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When booking a holiday, flights are usually your first port of call. Whether you’re looking for flight inside Europe or the long haul holiday of a lifetime, finding the right fare at the right price can be a bit of a minefield. However, deals are to be had both by booking last minute and long in advance. There are lots of reasons for this and prices depend on many factors. As we said, it can be a minefield!
Check out our hand-picked deals above if you need some inspiration. We offer deals for flights across the world, including round trip offers, which are often a great way to grab a bargain. Or do you have your dream destination and dates already in mind? If so, compare prices with our flight price comparison checker or read on for some pirate tips for how to find the best deals for your flights.
Always keep your searches private - looking for cheap air fares should always be done in ‘incognito mode’ as this stops cookies from ‘remembering’ your previous searches and possibly displaying higher prices.
Book separately - by booking your flight and hotel in different transactions you can save money. However, bear in mind that your holiday will not be ATOL protected if you choose this method. If you would prefer the protection, then opt for a company that offers ATOL.
Keep an eye out for sales - it seems obvious, but sales are a great way to snap up low cost flights. Certain airlines have regular sales where they slash their fares and offer unbelievable deals. Also, keep your eyes peeled for famous flash sales. Airlines like Qantas and Air New Zealand are known for offering very limited seats to a number of exciting destinations.
Consider your departure airport - this trick works the other way round too. Flying from different airports in the UK can also affect how much you shell out for a flight. When booking a flight, consider other airports that are close by. Differing school holidays across the country can also have a big impact on prices.
Find the cheapest days to fly - for short haul flights, Friday - Sunday dates are usually the priciest. If you have any wiggle room in your departure dates, 24 hours either side can make a lot of difference. You can use tools like Google Flights to search for the most affordable dates for your length of travel.
Collect points - a lot of airlines offer loyalty schemes whereby you collect points which you can redeem against future flights and business class upgrades. Many airlines offer credit cards and other forms of collecting points so you just need to find the type that works best for you.
Budget vs other airlines - when booking a flight keep in mind that even though budget airlines like Ryanair and easyJet offer budget fares, prices can quickly add up when adding checked bags and buying food on board etc. That means that it can sometimes prove cheaper to upgrade your airline to one that includes bags and meals as standard.
Think of alternative options - flexibility can be key. A lot of cities have more than one airport and choosing an alternate one can save you a small fortune. However, keep in mind the cost involved in getting to your hotel. For example, a flight to Newark (New York) may be cheaper, but it’s further away from the city centre than JFK airport. Another option is to fly to nearby cities which may be cheaper to fly to. Fares to Florence in Italy can be expensive, but flights to nearby Pisa are usually much more affordable.
It may be hard to believe, but the day of the week definitely plays a role when booking a flight. Airlines are smart, but you can outsmart them. The prices for flights start to rise once you plan your departure for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is because the weekends tend to be the easiest time to travel for most people. However, you should book your flights to leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday, then you’ll avoid the weekend rush and save some cash!
Better keep those eyes peeled for deals at the end of the year. Last minute is the magic word here because, at the end of the year, the airlines want to sell their last seats as quickly as possible. You can get in on some great last minute deals like a £140 return ticket to Jamaica, with a free hangover from Caribbean rum thrown in on top.
If you have the opportunity to go on a spontaneous holiday, then we can highly recommend booking in November and December. This is a bit of a risky move but taking a gamble can really pay off. Once you've found a bargain, then you shouldn't wait too long to strike, because—especially for long-haul flights—the lowest priced options get snatched up the quickest. For example, if you find an offer from London to Tokyo for around £300, then you shouldn't wait 'til the next day, because we can guarantee you that this flight will be gone.
Book flights to depart on Tuesdays & Wednesdays
Check last minute deals in November & December
Don't wait too long to book a bargain for long-haul flights
There’s been a lot of chat recently on what gets you the best price, booking in advance or waiting until the last minute. The fact of the matter is, is that flight prices change all the time, sometimes on a daily basis. This is due to supply and demand, if a flight is filling up fast, maybe off the back of a fare sale, prices will increase with the demand.
You may have wondered before why our flight deals to continental Europe often depart from Luton, Southend, East Midlands or Prestwick and not always from larger airports like Heathrow. Airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Eurowings and Wizz Air often use smaller airports due to lower costs - which means cheaper fares can be passed onto customers. The same applies to arrival airports. That’s why it is common to land at Bergamo rather than Malpensa when flying to Milan. Or Frankfurt-Hahn (about 70 miles out of the city) instead of Frankfurt’s main airport.
