​How to fly on a student budget

cheap student flights

You’ve made the decision to head off on your holidays with your friends/flatmates/love interest. You’ve got a general idea of a destination and have a date in mind. What you need to do now is hammer those airline charges and fees to make this a student budget friendly trip.

Choose a cheap time to fly

Choosing a particular time to fly can add hundreds to your final price, or ideally take off hundreds if you’re savvy. School holidays are a big no-no. Airlines will almost always charge more on flights going out during half-term, school holidays and bank holiday weekends (with the exception of New Year's Eve/Day, nobody wants to fly then!). Avoid these periods like the plague. As students you’re likely to be more flexible on dates and ideally your university holidays won’t overlap too much over school breaks.

Try searching for flights right at the beginning of summer when you finish with exams, or in September before you go back for your next year. You’re more likely to find cheaper flights during the week, but if you’re flexible on dates it’s easy to pick the date that’s cheapest.

Don’t be fooled by the rumours, budget airlines aren’t always the cheapest. Airlines don’t want to fly with completely empty planes, so you might find great prices on the ‘fancier’ flights. It's also possible to get student discounts on flights, we've bagged an exclusive £20 off flights with StudentUniverse.

Be savvy about where you’re going

Some destinations will be more expensive during particular periods. Paris, during the Tour de France. Valencia or Barcelona, during the festival Benicassim. But, if you’re flexible (flexibility is key in this article!) on where you want to go, it’s not difficult to find cheap flight options.

We’ve got a little trick to find the cheapest destinations, perfect if you’re easy about where you end up going. Head to our flight checker tool and enter your preferred departure airport under ‘from’, then under ‘to’ select ‘everywhere’. Enter in your dates and search away. You’ll be given a list of results divided by country. Simply choose whichever price and destination peaks your interest and you’re good to go. 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.

If you’re travelling further than Europe, we’ve got a little trick that finds international flights for much cheaper. It’s a little bit fiddly, but can take hundreds off your final flight price. Take a look how.

discounted flights

How to beat luggage restrictions

Lots of airlines include baggage within ticket prices, but even more don’t. Decide well in advance if hold luggage is something you need for this trip, the price won’t be pretty if you turn up on the day with a bag you haven’t already paid for.

If you do decide on hand luggage only, make sure you abide by the airline rules! Don’t take a case that’s way too big, or that obviously weighs too much. Your best bet is to take a soft case, so that you can stuff lots into it and it’ll be able to squish into the size restrictions. Check bag weights and sizes before you fly, airlines vary on what they allow.

Beat the toiletries rule

We cracked a little airport security loophole, which means that you’ll be able to take as many toiletries as you like.

By ordering your big bottles of holiday liquids BEFORE you get to the airport and then getting them delivered to the Boots stores that are in the terminals, you get past airport security with all its liquid limitations, get big bottles of the brands you like, skip holiday resort inflation and ensure your bag isn’t too heavy – think of the extra bikinis you’ll be able to squeeze into your suitcase. Read the full info here.

Check in online and don’t forget your boarding pass

Checking in online can save you a boring wait in a queue at the airport, but it can also save you money too. Some airlines (*cough*, Ryanair) charge a fee for checking in when you get to the airport.

For the love of God don’t forget your boarding pass. Not only will some airlines charge you for not checking in online, they’ll also charge you for forgetting to bring your boarding pass. One airline (*cough*, Ryanair), will charge you £15 just to print another one. I know what you’re thinking, £15 just for a piece of paper? Exactly, so don’t forget it!

If you don’t have a printer handy, most airlines now will give you the option of storing your boarding card on your phone. Just make sure it doesn’t run out of battery before you get to the gate!

Once you’re at the boarding gate, be nice. You never know, you could get a free upgrade.

Don’t be beaten by extra fees

Lots of flights don’t offer free meals as standard. Take your own sandwiches, or even buy them in the terminal, it’ll end up being much cheaper (and tastier) than most things you can buy on the plane.

If you want to sit together on the flight, turn up early to check-in, or if you’re checking in online, get in there early. You can pay to be able to reserve your seats online, but this isn’t really a worthy cost.

Double and triple check everything before you pay for your flight. Small mistakes can cost you. Don’t spell your name incorrectly! It’s cheaper to legally change it than get your boarding pass amended

What about travel insurance?

When you’re buying flights online, there’s usually an option to add on insurance to your booking. Don’t. It’s normally cheaper to buy single-trip, or even an annual insurance cover instead of buying it with your ticket.

It’s worth noting that you need travel insurance, we’d recommend getting it as soon as you’ve booked your trip, if not before. If there’s any kind of hiccup, an illness or a natural disaster to stop you going on the trip, if you don’t have travel insurance it’s going to be near impossible to get your money back.