Flight prices can be the be-all and end-all of any trip away. Whether you’re planning a family holiday or a 6-month backpacking trip, flight prices will determine where you get to go, how long you can afford to go for and whether you go at all. In recent years, flight comparison sites have been popping up everywhere, meaning people are more able to book their own holidays instead of paying an agency fee. Travel agencies are an absolute dream if you want everything done for you, but for some people it’s just too expensive. That’s why we’re here to give you a step-by-step guide on how to book your own cheap flights. The following tips are not your regular ‘just book the cheapest one for that day’ style advice, they’re detailed, well-researched secrets that we have grown to understand over years of flight searching, both for us and for others.
Let’s look at flight comparison sites. There are many to choose from, but from experience, our recommendation would be Skyscanner. Skyscanner doesn’t always have the cheapest flights when you do a basic search, but it’s the best comparison site for digging deeper into your flight research.
Firstly, let’s learn how to use Skyscanner in the most basic level. You will need to know how to do this before attempting any of the below tips and tricks.
1. Open www.skyscanner.net on your computer.
2. You’ll be shown a search box where you can enter the type of trip, the outgoing Country, City or airport, the destination, the departure date, the return date (if needed) and number of travellers. Choosing whether to insert the Country, City or airport can establish how expensive the flight is and it’s always worth starting off by being as broad as possible just to see if it makes a difference. For example, searching ‘London (all)’ instead of ‘London Heathrow’.
3. Hit search!
4. Wait for it to load completely before scrolling, and you’ll see the list of flights in order of price. If it isn’t organised by price, change ‘sort by…’ to ‘cheapest’.
5. If the first few flights have 100 layovers and 4-year journeys, then deselect the 2+ stops option on the top left-hand side of the screen. This will limit the search to 1 layover only. For most of Europe, this won’t be needed. This is more for destinations that have fewer flight options.
6. If you notice that the cheapest flights all land at an inconvenient time, you can use the scroll buttons on the left-hand side of the screen to limit this.
7. Once you have a search that you’re happy with, select it and it will show you all the different booking company options, starting with the cheapest. If you’re unsure on which to choose, it’s worth looking up reviews online, or sending us a message. Generally, if it’s 4 stars or more on Skyscanner, you’re good to go. You may notice that some will say ‘book’ and some will say ‘select’. All this means is that some companies allow you to book through Skyscanner itself, and some will take you to their own website. Both are completely safe.
8. Then comes the dreaded search page, which makes you wait while they check that specific fare is still available. This is the part where you either rejoice, or have to start all over again, depending on the answer!
9. If you’re happy with the final price, now’s the time to check for any extra fees. This may include hold luggage, seat selection and meals, depending on the length of your journey. We always travel with hand luggage only unless hold luggage is included in the price, we don’t mind where we sit, and we bring our own food, so we never add anything extra to our booking. If you’re travelling with a nervous flyer or a child, we advise you to choose your seats.
10. After this, your fare is secure, and you follow the instructions right through until paying. Congrats! Your flight is booked!
Now let’s look at the 7 ways to make your flight even cheaper.
A) Searching for the cheapest flight within a month.
This option is specifically for people who either haven’t booked time off work for holiday yet, or for those with more freedom in travel dates.
i. Once you’ve completed steps 1 and 2 above, click on departure date and you’ll see a calendar appear, with an option to select the whole month at the top.
ii. Click on that and you’ll be taken to a list of all the coming months. If you need it to be within a specific month, click on your chosen month. If not, click ‘cheapest month’ and search.
iii. This will open a calendar of prices in three different colours; look for green. Don’t necessarily take these prices as fact, because they often change when clicked on, or you find out that that price is actually for a flight that takes 48 hours with 6 layovers. However, it does give you an idea of the lowest price range for the month. If it’s a destination that has many direct flights with budget airlines, these prices are more likely to be accurate.
iv. Now it’s time to start searching! Click on the day with the lowest price and you’ll be taken to the comparison window.
v. Complete steps 4-10 above.
B) Long flights with layovers – book separately!
i. Complete steps 1-6 above.
ii. You’ll notice that the layovers are not the same for each flight, so starting at the cheapest, look at the cost and where the layover is. To do this, select your chosen itinerary and hover over the layover information on the next page.
iii. Now before you follow the instructions to book this flight, open 2 new tabs on your browser and reopen Skyscanner from scratch.
iv. On the first tab, search for flights to the original layover destination.
v. On the second tab, search for flights from your layover destination to your actual destination, making sure there is time in between for you to change flights. If you’re not worried about time, make the flights a day apart so that you get to spend time in the layover destination whilst simultaneously leaving enough time between flights.
vi. Now, it may take some time really searching and trying different layovers from the original search, but there’s a very good chance you will find a layover where booking separately saves you a LOT of money. For example, when we came to Beijing from London, flights were looking to be in the £400 area. Once we looked at the different options for layovers, we came across Prague. We searched for flights from London to Prague separately from Prague to Beijing and voila! Saved ourselves £148! Please note that this doesn’t always work and can sometimes require a little knowledge of usual flight prices. If in doubt, send us a message!
C) Travelling to South East Asia from London – Flight hack!