When it comes to booking cheap flights, the internet offers plenty of tips and rumors – yet many people are still paying more than they need to. To make sure you’re not one of them, we’ve collected together the key tricks and hacks you need to know if you want to find the best bargains for your vacation.
If you want to find cheap flights, you need to be flexible
Usually, you submit a request for vacation time and then plan the trip once your boss has agreed. However, if you want to secure a bargain, it’s best to do things the other way around. Both the month and the day of the week you’ll be traveling will make a significant difference to the prices. As most people travel on the weekend, the chances of finding a cheap flight are much higher if you leave and return on a weekday. If you’re traveling long-distance, it’s best to check prices over the whole month and only hand in your vacation request once you’ve found an affordable flight. The same is true of the day you make your booking: it’s sometimes cheaper to book during the week, as most people only make time to search for flights on the weekend. The flight forecasts from services such as momondo can help you keep an eye on how the price of your desired flight is changing, meaning you can make a decision at the most affordable moment.
Costs also vary a lot from airport to airport, so it’s often worth your while to get a train to the next city and fly from there. And the same is true of airports at your destination: a domestic flight or train journey may get you there cheaper than a direct flight. Or, if you were planning to travel around while on vacation anyway, try searching for a multi-city flight and departing from a different airport to the one you arrived at.
If you’re completely flexible about your destination, you can search for “error fares” on portals like holidaypirates.com and secretflying.com. This term refers to system or accounting errors on the part of airlines that make some flights extremely cheap for a short period of time. But watch out: these ultra-low rates have apparently been declared invalid at check-in before.
Forward planning pays off when it comes to finding cheap flights
Many people swear by them, but you still shouldn’t rely on last-minute deals if you already have a vacation date and destination in mind. Early booking pays off, especially if you’re traveling with a budget airline. You should aim to book flights within Europe at least six weeks before your departure, and long-distance flights at least three months in advance. It’s best to avoid traveling during vacation periods or on public holidays, whether in your home country or at your destination. And once you’ve found an affordable option, book it immediately, as the price is more likely to rise than fall. Booking your outbound and return flights together is usually cheaper than buying two one-way tickets – though not always, so check both options before you commit yourself.
More travel tips for finding cheap flights
Metasearch engines such as Skyscanner, momondo, Google Flights and Kayak are the best places to find cheap flights. However, their attractively low prices often get hiked up at the final stage of the booking, when high fees are applied to particular payment types or luggage options. A single piece of hand luggage is usually enough for a long weekend, but not when it comes to a long-distance trip lasting several weeks, so it’s worth checking an airline’s luggage prices ahead of time. If the portal applies its own surcharges, try looking for the same offer from other providers: the services might already be included. It’s also worth looking on the airline’s own website. The prices may be higher, but if the difference isn’t significant, it usually makes sense to book directly: the service and your chances of getting a refund if complications arise will be much better. If you want to be alerted to cheap flights as soon as they become available, subscribe to newsletters from airlines and flight portals – they often contain attractive offers.
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