Unlike trains, there aren’t clear and easy rules to saving money on flights – sadly, they've always been expensive and likely always will be. Still, these hacks will let you hold onto your cash.
1. Always compare flight prices
Make sure to use our handy flight price comparison
2. Shop the sales
Weird as it is, airlines have sales. They tend to be at the 'traditional' sales time - like January, summer and Christmas, but they're an excellent chance to book well in advance and save up to 50%.
Set-up an inbox and sign up to each airline for their newsletters and flight alerts: they will email regularly with offers and flash sales. Keep an eye on them and book as soon as you can. These offers tend to be short lived.
If you’re looking for a particular route, set up an email alert from one of the flight comparison websites who’ll let you know when the price is at a low. The best flight comparison sites we’ve found who do this are Skyscanner, Momondo, Kayak and Airfarewatchdog.
3. Try new airlines
You'd be surprised at the number of new and re-branded airlines out there. As they work to establish themselves, they offer excellent promotions.
Also, it goes without saying, but book with whoever is cheapest. Sure, BA might be nicer but it's only for a couple of hours. Don't be afraid to fly with an airline you've never heard of - the plane will still have wings, the pilot will still be trained. You'll be fine.
4. Check the price 24 hours after you buy
…and if it’s become cheaper, many airline will allow you to get a full refund for the flight without paying a penalty fee. Get your money and rebook at the lower price.
5. Book early!
While occasionally last minute flights can work – especially if you’re going long haul to an obscure destination where nobody flies last minute for business – generally, it’s a dreadful idea to wait too long. Book up as far in advance as possible.
6. Be easy with the destination
So you want cheap flights to Croatia, huh? …or just you fancy some sun and one time a friend of a friend boasted about the tan they got when they hit up Hvar? Decide what you’re actually looking for and if you can be flexible, you’re in luck.
If you’ve got a budget in mind and head to Kayak Explore. Pop in your top price and it’ll let you know everywhere you can possibly go for the money, all with a handy map.
Using our flight comparison also allows you to simply say where you’d like to fly from – this can be as vague as ‘The UK’ – but don’t specify where you’d like to land. Skyscanner will bring up all the places they’re flying to on your chosen dates, handily ordered by lowest price first.
7. …and the timings
Most of us have a vague idea of when we’d like to travel, but we don’t use websites that way – we’re weirdly specific. The website asks for a date to fly out on, so we arbitrarily pick one. Um... why? There’s no point. If you can – like on our flight search – choose the ‘whole month’ option, which will show the fluctuations in price over a month. Most websites offer a ‘I’m flexible’ button, too, to give you an idea of prices on days either side of those you’ve picked.
Fussy about getting up in the morning or flying through the night? Don’t be – everyone is, so the airlines drop prices to fill up their seats. Suck it up and take advantage. After all, it’s only one flight.
8. Fly early in the morning
9. And on odd days
Wednesday tends to be cheapest, then Tuesday, then Saturday. Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons are usually the most expensive. Take advantage.
10. Follow airlines on Facebook and Twitter
They’re always looking to up their engagement, so they’ll do flash sales and short term promotions, which are announced via their Twitter and Facebook pages. Follow them to hear about them first.
11. Book as far ahead as possible
Usually, the earlier you book, the cheaper the flight.
12. Split the journey
There is no unwritten rule which says you must buy a return flight. Why not try two singles? And, of course, there’s no obligation to fly with the same airline back as you do going. Flying with one company there and another back can often work out cheaper – especially with the ‘£49 one way’ offers budget airlines often run (where the return fare is a fortune.)Nor, unless you absolutely have to, is there any need to fly back from airport you flew into, or back to the same one you originally took off from. Shock horror, right?
It may take a few minutes more, but compare all flights – singles, returns, different airports, different airlines. Mix and match for a better price. You’ll also get more flexibility with which days you can fly on, too.
Remember that it won’t always be cheaper using this method, but it’s well worth trying just to see.
13. Claim student discount
After all, it's not just for the high street.
Student specific carriers like STA Travel have student-specific discounts on flights, which means they're well worth exploring.
14. Go hand luggage only
...And avoid the baggage fee. Plus it’ll be a lot quicker and an easier to check-in.
15. Consider going last minute
Generally, booking up earlier will always result in a lower price. However, as it gets very close to departure, some airlines drop their fares to encourage a full flight. You may be able to catch a last minute deal - check the prices a few days before you want to fly. If you’re flying on a weekend, last minute prices will typically be announced on a Tuesday.
16. Book separately
If you’re headed away with friends, it’s often simplest to all book up together. It isn’t, however, necessarily the cheapest way to do it, especially with a large group. An airline will usually offer the highest price for the whole group – even if one of your number could go cheaper. The easy way to check is to look up prices for one person, note the cost, and search again for the whole of your group - then take advantage of any discrepancy, whichever way it falls.