As I’m clearly a budget traveller, “How do I find cheap flights?” is something people ask me all.the.time. And I recognise the frustrations of hearing that people are paying pennies for their flights when you’re considering selling a kidney to pay for yours. Here are my top tips for getting the best deal:
1- Book in advance
I know this is an obvious one but it’s seriously important. I don’t have the most concrete schedule and this can lead to me often paying more than I want for my flights. The further you can book in advance, the better.
If you know you want to go to a certain country around a certain date then look for flights STRAIGHT AWAY. You don’t have to book them, but use an app like Hopper or the ‘set reminder’ feature of Skyscanner to get an idea of what is a good price and what isn’t, this way you’ll know when a good deal comes along and you can book it.
PSA: For anyone new to the travel world, Skyscanner is a 100% MUST HAVE app. I’ve used multiple “flight price comparisons” and still think Skyscanner is the best one out there.
3- Or, DON’T plan
One of the ways I’ve benefitted hugely from Ryanair bargain fares (love ya, Ryanair) is by being incredibly flexible about where I want to go. For me, dates are often more concrete than destination so if I know I have a weekend off work and I see flights to Oslo for £15, I’m going to book them over flights to Amsterdam for £50, even if Amsterdam was where I originally had in mind for the trip.
4- Be prepared to travel
Don’t tie yourself to a specific home airport. This is especially true for the UK where there are SO many airports that all fly internationally. When I flew to Buenos Aires, I booked the flight from London Gatwick even though it was a 5-hour train journey and an overnight-stay away from my parents house because it was SO much cheaper than any of the Northern airports. I also combined my flights to and from South Africa with a trip top Ireland so I could benefit from cheap Dublin airport fares! The same goes for your destination airport. Are flights to Zurich too expensive? Fly to Stuttgart instead and take the train. it’s important with this money-saving tip though that you weigh money against time. If you’re going for a weekend trip then maybe adding 3 hours to your travel time isn’t worth the £30 saving.
5- Hand luggage only
If you want to fly REALLY cheaply (I’m talking £30 return) then hand luggage is your new best friend. Invest in a cabin bag like THIS one to make the most of your allowance and skip the budget airline baggage fees as these can often be more than your actual seat!
6- Anti-social flight times
True budget travellers aren’t adverse to sleeping on airport floors (in fact it saves you a night of accommodation costs) and booking that 6am flight will always be cheaper than the one that leaves at 10am. The DAY you chooser to fly on can also affect the flights price, if possible don’t lock yourself into a weekend, it’s almost always cheaper to fly through the week.
When I flew home for Christmas from the USA I flew Cincinnati > New York > Oslo > Copenhagen > Newcastle because it was the cheapest option. Use the Skyscanner app or website to search for the cheapest route with connections or, build your own route and add in some days enjoying the layover destinations if you have time!
8- Avoid extras
You know what? The middle seat really isn’t THAT bad. Especially on short haul flights. Don’t pay for early check-in, seat selection, pre-boarding, in-flight food or guaranteed hand luggage and your flight will come out much cheaper. If the flight is a little longer and you are concerned about the seat, I often ask at the check in desk at the airport if they can move me to a window and they usually do if its possible! (This doesn’t work for Ryanair as they’ll charge you for re-printing your boarding pass at the airport, but longer haul flights and airlines it usually does!)
Happy cheap flying!
That’s it really, 8 pretty simple steps to getting the cheapest possible flights. They don’t always work and it’s important to remember that, when flying mid or long haul, the flight usually is the most expensive part of the trip so don’t feel bad for spending a chunk of your budget on it!