How to get cheap flights in 2023
There are plenty of little tricks and some super tools to help you find the cheapest flights. There are also a few nifty tactics to bring prices down a little further. Read on to discover where to look and how to search and learn how to pocket more towards your actual holiday.
Searching done right
Air mile reward cards
Use the best flight search comparison sites
Don't assume it is cheaper to go direct to the airlines; the best deals are often found on big-brand comparison sites who have the clout to wrangle cheaper prices.
- Skyscanner is one of the most thorough flight search engines including budget airlines, and it regularly returns the best prices.
- Momondo is also great for returning the cheapest flights and it has some handy filters to hone in on the type of holiday you're after eg. 'City' or 'Beach' for example.
- Google Flights is not usually cited as one that always throws up the cheapest deals but it is a super-slick tool for quickly comparing flight dates.
- Kiwi.com has a brilliant geographical view with lead prices for surrounding destinations you might not have considered.
Search in Incognito/Private browsing
This feels like a strange one but airlines will track your search history with cookies so they can determine how likely you are to book. If your search history suggests you are very likely, you may be returned slightly inflated prices. By searching in incognito or private mode or by deleting your cookies at the start of each search, you can avoid this. Or use the browser 'DuckDuckGo' which is always set to private browsing.
In Safari, click 'choose File' and then 'New Private Window' or on your iphone, click the 'open tab overview' icon in the centre of the tab bar at the bottom of the screen, then tap 'Private'.
In Google Chrome on your phone, click the three dots in the top right of your screen and select 'New Incognito tab'. On a laptop, hold command and shift and hit 'n' to open an Incognito window.
Be flexible with your travel dates
Always click the +/- dates options either side of the dates you are searching for. Having some flexibility over your travel dates is an easy way to bring the price down. Check out flight prices before you book your time off work so you can arrange your trip around the best deals.
Skyscanner even has an option to search within a 'whole month', which can be a real bargain-finder
Friday is often the cheapest day to fly and Sunday is usually the most expensive but this isn't always the case so keep your options open.
Be flexible with your destination
Most flight comparison sites give you an option to search for a whole country which is a great way to see the best prices without a specific region in mind but the sites we have mentioned go one step further with an 'Anywhere' or 'Everywhere' option. This can open up a great many cheap flights to amazing destinations you might not have considered before.
Skyscanner also has a great 'Multi-city' search so you can specify a few different possible destinations to compare flights together in one results page.
And check out Momondo's 'Explore' option which pulls in a map view featuring prices to multiple airports within the window. If you click to zoom in to an area, it will re-load more prices within that window so you can actually browse flight prices and compare across the whole of europe or multiple cities or islands, for example.
Google's calendar view search function
Use calendar views or graph features to easily spot the cheapest days to fly. Google's flight search isn't always as good as others at finding the cheapest prices but it has a great calendar view displaying prices side-by-side across two months with the cheapest days highlighted in green. This is a great place to at least start a search; with this view you might be tempted to alter dates to pocket those extra savings.
Look for flights at unpopular times and consider the off-peak season of the destination
Prices are always determined by demand so off-peak flight times are certain to be cheaper. Make sure you don't filter out any flight times when searching so you can see everything and at least give yourself the option.
Peak and off-peak season doesn't always align with that of the UK. For example Dubai's peak season is November to April so choosing a flight outside of those months is a surefire way to save some money - just ensure you check out temperatures and attraction opening times so you know these are still suitable for you at off-peak.
Beware of extra costs on budget airlines
Budget airlines often make up for their attractive ticket prices with a slew of additional charges, from baggage fees to seat selection costs. Even printing your boarding pass at the airport or choosing to pay with certain credit cards can sometimes incur extra fees. Have a quick read around the additional charges of the airline you are considering to make sure you are not likely to bump up that cheap ticket price: www.caa.co.uk/media/mu0dbn4j/airline-charge-table.pdf
Consider flights with a connection
The best Flight comparison sites mentioned here are all pretty good at including connected flights to return the cheapest options. This is usually a guaranteed way to save some money, it's just a case of weighing it all up:
Always Check Total Travel Time:
While a layover might save money, ensure the total travel time is acceptable for you. A six-hour layover might not be worth saving a few dollars, especially if it's in the middle of the night.
Consider Extra Costs and Potential Hassles:
Remember that if you book two separate flights with a self-made connection, you might need to pick up and re-check luggage, go through security again, or even need a visa for the layover country.
Be flexible with your departure airport
If you have more than one airport within an acceptable distance, don't assume that flight prices will be similar at each. Different airports have different overheads and also different airlines operating to the same destinations so you can save a packet by comparing flight prices. It may well be worth a longer journey in your car to save on your flight.
Air Mile Reward Cards
The Power of Points: Travel rewards points or miles are incentives offered by airlines, credit card companies, and hotel chains. These points can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, and other travel-related expenses. Gathering enough points can lead to free or heavily discounted flights.
