.   So, man-up, sleep to let the time pass quicker and enjoy more fun in sun with all those £’s you’ve saved by scrimping it on your choice of airline. 

6) Consider alternative routes.

Many flights we take have a layover where we transfer on long haul flights.  Try booking both journeys individually, or create your own lay over.  Experiment with busy airports as your layover.  In the USA, JFK, Atlanta and LAX are all busy airports with lots of cheap flights.  In Europe, Munich, Paris CDG and Amsterdam all offer cheap fares to international destinations.   This method is more work as you have to figure out lots of different routes and check different airlines, but again, you can make some sweet savings.

Example 1:

A one-way ticket from Lima, Peru to London Heathrow with 1 layover (JFK, New York) is £697.

OR

A one-way from Lima, Peru to JFK, New York is £284 (direct) and then a single to JFK, New York to London Heathrow is £237 (direct), giving you a total of airfare price of £521 for the same flights as above.  This has saved you £176.

This system does take a little more planning with calculating the correct length of time to give yourself at your layover.  We recommend planning to arrive around 4 hours before your next flight is due to depart.  This will give you enough time to get your baggage and re-check it in to the next flight .

Alternatively, if you manage to get an interesting place to layover, take a day or two and make your holiday a twin centre one.

Example 2:

London to Maldives with 1 stop expect to pay around £500-£600 one-way.

OR

London to Dubai is £150 and Dubai to Maldives is £168, giving a total of £318 one-way.  Cheap eh?!  Anyone want to go the Maldives now?

Example 3.

Linzi recently looked at booking a one-way flight from Ecuador to Dubai.  For the month she needed, they quoted her around the £1300 mark (that was for the cheapest ticket too).  There are no direct flights from Ecuador to Dubai, so she noticed that many of the flights had stops in Atlanta or New York.  She managed to pay £150 for a one-way ticket from Ecuador to New York, then £420 from New York to Dubai, giving a massive saving of £730.  Insane price difference for the same flights.

7) Use Quidco.

Most airlines have cash back deals with the website Quidco.  Here you either receive a percentage of the airfare back or a set fee back (normally £5-£30).

When in the UK we used Quidco for far more than airfares.  We used it for everything from groceries to car insurance and utility bills.  We have ‘earned’ literally thousands of pounds, that we otherwise wouldn’t have got back had we not gone through Quidco first.

It’s quick, it’s simple, so follow the link below to sign up today: www.quidco.com.

8) Take advantage of discounts or multi-stop packages.

We’re no longer students or under 26, but for those that lucky enough to fit into any of these categories, STA Travel offers big discounts on all sorts of methods of travel, not just flights.  They also have the popular ‘around the world multi-stop flight’ packages, which are very good value for money and not just limited to the above groups.  If you’re overwhelmed by your options, just pop into the many branches around the world and talk it out with an advisor. 

9) Use frequent flier miles.

Airline reward schemes are great way to get free flights, upgrades or free companion travel.  It’s really easy to sign up and it’s win-win all the way for you.   You can get extra miles by shopping via their airline portals too.  It’s simply shopping online via a link on an airline’s website.  The products on the online stores don’t cost any extra, so again you’ll just be adding to your miles.  Be sure to watch out for special offers via their newsletters, such as triple miles on selected routes if you take part in a survey.   Furthermore, paying on your credit card can also earn you a lot of miles (just be sure to pay it off every month).  Check out your bank’s reward system regarding miles or sign up to travel credit cards to really stock up on those flight freebies.

10) Know when to book.

We have found flights are generally cheapest around 2 months before they fly or 3-4 months if travelling in peak season. Your best bet is when you have decided on your location with the use of a comparison site, check once a week. You will generally see a pattern with flight prices increasing and decreasing.   If prices start to the reach the high end of our ‘comfort zone’, we’ll check out the available seats on the flight and if there aren’t many left, we’ll book the flight as normally this indicates prices aren’t going to go down.

Airlines know if a flight is going to sell or not and will begin to either lower or increase fares based on demand, so as stated above, if there aren’t many seats left on a particular flight, the airline has no incentive to lower the price to get rid of seats. 

Don’t keep holding out as airlines will often dramatically shoot the price up if you are booking close to departure, as clearly you need the flight.  Most people miss the lowest price by holding out a bit too long.  Therefore, it’s important to know what you are willing to pay for a flight.  Be realistic with flight prices eg Mauritius is always going to be at least £700 return from the UK (with an average of £1000), so don’t hang back thinking it will drop to £500.  

Booking too far in advance will also do you no favours, as airlines are going to wait as long as possible to release the cheaper fares.

Also, watch out for sales.  By signing up for mailing lists from airlines and search engines, you’ll be able to get updates about last-minute deals or mistake fares.  Sites such as www.airwatchdog.com, www.theflightdeal.com and www.holidaypirates.com will keep you alert of last minute deals, but again you have to be flexible for this to pay off.  If you don’t want all these mailing lists clogging up your inbox, then follow them on Twitter were many airlines will frequently post fare sales.

If you follow all of these steps you will pay rock bottom prices to get to your destination.  That way you will have more money for margaritas at the pool or even enough for that second holiday.  In general, play it smart: know your comfort zone, be realistic and keep tabs on those prices.

Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments below…

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