I’ve been meaning to write a sort of cheat sheet on how to get cheap flights since I started my blog, and after seeing The Travel Hacked Challenge from The Travel Hack blog it really got me thinking. Basically the Travel Hacked Challenge is a series of month long challenges to help you save money to travel more, and this month the challenge is to go sober for October! Well anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE a drink. I’m usually the first one who calls shots in a bar, and the last person to leave a party. Plus I go to lots of gigs/festivals/events, which usually goes hand in hand with lots of booze! But drinking lots isn’t great for your body and costs a heck of a lot of money too. So yeah, I’ve signed up for the challenge and I’m raring to go. “I’ll have a lime and soda please!”
Saving money for travel by making small life style changes is a great start, but wouldn’t it be great if you could stretch that money even further by getting cheap flights too? I recently bought return flights to Barcelona from London for £38 each with Easy jet, yes that’s right, £38. That’s far less than I would spend on a night out drinking for sure, and leaves me more money to spend when I’m on holiday. I’ve become a bit obsessed with hunting out those cheap flights, having bagged a number of short haul flights for less than the cost of a meal out and intercontinental flights the same price as a new handbag (and I’m not talking Mulberry here) Basically, foregoing a couple of treats, combined with using a few sneaky tricks to get cheap flights is the perfect way to travel more. So here are my top tips….
1. Use online flight search engines
Trawling through individual airlines booking sites would take you forever! If you use a flight search engine like: Skyscanner, Kayak or Momondo it takes all the hard work out and can save you hours. You can specify dates and times or be flexible, include or exclude certain airlines or look for direct flights only and all the information is there for you in one handy place, starting with the cheapest flights at the top of the screen. However, to bag the cheap flights you want to leave most of those parameters as wide open as possible, which leads me on to…..
2. Be Flexible
If you’re not bound by specific dates and don’t actually mind where you go, you can find some amazing deals. When I was looking for the Barcelona flights I also saw return flights for £21 to Berlin, but we were after somewhere for some autumn sun, so opted for Spain instead. However, I could also fly to Copenhagen next week for £8rtn, that’s nuts! That was found by putting ‘Everywhere’ and ‘cheapest month’ into the where and when fields in the search box of Skyscanner. It then comes back with a huge long list of the cheap flights to various destinations. I appreciate that being in London I have the choice of 6 airports and thousands of flights BUT it can be just as cheap from elsewhere, give it a try.
3. ALWAYS search in incognito mode
4. Look for Flash sales
Wanting to fly long haul next year? Your best bet for cheap flights is the airline sales, usually at the start of January, a sort of post Christmas/Boxing day sale, if you will, that can be up to 50% cheaper than the usual price. Search for airline flash sales on Google or……
5. Join a forum that alerts you for cheap flights
These forums are probably for only the most committed bargain hunter, as you will need to be an active member to spot the deals when they arise. Try Flyertalk.com or secretflying.com to be in the loop. These guys are also pretty good at spotting pricing errors. Pricing errors crop up from time to time, usually through human error (not adding taxes, currency conversion error) but you need to be fast before the airline realise their mistake, and the loophole closed.
6. Split your journey up
Some routes are waaaay more expensive than others to the same destination, either because of high taxes at some airports, popularity or lack of competition. If for example you’re flying to Bangkok from London it could be cheaper to buy a return flight from London to Stockholm and a separate return flight from Stockholm to Bangkok with a different airline. You will need to give yourself plenty of time to transfer planes as you need to clear immigration, collect your luggage and check in to the onward flight, but if it saves you a wedge of cash it could be totally worth it. You could even make the most of your layover and go explore the local area. Just make sure you’re back at the airport in time! This method isn’t without risk though, if you’re delayed on your first leg and miss your second leg neither airline has any obligation to help you out and you may find yourself needing to pay for another flight and possibly waiting in the airport for a good few hours. Only you can decide if it’s worth the risk.
7. Use Points
Points are accumulated through joining a frequent flying scheme and racking up points for each flight you take with that particular airline or group of airlines (alliance) This mostly works if you travel quite frequently, however Avios points can be collected through some credit cards (remember to pay the balance off!) and through some supermarket loyalty programmes, such as Tesco Clubcard. You can then use these points to book cheap flights, or even free flights! Remember to check the Ts & Cs of your programme.
8. Travel mid week
The busiest (and therefore most expensive) part of the week is Friday to Monday, with Thursday also sometimes included. Therefore Wednesday is usually the cheapest day of the week to travel. Most people going on holiday naturally want to fly at the weekend, but is it absolutely necessary? It obviously depends on your circumstances, but it would certainly be the cheapest way to travel.
9. Travel in the shoulder/low season
This isn’t the same time of year every-where in the world, so it’s worth checking. Seasons, regional celebrations and school holidays play a big part in this. I flew to Thailand in December a couple of years ago and it was the busiest 2 weeks of the year, mainly full of Aussies on their summer holidays. Unfortunately I was confined to those two weeks because of work commitments. However, I love travelling the low season it means cheaper prices, less crowded attractions and more choice in where to stay. You might think this is more suited to a city break or active break, however I’ve sunbathed in Spain at the beginning of February too so it could be a “flop & drop” kind of trip if that’s what floats your boat.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for bagging cheap flights? Also, have you tried any of these methods to travel cheaply, and how did you get on? I’d love to know 🙂