Guide to Booking the Cheapest Flights
Are you searching for advice on how to book the cheapest flights? Air travel is very easy to book online but is often the most expensive part of your trip. This is why finding a great deal is important to keeping costs down.
Luckily, there are many websites and airlines offering low budget rates. Also, a few insider secrets for booking an affordable flight. You can find some tips for booking your next deal for a flight below.
1. Get your timing right
When is the best time to book a flight? If you book too early or too late then you might end up paying too much. According to CheapAir, consider booking between 225 days and 104 before flying since prices fall to within £6 of their lowest point.
The absolute cheapest time to buy domestic tickets is 54 days before departure. Prices reach the cheapest point 54 days before and then remain within $10 of this price until 29 days before departure when they begin to increase again.
2. Fly early in the morning
Book the first flight in the morning since this is always the cheapest rate. Yes, you might have to travel the airport in darkness but don’t worry you can sleep on the flight! The next cheapest times to fly are after lunch or during dinner time.
3. You can also find the best deals in the morning
You are most likely to find the best flight deals in the early morning. This is because airlines post a limited number of seats set at a reduced price at night, making the best time to buy seats early in the morning. You need to be quick since these seats will likely sell out later in the day. Keep in mind, some airlines still offer discounted deals throughout the day.
4. In most cases, the earlier you buy the better
According to Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia, “Generally flight prices go up rather than down the closer you get to travel, so the earlier flights are booked, the better.”
If you wait too late, then you may end up paying a lot of money for your flights. This is especially the case in the last two weeks before departure (when people are desperate for a ticket). Make sure to book before this deadline. If you are travelling internationally, then consider booking even earlier within three to six months before you fly.
5. Or you can always book extremely last minute
All airlines have the problem of filling seats for an upcoming trip right before departure. This is why they always reduce prices a few days before taking off. If you book last-minute, you will be able to take advantage of these discounted tickets.
6. Know the best time to book for each destination
The best time to book your flight can vary greatly between destinations. According to Filip Filipov of Skyscanner, “Price patterns can vary by type of airline and between short and long haul travel, so it is very much destination dependent.”
For example, you should always consider booking flights to the US five months ahead of time. Also, flights to Spain are always cheapest five weeks before departure.
Skyscanner analysed three years’ worth of data to answer the question about the best time to book. See the chart below based on their research to find the best time to book your flight.
7. Consider having connecting flights
This is not the most convenient option. You may even feel tired and spend a lot of time in the air. But adding a few stop overs to your flight can help you save over half the cost! Make sure to purchase these tickets within seven to 14 days of departure for the best rate.
Here is an example of savings made by connecting flights by Farecompare CEO Rick Seaney:
- Flight from Dallas to London
- Non-stop price of $2053
- One-stop price of $1009
- Savings = $1,044 per ticket for booking a flight with a stopover
8. Go to a bigger airport
Bigger airports usually offer cheaper flight tickets. You should compare prices for airports near you. It may be worth driving an extra hour to get a better rate on your flight.
9. Fly with two different airlines
There are no rules to booking flights and sometimes it helps to get a little creative. For example, you might find that booking with two different airlines allows for the best possible overall price. You may want to book an outbound flight with one airline and a return flight with another.
10. Sign yourself up for airfare alerts
Many airlines let you signup for travel alerts for deals on upcoming flights. This is often sent out the Tuesday for the coming weekend or following weekend. If you can make a decision quickly, then you can leave on Friday night or on Saturday and be home on Monday!
11. Buy for one passenger at a time
If you are purchasing tickets for a group, you should always buy tickets for one passenger at a time. This is because airline booking systems can only sell multiple tickets in a single transaction at the same price.
Try this simple test:
- Go to book your flight and enter in that you want five tickets. Look at the price you are quoted. Don’t book yet.
- Go back to the same page and enter in for one passenger. If you are quoted the same rate it would be for five people, then go back and book your flights
- In the case that you are quoted a lower rate for one person, then you should book all five tickets individually. Do this before the price rises and save!
12. Check prices 24-hours after booking for a potential refund
If you booked a flight, there is always a chance the rate will go down and you can get a refund. Always check the next morning to see if the rate has dropped. If you find that the price of your airfare has fallen, you can call up the airline and cancel your flight. You will always be able to re-book your flight without any charges.
13. Sign up for a frequent flyer program
If you are willing to become a member of an airline’s frequent-flyer program or have a credit card linked to an airline, then you will be able to reap the rewards.
