Booking Hacks for Cheap Flights

There are so many myths and hacks around booking cheap flights and unfortunately there is no one size fits all. Some days you can use all the tricks in the book and the prices of flights are still pretty high and some days you can find an absolute bargain price – truth be told it might be nothing to do with hacks and just what the prices are at the time.

Lets start by busting some myths;

  • “Flights are cheaper when you book on a Tuesday” – I’ve never had this experience. Maybe by pure luck, but usually its the days you fly which are cheaper not the days you book.
  • “Browse privately” – Hmm. I’ve tried this and not seen a huge difference. Again could be luck of the draw and always worth a try. Browse privately before you go on the website as normal to see any difference.
  • “Clear your cookies” – This is the only hack i have seen work enough to write about it. Essentially most airline companies monitor if you have visited the site before and what type of flights you have looked for. To put simply, the more people looking at the flights – the higher the demand – the higher the price.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for cheap flights..

Be Flexible

  1. Try to be flexible with your dates. If you’re absolutely dead set on a certain destination, are the dates important? For example if you’re looking at Paris for Valentines day, chances are the prices will be inflated for the week surrounding Valentines Day. Try looking at the weeks either side of the original date – you might find a huge saving just by celebrating early/late.
  2. It is almost always cheaper to fly midweek. While not everyone is in a position to fly midweek, its definitely worth considering it as a serious option. Airline companies know people like to go away for a weekend and so prices are usually higher when flying over a weekend. In terms of European Cities, most week nights have the same buzz and energy as the weekends anyway – so you’re really not missing out on much.
  3. You’ll find that early morning and late evening flights are the cheapest (more so on budget carriers). I mean who reaaaaally wants to get up super early or land late at night? Probably not many of you, but if its going to save you a fair amount of money then its worth considering. I would often get 8pm Flights from Barcelona to Manchester for around £18.
  4. Airlines aren’t silly and they know when there are festivals, sports events etc happening and so you see an increase in price. When we went to Amsterdam for Awakenings festival the flights were some of the most expensive I’ve seen, but with no flexibility on dates, sometimes you just have to accept the price for what it is and maybe just budget a bit extra for price inflation.
  5. Most budget carriers recommend booking tickets 7-8 weeks in advance. Anytime before this, the prices are set before demand has been analysed and if the demand is low, chances are the prices will be reduced within that 7-8 week time frame.

Realistically, the more rigid you are in your plans, the less likely you are to find deals. If you can afford to be a little flexible with dates or even destination you’ll be able to secure some reasonably priced flights.

Flying Indirect

Honestly, not something I particularly would have enjoyed before I had to do it last year. Whenever my boyfriend suggested it, I would huff and puff and rather spend the extra just to fly direct. For long haul flights to Asia/Australia/South America etc you normally have connections so that’s not so much of an issue, but for short hauls I couldn’t see the sense in a stopover.

However.

Stopovers can often be minimal, and ours was for 3 hours in Hamburg. Hamburg airport is massive with so many shops and restaurants. Obviously due to COVID most were shut, but on a normal day 3 hours would fly by. Schiphol in Amsterdam is also enormous and a major connection hub, so if you ever have a stopover here, there is so much to do to pass the time. Indirect flights can often be a lot cheaper than direct flights, but can also add hours on to your travel day.

It really all depends on what you value more in this case – time or money.

Newsletters and Points Programmes

I know it’s a nuisance when your inbox is flooded with emails from airlines, but when you come to wanting deals they are so useful. If you are subscribed to the likes of RyanAir you will often get emails a couple of days before the sales happen giving you fair warning of when to be online. Their seat sales happen usually around twice a year and often cover 3-4 months of travel, so even if you’re looking ahead you can find some good deals. You can get flights to places like Barcelona, Rome and Budapest for around £13.99.

A company which I used on my regular flights to Barcelona was Vueling (Spain’s answer to EasyJet). They have also just started a seat sale for travel between March-October and some of the seats are cheaper than many UK budget carriers.

Long haul airlines such as Emirates and British Airways offer really good air miles rewards programmes which you can use on future flights. If you travel long haul often its definitely worth signing up for these programmes. They are free and sometimes send you travel perks for future flights.

Use different Airlines

While its sometimes more convenient to use the same airline for outbound and inbound flights, its not always the best option so make sure you shop around. When booking flights to Thailand last year by using Emirates one way and Qatar the other, I managed to save £250 – for the exact same journey, just a different company. While it is time consuming there are so many search engines which do all the hard work for you…

Flight Finders

There are tons of these around from Kiwi, Google Flights, Momondo and my holy grail Skyscanner. All are pretty similar but most people just prefer one over the other! I choose Skyscanner for its ease and because it includes both budget and more expensive airlines. Unlike google flights, it also gives you deals from websites not written in English – this means that sometimes it will direct you to a foreign website who have the flights listed for cheaper. If you can be bothered to try and navigate the website – you could end up saving some precious ££.

Best tools to use on Skyscanner

  1. If you’re perhaps willing to travel a little further to an outbound airport, in the ‘from‘ box, just type in ‘UK’ and then your desired destination in the ‘to‘ box. By selecting the whole of the UK, Skyscanner brings up all the airports running that flight and shows you the cheapest option. As shown below, if you are willing to travel you can save £45+!

2. Another good feature of Skyscanner is the ability to search and show flights for a whole month. If you’re not fussy on dates this is perfect for finding the cheapest flights within the month. If you’re not into stopovers make sure you tick ‘direct flights only‘. Even one or two days difference in your intended travel date can save you a good amount.

3. If you intending to book a flight last minute and aren’t bothered about the destination, then use the ‘search everywhere’ option. This shows you the cheapest options for the upcoming month. Here you are guaranteed a cheap flight due to the airline trying to sell off the tickets. A perfect option especially in times like now, where the world is so uncertain!

It’s worth noting that this tip will also work with package companies. They would rather sell off their packages at a low price than it not be sold at all – so look around 1 month or less before departure date for the cheapest price.

Different Currency

Another little handy trick is to change the currency in which you are paying in. This is successful mostly when the currency you are swapping to is weak. When booking flights to Thailand with Emirates, a random flight in December would be £432. Swapping this to pay in Thai Baht you are looking at 17,534THB. When converting that via currency converter it is £413, saving you £20. Every little helps right! Be sure to check the card you are paying on doesn’t charge for currency conversion, or there is no point in doing it, unless the added conversion fee is less than the total flight price in GBP!

While there are sooo many hacks and ways to book cheap flights circulating, sometimes it really is just luck of the draw and buying the flights at a good price when you see them. Intuition normally tells you when a price is ridiculously high, or not going to get much cheaper.

One thing to remember is that not all prices are inclusive of luggage – especially true with budget carriers like RyanAir and EasyJet. This can often add £40+ back on to the total flight price, whereas companies like Vueling allow a 2 cabin bags for free – so even if the flight is £10 more, you’re still saving in the end once baggage has been considered.

Like I’ve said before, though its time consuming the best thing you can do for cheap flights is to;

Shop around.

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