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Seven simple tips to get the best deal on your flights
With charges for bags, taxes and administration fees, it has become harder to find cheap flights. However, there are still deals to be had if you know where to look and when to book.
Just follow our seven simple money-saving tips below to avoid paying over the odds.
1. 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 (or flights for the following winter towards the end of the current winter season), 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, can be on sale as early as 18 months in advance, but prices are rarely low when first on sale as many are linked to the sale of package holidays.
Charter flights are sometimes discounted at the last minute, though, 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.
2. 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. Wherever possible, avoid travelling at weekends to find the best fares.
If you can, be flexible with your dates and look at a few different departure and arrival dates to find the best deals.
3. Shop around
Before you book your flights, look at 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 by comparing prices from traditional tour operators such as Thomson and Thomas Cook as well as online travel agents such as lastminute.com and Expedia, so you will quickly see who is offering the best deal for you.
And don’t forget about travel agents on the high street (or by telephone) as an option too as they still are offered special deals from scheduled carriers and can provide invaluable advice when you are putting together once-in-a-lifetime trips such as round-the-world adventures.
4. Travelling with kids?
Remember that not all airlines charge the same price for children and infants (children under the age of two), so don’t forget to factor this into your overall price. Infants will pay a flat one-off fee or a percentage of the adult price if you don’t want a separate seat for them, while 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).
And check what is included in this price. With Thomas Cook, for example, an infant has a 10kg hold luggage allowance included in the price of a ticket whereas Ryanair offers no free hold luggage allowance.
When you’ve got kids in tow, 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 free of charge before the rest of the flight. British Airways even offers 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.
5. 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, consider whether you can get away with hand luggage only. Not only will this save you money, 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.
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 without a few extras, 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 for free.
An example for families is British Airways who have a free seating policy when travelling with children allowing you to pre-book seats so you can all travel together without the normal seat charge. However, easyJet will charge you up to £15.99 per passenger each way for the privilege.
If you do want to add extras on to your flight, book them online before you travel to save hefty charges in the airport.
6. Join a frequent flyer scheme
Being a member of an airline frequent flyer scheme or a shopping loyalty scheme such as Nectar will allow you to accrue points when booking flights. You can also collect points with a range of credit cards.
But be wary, as it may seem like you can travel for nothing with these schemes, when many will require you to pay fees and taxes which can be more than 50% of the total fare. Slavishly collecting points and being sucked into some schemes can end up working out more expensive than if you had just bought a normal ticket in the first place.
However, if you are collecting points as a by-product of your normal flying and spending, and you shop around when doing so, these free points can make a for a great treat or a cost saving at a later date on a flight you would have normally paid for.
7. 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.