Top tips on finding cheap flights

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Today’s guest post comes from cheapflights.co.uk, where you can find really useful information on how to save money on your next flight, without having to book with budget airlines. You will also find tips on navigating airports and airlines, too. Below, expert Oonagh Shiel shares her five top tips on how to get the best flight for your budget.

Research and compare

Family in kitchen with laptop

Family in kitchen with laptop

Firstly, do your research and compare, compare, compare. Check out price-comparison websites like cheapflights.co.uk, Momondo, Kayak etc. to establish a bottom-line fare (a return to New Zealand including taxes is around £1,100, for example). Then visit the websites of airlines that fly your route. If you can be flexible, check alternate routes or ways of completing your journey – it can really save on taxes like the dreaded Air Passenger Duty.

Make sure you’re comparing like with like. For example, if you’re flying short haul with a low-cost airline such as Ryanair or easyJet, you will not receive a baggage allowance or in-flight snack. With a full-service airline, SAS say, you’ll receive a baggage allowance, a seat assignment and a complimentary snack included in the price.

Finally, and this is a particular issue with low-costers, make sure you only book a flight, not car hire, travel insurance or a piece of cabin luggage. Watch out for those boxes and tick or untick as appropriate. Also don’t forget to factor-in connections – especially the case with airports which may have your destination in the title – but where the airport is sometimes much further out (Frankfurt Hahn, for example).

Subscribe to social media feeds, and sign up for newsletters to get the latest on sales and special offers as tickets are released. Make sure you’re in the loop on “hidden” and “white” sales.

When to book?

Travel key and airplane symbol on keyboard of laptop computer

Travel key and airplane symbol on keyboard of laptop computer

Book as far in advance as you possibly can, but remember booking at the last minute can also net incredible bargains. Looking late works particularly well if you have broad criteria – if you simply want “sun” but you’re not fussed on exactly where, there are some great bargains to be had.

Flights (with scheduled airlines) are not one of the things that get cheaper the closer you get to departure unless there is serious over-capacity. Our sister site, momondo.com, has analysed millions of air fares and found that on average, the cheapest day to book a flight is 59 days ahead of the departure date.

There is an exception to this rule: charter flights. With charter flights, a holiday operator books the entire plane and then sells the seats. As departure date approaches and seats remain unsold the operator is looking at a potential loss and they’ll slash prices to minimise losses. All the major holiday companies have last-minute sections on their websites where you can find the latest deals. Subscribe to their email newsletters, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. If they have some bargains, they’ll release their news via these channels first.

Be flexible

The Invisible Flight Photo: Erik Soderstrom

The Invisible Flight Photo: Erik Soderstrom

Be flexible with your flight times. Look for flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning rather than at weekends (although flying on Saturday can be a bargain; the reasoning is that most people want to travel on Friday night and enjoy a full Saturday).

It’s also worth looking at flying super early in the morning, or very late at night. Most people like to fly in daylight hours. If you are going to take a red-eye flight, check that public transport will still be running or that the car-hire desk will still be open, as a costly cab may cancel out the savings you made on the flight.

Where to fly from?

Stansted airport  Photo: John Lord

Stansted airport. Photo: John Lord

It’s worth looking at departure points too – it’s often cheaper to fly from a regional airport and you can sometimes get lucky when airlines have misjudged capacity and are looking to offload seats on routes which you might not otherwise automatically consider, say from a regional UK airport.

How to book for the family

Family with luggage walking at airport

Family with luggage walking at airport

If you are booking several seats and you want to be really canny, play around a little and discover how many seats are available at the cheapest price. Not every seat on a plane is priced the same. An airline will have X seats at £X and when those super-low fares are sold out, the next wave of passengers will be pushed into the next price bracket. If you’re booking for a family of four, price the seats one by one (but watch the debit and credit card fees). It may work out cheaper than booking them as a group.

Written by Oonagh Shiel, Editor and Content Manager at Momondo Group.

You can find more information on how to book cheap holidays in our travel inspiration section on budget holidays.

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