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
There are now loads of websites to help you compare flight prices, so you dont have to!
- Skyscanner - Compares hundreds of airlines, and whole months at a time to give you the cheapest prices
- Google flights - Compares hundreds of airlines finding the cheapest flights.
- Jacks flight club - Sends out a weekley newsletter with luxury destinations at really cheap prices.
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
Although it may be annoying getting up early for a flight, you will miss any traffic getting to the airport, and your flight will most likely be cheaper than peak times.
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. People tend to book early on in the week when they have that Monday/Tuesday feeling so try book later on in the week.
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.
If you are planning a summer holiday, book it in January and February, as many people start to panic around April and March and flights get booked up much quicker then. Same goes for flight at Christmas time!
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. Go hand luggage only
This lets you avoid the baggage fee. Plus it’ll be a lot quicker and an easier to check-in and get out on the other end. Most airlines these days offer to put your luggage in the hold for free when you are about to board the flight, to save room in the cabin and this will save you having to carry your bag when you land!
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. Check out student flight companies
There aren’t actually that many places to get student only flight discounts. But amongst the ones that tailor themselves to the student market there are some big contenders. There are two main companies, Student Universe and STA, both of which have long histories in the travel industry and get a lot of the best deals. We would always recommend that you check all available options before booking.
Student Universe is one of the veterans of the web having established itself in 2000. It is a student-centric offering that is looking out for the best deals for those enrolled as a student or as a faculty member at a further education establishment.
Student Universe requires students to verify their identities before access is granted to student flights. To sign up all you need to do is complete a simple form that includes the details of your college or university.
Beware though as Student Universe states that ‘occasionally’ it will ask for proof of your student identification. This can be confirmed, according to the website, by sharing a class schedule or scanning a copy of your student ID.
Not all of the flights offered on Student Universe are for students only. There are some options for flights that are for all 18-25 year olds.
STA Travel is the original student travel company. Founded in the 1970’s back when people went outside and spoke to actual people when booking flights, the service online is still just as good as ever.
STA offers flight tickets for students and youths that are referred to as ‘Blue Tickets’.
A Blue Ticket is a multi-stop, around the world ticket that features as many stopovers as you can handle in an 18-month period.
STA say they offer the lowest prices, the most flexible fares and the least rules when it comes to booking the ultimate adventure flights. We might not be able to guarantee that but SMS can tell you that STA offer low deposit schemes and book-now-pay-later deals all year round.
CheapOair fundamentally works like Skyscanner or Kayak (for more on these check out the SMS ultimate holiday guide) and shows all available flights like a search engine, but with the added function of having ‘youth’ prices.
The site is American and does show prices in dollars but don’t be put off it all works the same as if it were in pounds. Just make sure to check the currency conversion before booking.
17. Claim student discount
After all, it's not just for the high street.
Booking flights at student specific prices is not the only way to save money on your flights. There are some travel companies that offer student discount on the total prices of holidays.
The package holiday company Thompson offers a £20 discount per person booked on one of its Skytours holidays for bookings over £600 made by students. Destinations include the usual European sun breaks, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and a few others. The money isn’t exclusively off the flights just the total price of the package holiday.
Although £20 isn’t a crazy discount it is still better than nothing.
The Stoke Travel Company is a dedicated party travel company. If you want to party anywhere in the world Stoke Travel can tell you how to get there, where to stay and why it is epic. Last year alone Stoke Travel entertained over 22,000 people in 14 countries.
Booking requires a 50% deposit and there is the option to pay for a trip but not specify which one you want to do until nearer the time.
Stoke Travel offer a 5% discount on the overall cost of a trip to students.
The Wild Card
British Airways Student Flights
We have put this in here because it is good to know but it isn’t easy. British Airways offers travel to the UK, USA or Canada to foreign students at a 10% discounted price. It seems that a valid ISIC card is required and more information can be found at https://www.isic.no/en/benefits/british-airways/.