Flights can be the most expensive part of any family holiday and we all try to find the cheapest flight price we can for our family trips away.
Here are some of my top tips that I use to ensure that I pay the lowest possible prices for my families flights whether I am travelling within the UK, Europe or Long Haul.
Use flight comparison sites
Trying to find the cheapest flights can be time consuming having to check the websites of every airline. This is why I always start my search with the following flight price comparison sites.
There is no perfect flight comparison site but using a combination of the websites listed above will enable you to cover a large chunk of the market. However please be aware that some of the budget airlines do not appear in these comparison searches.
What is great about flight price comparison websites is that you can see a calendar view of the cheapest days and times to fly and with what airline. It can also work out cheaper flying back with a different airline than the one you went out with.
After finding the best combinations of airlines and dates, I delete my browsing history and book directly with the airline, as many have a price guarantee.
Sign up to the free flight deal sites
It’s also worth signing up to the flight deal subscription sites. They are free to join and email you flight deals as they are found by their deal experts.
Be flexible with your days
When searching for flights it always helps if you can be flexible by a couple of days. To see the price fluctuations of flying on different days, I recommend looking at the month view of flights shown on the British Airways website and Skyscanner. These tools will highlight the cheapest flights during the month that I want to travel.
I often find that the cheapest flights are midweek (Tuesday or Wednesday), although this is not always the case.
Browse on different days of the week
Airlines are constantly updating their pricing databases and typically this is done midweek. It’s worth checking the prices of flights on a weekend and then on a Tuesday or Wednesday to see if the airline has dropped the price. They will typically adjust the flight pricing to make them more competitive, especially if seats have not been selling as quickly as they had hoped for.
Delete your browsing history or go incognito
You may have noticed that after searching through airline websites, when you go back and check the price of a flight again it rises in price slightly. This is because the website knows you are visiting frequently by using little cookies placed on your device. Using a feature called dynamic pricing they start upping the price as they know you are likely to book a flight.
To get around this either clear your browsing history and cache. To do this click on the incognito button or press (Ctrl + Shift + N (Windows, Linux and Chrome OS) or ⌘ + Shift + N (Mac)) so the browser and airline website thinks you are starting your flight search from scratch.
Don’t rule out flying into an alternative airport. For example for many families one of the most popular holiday destinations is Orlando Florida. When looking for flights don’t restrict your search to fly into Orlando also check the prices flying into Tampa which is about an hour’s drive from Orlando.
Another option is Sanford airport which is quieter and less chaotic than Orlando airport. There can be some big price differences just by changing airport so it’s worth checking the alternatives.
Don’t always fly direct
As well as being flexible with dates and airports, if you can be flexible on the route that you fly to your destination, you can make even further savings and it can also be more convenient. This approach can bring big savings especially during peak periods such as school holidays.
For example it can be cheaper to fly to Orlando via Dublin from a regional UK airport than fly direct from Gatwick. The other bonus of this approach is that you have your immigration clearance in Dublin saving you time when you arrive in the USA.
It can also be cheaper to fly Edinburgh to Gatwick to Orlando than flying just Gatwick to Orlando with the likes of British Airways.
Use Frequent Flyer Miles even if you are not a frequent flyer
It’s worth signing up for an airline rewards programme as they are a great way to get free flights, upgrades and companion tickets. Even if you are not a frequent flyer you can still earn points without setting foot on a plane to begin building your points total.
Many airlines have their own credit cards (My Favourite is the British Airways American Express Card) that provide you with an introductory bonus points offer (currently 6,000 avios) when you spend a target amount in a set period (currently £1,000 in the first 3 months). This could provide you with a free return flight to a European destination with just the taxes to pay.
We also use the American Express Gold Card which comes with 20,000 points (which can be converted to Avios) once you spend £1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. If you are a frequent traveller and want the maximize the points on offer take a look at the American Express Platinum Card which is currently offering 35,000 points once you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. We find it offers tremendous amount of value despite its hefty annual fee – although we find the benefits that come with the card has paid for itself and more.
In addition to the perks like free worldwide family travel insurance, car hire insurance and unlimited airport lounge access one of our favourite benefits is that just by being a cardholder you are eligible for elite status at hotel chains across the world including Hilton, Marriott and Melia.
Look out for airline sales
All of the major airlines have big sales and August and January typically offer some of the best deals. It’s worth singing up to receive email updates from the airlines to receive the latest news on when their sales are and if they are running any special offers.
Don’t forget their social media channels as well such as Facebook and Twitter. Airlines are increasingly using social media as a way to promote their flight deals and offers to customers.
Use discounts when you can
I usually find that the best prices for flights are when they are just released typically 11 months in advance especially for long haul flights. Alternatively 53 days before departure is often recommended as the ideal time to book according to recent research by Momondo.
For flying in Europe, Easyjet release their flights four times throughout the year. This is typically the cheapest time to book especially for peak periods such as school holidays as their seat pricing strategy is based on demand. Easyjet also has a policy where if the price of the flight drops in price after you have booked (apart from during their sales), you are entitled to the difference back in Easyjet vouchers.
If you are prepared to fly at the very last minute, then you can big up some bargain flights from the charter airlines. TUI in particular are worth a mention as they have a late deals page where you can browse for their cheapest flights last minute flights. For example at the time of writing this article you could fly to Faro for just £45 return or Mexico for £245 return.
Book a package
Even if you don’t need a package it can work out cheaper than just booking a flight (even if you don’t end up using the hotel). For example on British Airways a hotel (eg a 1 star for 1 night) and a flight package can be cheaper than just booking a flight on its own. The other added benefit of this approach is that you only have to pay a deposit with the balance due 5 weeks before departure .
Make a Codeshare Booking
Many airlines have codeshare partners all of which offer different pricing for the same flight. As an example you could initially start your search with British Airways for a flight to New York from Heathrow to get your flight price.
As British Airways are part of the One World Alliance you then check their codeshare partner websites such as American Airlines, Finnair, Qantas, Iberia etc with the same dates and airports to see how much they charge for the same flight.
This is a great money saver and you end up flying on the same flight with the same airline for less than what you would have paid if you had just booked directly with airline.
The Easyjet Flexi Fare
If you are booking a flight to a European destination then there is a very good chance you will be flying with Easyjet. But did you know that Easyjet have a flexi-fare option which lets you switch dates by a few weeks without paying any extra.
The benefit of this flexi fare is when flying during the peak school holiday periods when prices for the flights are much more expensive.
What you do is book a flexi fare at a less busy time which will be cheaper around the date you want to travel. Then provided there is availability on the new flight that you really want to travel on, 24 hours after making your booking you can switch the flight for no extra charge. This can save you a lot of money especially based on a family ticket. There are some restrictions though, you can only move the ticket one week earlier or three weeks later.
Plus with a flexi fare you get speedy boarding and one piece of hold luggage (max 20kg) free per person.
Flexi fares are not available on every flight and are only available 120 days in advance.
Have you tried any of these tricks and tips? Which of them have worked best for you?