I’ll start by saying I’m no flight expert, I’ve never worked in the industry, so I’m sure there will be some people reading this, that think it’s amateur advice. But over the years, I’ve picked up on a few things that have helped me save a few pennies on my flights, and for us backpackers on a tight budget, it makes all the difference. A lot of people think they’ll go with the cheapest flight, but it’s likely to be a cheap airline, and long hours. You’re not really winning if it takes you 50 hours to do, what could be, a 23 hour journey. And yes I have met people on my travels that have taken a 50 hour plane journey! These tips will get you a cheap flight, but also get you a practical flight.
Sounds a pretty obvious one, but first of all, you need to realise that getting a flight that is both good and cheap, isn’t a quick google search. It may take a few hours of searching, comparing, and trying different routes. Don’t just go on a price comparison website and click the first cheapest flight. Most of the time, this won’t be the cheapest flight you can get. So if you really want to save money, you’re going to have to put in a few man hours.
BREAK UP YOUR FLIGHTS
A lot of the time. for me anyway, it’s worked out cheaper if I booked each leg of my flight separately. For example, my flights to Sydney, from London, have cost me £400. If I booked the cheapest flight from London to Sydney in one booking, it would have cost me around £550. I’m flying from London to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Singapore, then finally, Singapore to Sydney. The total flight time, including stopovers, is taking me around 23 hours. So it’s still the same amount of time. It does mean you have to mess around collecting your bags etc, at each destination, and possibly going through immigration. Or you can stop off at a few places along the way, and do a bit of exploring. For example, I’m spending a few days in Hong Kong. It means I’m not going to spending a day travelling, so hopefully I won’t be so shattered by the time I land in Australia.
The easiest way to do this is make a list of destinations you can stop off at along the way, then see which is the cheapest. For my flight to Sydney, I looked at stopping off at a few destinations, such as Bangkok, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, to just name a few.
A lot of people think they can leave it and book a flight last minute, and they’ll get a last minute deal, and it’ll be cheaper. Complete myth. The EARLIER you book a flight, the cheaper it will be. I’ve never ever got a flight cheaper last minute, and I’ve booked a lot of flights. The odd airline will do cheap deals for last minute flights, but chances are slim for it being your destination. Usually the more people that book onto a flight, the price actually goes up, because the flights in high demand. If an airline has got a pretty full flight, they’ll highly unlikely start selling off cheap seats. They don’t need to fill the plane. Booking your flight should be one of the first things you do when planning a trip, not last!
It’s really helpful to know what discounts you’re entitled to. For example, if you are under 26, STA Travel do some discount flights for under 26s. For most of them, you don’t need a special discount card, or pay into any service, they’ll just double check your passport and make sure you’re actually 26 and under when you’re at the airport. Also I always put into google “discount codes for (insert website you’re buying from)”. Sometimes bloggers and other discount code sites offer 10% off, or something similar. A lot of the promotion codes have worked for me in the past, but it has meant trying a few fake ones first. So keep trying if the first code you find doesn’t work. It’s saved me as much as £50 in the past.
PRICE COMPARISON WEBSITES
Everyone loves a price comparison website, and they are great because you can see in one search the different prices. It saves you visiting a load of different websites. Sounds good, eh? Not entirely. Price comparison sites are great, but they’re not as great as we’re all led to believe they are. If you want a bargain, don’t rely on a price comparison site alone. First of all, go to the airlines direct website, and see if it’s cheaper. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s the same. Second of all, see what you’re getting in the flight. A lot of time, that price you see doesn’t include baggage, airport taxes and everything else you have to be charged for. So once you’ve gone through adding on all your extras, go back and compare that final price with the second cheapest flight on the price comparison site. Sometimes the second cheapest flight is actually the cheaper option once you’ve added on all your extras. Some of the cheaper airlines make their money through baggage charges, and I’ve been charged as much as £50 for a 20kg check in bag before. Some airlines only charge as little as £20, so depending on how much they charge for the extras, sometimes the second, or even third cheapest, is actually the cheaper flight.
A lot of the time the cheaper flights usually have long stopovers. Stopovers are great for a few hours, but anything longer becomes a pain. You can sometimes get temporary visas, so you can leave the airport and go exploring the city. This isn’t usually advised if your stopover is less than 7 or 8 hours, depending how far away the airport is from the city. If your stopover is through the night, you’re just going to be sat in an airport all night, as everything in the city is going to be closed anyway. Not ideal. And it probably isn’t worth that £50 you saved. Some airlines put you up in an airport hotel free of charge, if your stopover is more than 9 hours. They don’t do this automatically, and you will have to ask for it, probably before your flight too. Cheap airlines don’t do this. So when booking flights, just look at the times of the stopover, and see if it’s really worth it. Sometimes there are similar priced flights, with less stopover time. And look what benefits you get from it. Can you go exploring the city? Are the airline willing to put you up in an airport hotel for a few hours to get some sleep in a proper bed, and a shower? All things people usually don’t consider when booking flights.