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How to get the best deal on your flights
Read our money-saving tips on booking flights below.
Timing is key
Flights go on sale throughout the year but knowing when to look for them can help you to bag a bargain.
Generally, the earlier you book, the lower the price of the flight. Low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair tend to start selling flights for the following summer at the end of the current summer holiday period, and flights with scheduled airlines such as British Airways usually go on sale 11 months before the flight departure date.
Charter flights to big holiday destinations (sold by tour operators), however, tend to be discounted at the last minute as seats need to be filled. So, if you can be flexible and don’t mind making all of your travel plans just before you go, this could be a cheap option.
Consider all of the options
If you live within driving distance of a few airports, it is worth comparing the flight prices from a range of destinations to see if there are any great deals. However, make sure that the discount on the flight doesn’t end up being wiped out by the price of petrol or public transport to get to and from your departure airport. Similarly, check where your arrival airport actually is and how far it is from where you want to stay. The best fares may be to an out-of-town airport that is miles away from your hotel.
Another tactic to find low fares is to travel outside of school holidays, at anti-social times or mid-week as, with reduced demand, flight prices tend to be lower. If you can, be flexible with your dates and look at a few different departure and arrival dates to find the best deals.
And, remember that children only get discounts on scheduled carriers such as British Airways when under 12 years of age, low-cost carriers do not offer discounts and charters may give a nominal discount for children up to the age of 16. Children under the age of two (called infants) will pay a flat one-off fee or a percentage of the adult price but don’t get a seat of their own.
Before you book your flights, look at the prices from a number of different companies side by side to make sure you have found the best deal. Price-comparison sites such as TravelSupermarket are a great place to do this and will save you time and money. TravelSupermarket’s flight search compares prices from traditional tour operators such as Thomson and Thomas Cook as well as online travel companies such as lastminute.com and Expedia, so you will quickly see who is offering the best deal for you.
And always make sure that you compare the total price for your flights including any extras that you need to ensure you are comparing like with like before you commit and get a nasty shock.
Don’t get caught out paying for extras
Extras such as charges for checked-in bags, prices to reserve seats and meal costs can all add up, so only buy what you need. If you are going on a city break or short trip, avoid paying to check in your bags and instead carry hand luggage only. Not only will this save you money – up to £80 on a return flight – it will allow you to stroll out of the airport while other passengers are waiting next to the luggage carousel. Read packing advice and tips on sticking to your baggage allowance from TravelSupermarket’s travel expert, Bob Atkinson, in his blog post Hand luggage tips.
If you are travelling with children, it may seem worthwhile to pay for priority boarding. However, before you hand over your cash, check what the airline’s policy is as many will seat parents with young children before the rest of the flight. British Airways even offer an online check-in service for passengers 24 hours before the flight. You can log in with your booking reference number, choose your seats and print your boarding card out – for free.
And, don’t forget about food. If a meal isn’t included in your flight price, take a packed lunch instead of buying snacks on board and save your spending money for meals out when you have reached your destination.
If, however, you simply can’t bear to travel hand luggage only, want to know exactly where you are sitting and enjoy having a few drinks on board, factor these prices in when looking at flights as once you have added these in, it may be worth paying slightly more to travel with another company who include the extras free of charge.
Find out about the cheapest deals first
For the best chance of snapping up great offers, sign up to newsletters such as TravelSupermarket’s so you are alerted as soon as a deal is on the market. Keep an eye out for launches of new airlines too as they often have introductory prices to tempt customers to travel with them.