Many people avoid Newark and opt for JFK when flying to NYC as the latter is more well known and within city limits while the former is in neighboring New Jersey. However, JFK has a reputation for long lines and heavy traffic meaning that landing at Newark can mean arriving in downtown Manhattan faster. This example goes to show that it can be worthwhile avoiding a city’s largest and most well known airport.
With long distance flights we regularly consider departure airports outside of the UK, like Dublin for example. Why? Because Ireland has different tax laws meaning that you often end up paying less.
We regularly receive flight requests on WhatsApp and Facebook that we are happy to answer. However, this can be difficult when the person looking for deals is set upon a certain departure airport or travel dates. With such requirements the price for return flights to Mexico can easily jump from £320 to £600. Of course we do everything possible to find flight deals for you but unfortunately we don’t have a magic spell to change the price set by carriers.
Therefore, the golden rule when looking for bargains is to be flexible with travel dates and departure airports.
If you are set on certain dates or a certain departure airport, your chances of finding an amazing price are unfortunately lower. Within Europe your prospects are better, but the prices of short-haul flights increase considerably during peak season. In the off-season there is less demand for flights and because airlines still want to fill their planes with passengers, the prices drop accordingly. With this in mind, we recommend that you have a look at flights before you request annual leave. Just request annual leave that aligns with the cheapest flights! When you are looking to snag a bargain on long-haul journeys, it is important to remember that longer flight times due to layovers normally correlate with much lower prices.
Focus your search on smaller UK airports
Consider airports outside of the UK for long-haul flights
The biggest airport at the arrival destination may not always be the cheapest
If possible book flights outside of school holidays and during less traditionally popular times of year.
Longer journey times often means lower-priced tickets
Consider more than one departure airport
If possible, look at flights before requesting annual leave
Even if you only need a one way flight, it makes sense to search for return flights. One way tickets are often significantly more expensive than return flights. No one cares if you board the return flight or not.
Flights with multiple or long layovers are generally much cheaper! This option also has the advantage of giving you the opportunity to see and experience more on one trip.
Instead of searching for flights to a specific destination, simply search for the cheapest tickets - no matter the destination. With Ryanair for example, there is an option to search for all flights from your departure airport. The prices of all destinations offered from that airport within a certain time frame will be displayed.
If there is more than one airport in your region, shop around a little. The more options you have, the more likely it is that you’ll find a cheaper fare. Budget airlines fly to airports that are a little further out of cities. But there are always options like buses, trains, or taxis to get into the city. Open-jaw flights are another great money-saving option - if there’s a crazy cheap flight from London to Majorca and an even more affordable return flight from Menorca to London, just book it and take a ferry from one island to the other.
Many airlines offer frequent flyer programmes that allow you to collect points and miles, which can be used for upgrades, free flights or other perks. Many airlines offer members with premium status access to exclusive airport lounges. Other benefits include priority check-in, fast-track security checks and priority boarding.
Flights are occasionally available for a better price on an airlines’ or providers’ foreign sites. For example have a look at expedia.nl as well as expedia.co.uk.
Set up a new email account solely for receiving offers from airlines and tips from travel blogs. This way you won’t miss any deals. The sheer volume of flights advertised on the internet can make finding the right deal a little overwhelming. To combat this, many airlines and travel blogs offer an option for notifications to specific destinations . Whether by newsletter or app, you can receive notifications when something interesting pops up.
Most airlines have a presence on social media sites. Airlines and travel blogs often publish their best offers on Facebook, Twitter etc. first. Competitions and giveaways are also a common means of promotion used by airlines, so keep an eye on social media and you could be the next winner. These channels are also often used to inform customers of flights cancellations, delays and price changes.
You want to go to the Caribbean but your budget won’t stretch that far? Try not to get too hung up on it and search for alternatives instead. It doesn’t always need to be the other side of the world, breath-taking destinations can also be found much closer to home.
Finding the cheapest flights is often a matter of luck and good timing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But booking affordable flights undoubtedly gives you a great feeling and adds an extra level of excitement to an upcoming holiday. Using the tips and tricks laid out in this article will help increase your chances of finding unbelievable airfares. If you ever need an extra bit of help or some inspiration then HolidayPirates is always there to lend a hand.