By building a relationship and demonstrating loyalty to an airline, you are likely to be offered special perks. The more the an airline knows who you are, the more it will adjust its pricing specifically for you.
A lot of airlines offer fares on social media platforms. If you follow certain airlines on Twitter or Facebook, you may find some excellent offers being advertised. You just have to be fast about booking since many of these deals are picked up quickly.
15. Fly on Wednesday, Tuesday & Saturday
Wednesday is the cheapest day of the week to travel followed by Tuesday and Saturday. This is especially the case for domestic travel. On these days there are lots of seats available that need to be filled. Airlines will often offer discount prices to fill the plane, offering you the best price.
16. Avoid flying on Friday & Sunday
These are the most popular days to fly and you are likely to pay much more for flight.
17. Book on a Tuesday afternoon at 3pm
According to FareCompare.com, “the best time to book a flight is Tuesday at 3pm since airlines release the most sales and the best time to book plane tickets.”
18. Check out these popular websites for flights
The websites below are known for offering great deals on flights. Some even have special features on their website to help you determine the best time to buy.
- Skyscanner – Easy to compare fares by airline and narrow down your options.
- Momonodo – This colourful website offers some of the best deals compared to other sites. This site works by scraping airline sites rather than connecting to a third party aggregator. Ranks flights in tabs according to cheapest, quickest and best.
- Kayak – Large selection of airlines at a cheap rate. Offers a Price Trend graph to analyse route price movements over 90 days and recommend when to book.
- Travelsupermarket – Easy to use and offers results for the largest selections of airlines and agents.
- Adioso – Interesting in that it allows you to submit searches in natural language. For example, you might type in the search box “London to Madrid mid June for 5 weeks” and Adioso will suggest relevant flights.
- Bing Travel – This site will tell you whether to buy or wait. Filters by airports, duration and “flight quality”.
- Yapta – Yapta believes that if you book a flight and the price drops after your purchase, then you should be refunded the difference. This site will let you know if the cost of a flight you have booked went down so you can contact the airline for your refund.
- Hipmunk – This clear interface offers you cheap flights. Flights are ranked by “Agony” by looking at the cost of stops and layovers.
- Expedia – The best-known online agent with many options and packages.
- Orbitz – Great site for booking multiple reservations such as flights, hotels, car rental and more.
- Ebookers – This online travel company is based in the UK and offers some competitive rates.
- Travelocity – You can book directly through them and they will act like a virtual travel agent, helping you if you have any problems. In addition to flights you can book hotels, trains and entire packages.
- AirfareWatchdog – Hires actual people to search the web for flights sales. These promotional codes and discounts are passed on to AirfareWatchdog users.
- Kelkoo – Similar to Skyscanner but be wary since they are missing some major airlines.
- Google Flight Explorer – Offers you bar charts to help compare flights in vague destinations.
- Google Flight Search – Best for domestic flights in the USA. Offers a map view for your route and bar graph to visualise changing fares over time.
19. Look at the actual airline’s website
Many people fail to look at the deals offered on the airline’s website when booking through other online providers. You can’t rely completely on price comparison websites to find the best deal. This is because many popular airlines like Ryanair and Southwest don’t allow their tickets to be quoted on comparison sites. Always check low-cost airlines separately.
Airlines will also offer exclusive sales on their website that you could potentially miss elsewhere. Always check the actual airline’s website so you don’t miss out on a bargain.
20. Know when fares go on sale for different airlines
Here is a list of airlines and details of when their tickets go on sale. Use these details to get the best deal!
- Monarch Airlines – Periodic flash sales; Sale seats available 14 months before a flight
- Qantas – Sales year-round (excluding peak travel times in July/Aug and Dec/Jan); Sale seats available 353 days before a flight
- Air New Zealand – Sale during January & September; Sale seats available up to 11 months before a flight
- Singapore Airlines – Sale starts end of Dec and goes until end of Feb; Sale seats available up to 12 months before a flight
- Virgin Atlantic – Sale during January; Sale seats available 11 months before a flight
- BA – Sales in January and September; Sale seats available 350 and 355 days before a flight
- Flythomascook – Promotions throughout the year; Sale seats available up to 20 months before a flight
21. You have to be flexible
Getting cheap rates on flights involves flexibility. Getting the lowest rate means buying tickets that other people don’t often want. This means flying at odd hours or on an unpopular day for travel.
You should also be flexible with your travel planning to get low rates. You might need to add a few days onto your trip before or after peak travel to get the lowest fare.
Do you have any advice for booking a cheap flight?
Please share any tips below to help other travellers book the cheapest flights possible!