5 secret tricks to get cheap flights

You know the story; there’s a spectacular holiday destination you want to go to but the flights are too expensive. You’ve tried all the budget airlines, but they don’t fly there. You keep meaning to save up so you can go, but you never seem to manage it. If only there was a way to drop the price?!

Never fear! I’m going to show you a few simple tricks that I’ve been using for years to knock lumps off of air fares.

I like travelling and seeing the world. From my home in Scotland I’ve managed to make it onto all but one continent (Antarctica… but trust me I am trying to figure out an economical way to go see some penguins too!) and I have never yet paid full price for an airfare to get there. It’s all about patience, research and very occasionally good luck. I once managed to save £300 on return flights to New Zealand using the tricks below and on my return journey with Qantas got bumped into Business Class by a lovely assistant who made me promise not to name them when the flight was overbooked. I essentially got a £1200 upgrade for free, but sadly that’s the one trick that was purely down to luck.

Aside from paying top dollar for business class and first class ALL plane journeys are uncomfortable, the food sucks and you’ll end up with a screaming kid somewhere in the process. Exactly which plane and which airline takes you to paradise isn’t that important, but making sure you haven’t paid more than the person sitting next to you is. So, if you want to get to your dream destination and have plenty of money left over for the important luxuries here are my 5 tricks:

1. Don’t book last minute

Whilst you can indeed pick up excellent last minute deals with some airlines in general you wan’t to book as far ahead as you can to access the cheapest fares. I’ve generally noticed that at least 2 months ahead is the minimum time to get the best deals and you usually save about 30% on the price you get booking closer to departure.

Business travellers putting the flight on the company account are not fussy about the prices and the airlines know this. They also know that people who need to fly on a particular date only a few weeks away are more likely to pay more so long as it guarantees them the journey. By booking well ahead of time you can be more flexible on dates and shop around for alternative routes, so the airlines will try to hook you with better fares.

2. Try to avoid peak times

This probably sounds really obvious but it’s still trap people fall into. Flying during school holidays is well known to be more expensive but fewer people realise that the day of the week makes a huge difference too. Flying on a Saturday usually works out the most expensive with flights on a Tuesday night being cheapest. It’s well worth considering taking your holiday from work Wednesday to Wednesday and bag the savings.

3. Use more than one comparison website

Most people have got into the habit of using online comparison websites for everything from holidays to insurance to utility bills. Comparison sites usually work by companies who sell the product signing up to be included in the search when customers go to look for a deal. This usually results in slightly different sets of companies being listed on each site and therefore the cheapest deal might be on one site but not the other.

My strategy usually goes:

  1. Use Google Flights to get an idea of which flights are available and the guideline price
  2. Take the itinerary that suited me the best from Google and put it into Kayak
  3. Take the same itinerary and put it into Momondo
  4. Find the cheapest deal and buy

Why does this work?

Google Flights has the best calendar tool to search through flight availability by date and price but only the deals offered by the major airlines and large booking agents who can afford to sign up them. Kayak and Momondo have more of the smaller agents offering fares that are cheaper but usually at the expense of huge fees to make alterations if your plans change. If you need the flexibility to change your dates it’s usually best to pay direct with the airline.

4. Check for charter flights, or book a package and dump the hotel

This generally only works for destinations that are holiday resorts, but you can sometimes get seats on charter flights run by companies who do package tours. Sometimes even purchasing a package holiday works out cheaper than flying with the main airlines. You won’t see these flights on Google Flights but you will see them on Kayak or Momondo. I used this trick once to go to a friend’s wedding in Majorca where I stayed in a lovely 4 star hotel in Palma (also at a reduced rate using tricks I’ll cover in another article) but used a dirt cheap package deal to a 2 star hotel in Magaluf to get the flights at £100 less than going with British Airways on the same route, same day.

Obviously you might luck out and find the flight and a hotel you love already packaged together.

5. Take an indirect flight or consider a stopover

Flying directly from A to B is certainly convenient and this last tip will more than likely make your journey longer. If you really can’t stand waiting in airports or juggling complicated itineraries then this one isn’t for you! This trick also works best for long haul flights where the difference of one or two hours isn’t that much.

Comparison websites will usually automatically show up multi city routes to your destination. Living in Scotland most of the good deals on flights involve flying to either London or Amsterdam to connect and so I started experimenting with fares to other cities in other countries where air fares might be cheaper. Flying to the USA for instance seemed to be much cheaper by hopping on a flight to Oslo first. These deals change a lot so it’s a lot more work to research but an afternoon with a good cup of coffee and a laptop can turn into hundreds of pounds of savings.

If all of these sound like a lot of hard work then I have good news for you. There’s a chap out there who loves finding good flight deals and runs a mailing list to alert savvy travelers to deals, loopholes and hacks to get spectacular destinations on the cheap. You’ll find him over on Jack’s Flight Club. It’s free to sign up for basic alerts with options to pay for access to more deals.


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