I’ve mentioned before that when it comes to travelling, I’m cheap.
The price of flights fluctuate so much that it’s easy to be ripped off. As much as some people advocate booking a package deal, I find that I actually save more by just spending my time searching for separate deals. So here are my tips to bagging cheap flight and/or accommodation.
It’s All About The Timing: Timing matters. Different days of the week or different months of the year play a huge role in the price of flights, and although you might not want to miss out on the seasonal experiences, being flexible with your timing by even just a few days can get you some great deals. It’s good to have some general dates in mind, but BE FLEXIBLE. It’s always cheaper to fly mid-week, so if you are going for a long weekend somewhere, consider flying in late on the Thursday and return early on the Monday. Because I don’t have kids, I avoid high season like the plague. I never go ANYWHERE in august, it’s just an absolute rip-off. I’d suggest any school holiday period is to be avoided, however this can depend on where you are heading. Generally, I’d avoid Easter, (late) July, August and the Christmas/New Year period. If you know these are the only dates you can do, book early because you aren’t going to get many last-minute deals. I think I read somewhere that 42 days before you fly is supposedly the cheapest price you will get, however for long-haul, I’m never willing to take the risk. That being said, don’t book a year in advance and expect a good deal. I’d say a month or two for long-haul and a few weeks for shorter flights.
Have a checklist BEFORE you start your search: Are you against taking a red-eye? Or travelling without luggage (we already know my feelings about this)? Or having a lay-over? Or being situated a few miles from the city? Are you fussy about Airlines? If you have an idea of what you are willing to sacrifice on, it can make you’re search a whole lot easier (especially if you are in a group. There is nothing is worse than missing out on a deal because you’re trying to confirm the situation with friends). Sacrifices like this can save you a hell of a lot of money, and is killing a couple of hours at a different airport really that bad?
Compare: Compare sites are great, but you have to be smart about them. Personally, I always use multiple compare sites at once. Cheapflights and SkyScanner are great for flights. If you are not fussy about destination, sign up and they send you the top weekly deals. Skyscanner is also great for tracking price fluctuations, if you have a few weeks spare. Expedia, Booking.com and Agodo are good for hotels. I’d advise you to sign up to all three, as you often get really good deals or secret prices for being a valued customer (quite often Expedia offers 50% off for members and Booking.com has secret deals). I sometimes use Trivago, but I don’t like how the prices are not for the duration, and most of their deals are from booking.com anyway. Having said that, it’s always worth a look). Agodo is best for accommodation in Asia, whereas booking.com is a good for pretty much anywhere. I’ve never actually used Airbnb before, but they seem to have some great deals if you are in a group and it’s a brilliant idea for families or friends.
Check Direct: Once you’ve found your flight/accommodation, check the prices on the official websites. After all, they are the people who know what’s available. Most of the time, compare sights will have the best deal, but it’s always worth checking or even ringing them and asking if they can do any better. Also, it sounds old-fashioned, but some travel agencies have great deals. If you have some free time, go in and show them the deals you found. They might just be able to give you an even better price and really tailor the trip to you (I do this for my parents a lot).
Be Prepared: I only ever look at flights if I am prepared to book them the same day. As much as I encourage you to spend your time looking around, don’t miss out on a great deal hoping something better is going to come along. Get a rough idea of what the average price is and judge it by that. I got my flight to Australia for £690. It’s not the cheapest I’ve seen, but the lay-overs where short, it was a nice airline (Malaysia Airlines – although this was a before flight 370) and I arrived at a good time. A lot of my other friends searched for weeks and ended up paying over £1000.
Look away: Once you have booked, turn off your deal notifications and delete your cookies (again). There is nothing worse than thinking you got a great deal, only for it to drop a week later. It happens. Don’t torture yourself.
Sometimes you will miss out on deals, but it’s always worth a try. Some of my greatest holidays have been from random flight deals booked only a week before.