Selecting the Right Rewards Credit Card: Several credit cards in the UK offer travel rewards. The Amex rewards card is a good one as it allows you to transfer reward points for multiple airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and more. MoneySavingExpert has a really handy page detailing some top cards we recommend taking a look at: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/airline-credit-cards/
Juicy Signup Bonuses: Many of these cards offer bonus points for new sign-ups. However, to get this bonus, you usually have to spend a certain amount (usually from £2k) within the initial months of receiving your card so plan this around a big purchase!
Tips for Maximizing Your Points Earning Potential
- Everyday Spending: Use your rewards card for regular expenses like groceries or dining out. Ensure you pay off your balance every month to avoid accumulating interest.
- Special Promotions: Occasionally, card providers offer promotions or bonuses on certain purchases. Stay updated with these offers to accumulate points faster.
- Double Dipping: Some airlines, like British Airways, have shopping portals. By shopping through these portals, you earn both card and airline points.
- Referral Bonuses: Referring friends or family to sign up for your credit card can often earn you extra points.
Redeeming Your Points Wisely
- Be Flexible: Points' value can differ based on factors like the flight's date or destination. Being flexible with travel dates can yield better point redemption rates.
- Avoiding Peak Seasons: Flying during off-peak times or seasons often gets you better deals.
- Transfer Points: Cards like the American Express Membership Rewards Card allow transferring points to partner airlines or hotels.
- Watch Out for Fees: Even if a flight is "free" with points, there might still be taxes or surcharges.
Keeping Points Active
Remember, points in some programs can expire. Regular activity, like making a purchase or redeeming some points, can keep them active. Utilize apps or services to track your points and their expiration dates.
Many airlines offer student discounts for both domestic and international flights. There are also specialized travel agencies and websites, such as STA Travel or StudentUniverse, that cater specifically to student travel and often provide discounted fares. Students may need to provide valid student ID or proof of enrollment to access these discounts. Some airline student discount pages:
Some airlines offer senior discounts on selected routes. The age requirement for a "senior" discount varies by airline but typically ranges from 55 to 65 years old. Proof of age, such as a passport or other valid ID, is usually required to obtain the discount.
The sticking point here is that these flights are not always the cheapest. Because only some airlines offer a senior discount, it may be that other airlines actually offer cheaper flights without a discount. So it is important to be aware of this and make sure your search is not excluding non-discounted airline flights.
Flyers with Disabilities
Discounts for individuals with disabilities are less common than student or senior discounts, but some airlines do offer reduced fares for disabled passengers and/or their companions. Additionally, it is worth remembering that individuals with disabilities are entitled to certain rights and services when flying, especially in countries with strong accessibility regulations. For example, in the EU and US, airlines must provide assistance to disabled passengers at no extra cost. You'll need to notify the airline in advance about any special needs to ensure they are prepared with any additional support you need.
- Always check the airline's official website or contact their customer service for the most accurate and up-to-date information on discounts.
- Remember that while a specific fare may be discounted for students, seniors, or disabled passengers, it's always a good idea to compare prices to ensure you're getting the best deal. Sometimes, promotional fares or sales available to the general public might be cheaper than the special group rate.
- Some airlines might have partnerships with student or senior organizations, granting members additional discounts or benefits.
Savings are not all in the flight tickets
There are other costs when you fly, of course, and these can tot up to not insignificant sums! Airport parking, airport or airline food and drink, travel insurance and airport transfers to name a few. These are often very much an after-thought and travellers tend to focus on the price of the flight and accommodation but if you put less effort into saving money on these, your wallet won't thank you.
Book as much as you can as soon as you have booked your flights. The earlier you book, the cheaper the price of these extras; when demand is high or availability is low, prices escalate. Use Holiday Extras (I know - we are biased, but also happy to say completely earnest) to compare the services you might need and package these up to save money.
Airport Lounges are not an exclusice privelage for business travellers; lounge passes are available to everyone and can work out as a very economical alternative to buying food and drink at the airport. The price of a typical UK airport lounge starts from around £15pp with Holiday Extras, and provide complimentary food and drink so there is no additional charge. It's not just about giving you somewhere pleasant to retreat whilst waiting to board, it can be a savvy money-saver.
Sign up for travel newsletters and follow airlines and travel agents on social media.
Get special promotions and last-minute bargains sent immediately to your phone. Late cancellations and empty seats will trigger some discounted deals. Save yourself having to hunt these down by getting them sent directly to you instead.
If you have a strict travel date in mind, however, don't rely on relevant deals falling into your lap. You might be lucky to come across a last-minute deal but generally these won't coincide with the particular dates you had in mind, so only consider this if you are able to drop things and pack your bags with very little notice!
Planning your next holiday?
Sign up today and save up to 20% with exclusive Holiday Extras deals.