Working out how to save money when you're booking a flight seems to get more complicated all the time. Whatever studies may tell you, there's no right way and no one answer that suits everyone; every traveller's situation is different. But if you plan carefully and shop around, there are a few ways to make sure you're getting the best deals. Whether you have a fixed schedule or are happy to be flexible with dates and destinations, it's best to decide on some key points as soon as possible.
Where are you going?
Do you have a specific destination in mind? If your heart's set on somewhere, it's best to book early to avoid the disappointment of finding prices have risen or seats have sold out. If you're happy to decide on where you're going at the last minute, however, you may well find a bargain, but the choice of location may be limited.
Where are you travelling from?
When you're budgeting for your trip or holiday, don't forget to plan for transfers and other associated costs. It's worth weighing up your options for departure points and times; a cheap flight to or from an inaccessible airport at an inconvenient time of day may not be the bargain it appears to be. By the time you've budgeted for transfers or overnight accommodation, you may not be saving as much money as you think.
When can you travel?
The more flexible you can be the better. It goes without saying that airlines increase their prices at peak times. You'll save instantly if you can travel outside of school holidays, or are happy to take a break at the beginning or the end of the season. Days and times can also be important when it comes to booking flights with low cost operators. Search for prices on a range of departure days, and consider flying mid-week when flights are cheaper.
Charter or scheduled?
Are you looking to book a package holiday or just a flight? As a general rule, it's best to book early if you're getting a flight alone. Budget airlines tend to increase their prices dramatically the closer it gets to the flight, knowing that business travellers and other customers will pay inflated prices to get the flight they need. Charter flights, on the other hand, often reduce prices late in the day in order to sell seats and holidays, so there may be some last minute deals available.
Once your travel plans are sorted, it's time to start searching for the best prices. Work out when you will be able to book your flights. If you can put aside the money right away that's great, but it may be that you need to make a savings plan. Our free Money Dashboard budgeting software will help you organise your finances early on, ensuring you avoid having to splash out at the last minute.
Sales and deals
Finally, narrow down your choice to a handful of operators and sign up to their email list and newsletters. This will keep you informed of any flight sales and offers before they happen, ensuring you get first glance at the best prices.
Posted by Marc Murphy