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!
i. First, complete steps 1-9 above.
ii. Secondly, open 2 new tabs on your browser.
iii. In the first tab, open www.norwegian.com.
iv. Enter the UK site and search for single flights from London Gatwick to Singapore. For the date, follow these instructions:
v. Ignore the date inputted and instead click on ‘Show Low Fare Calendar’. Search.
vi. This will open the low fare calendar. Browse dates and months using the arrows above the calendar and be sure to select a date that is close to £200. Press continue when this is done.
vii. You’ll be directed to a new page giving you the option to upgrade to low fare +. We recommend doing this, as it allows you to get 3 meals onboard, hold luggage and seat allocation. For a flight this long, you don’t want to chance it! The overall price should never be more than £260 when this is added.
viii. Follow the instructions until you’re ready to pay, but before you do so:
ix. In the second tab, open Skyscanner and complete steps 1-9 searching from Singapore to your overall destination. We highly recommend staying in Singapore for 3 days, so search for a later date.
x. Compare the price from the original search with the price of your other two tabs combined and you will almost always make a saving. Hint: Singapore – Kuala Lumper is often only £20-£40.
xi. Complete the bookings!
D) No specific destination!
i. Complete steps 1 and 2 but don’t enter a destination.
ii. In the destination box, start typing the word ‘everywhere’. Once it shows up, click it and search.
iii. You’ll be taken to a list from cheapest to most expensive of all Countries in the world from your specific City of choice. Please note that if you search from UK, prices will always be cheaper than if you’re elsewhere in the world whilst searching.
iv. If you’re not in the UK when searching, use a VPN to trick it into thinking you are!
v. Have a little mooch around. Not all the prices are going to be for the main Cities, but it definitely puts into perspective the crazy amounts we think are ‘good deals’! In a recent poll on our Instagram, we asked people how much they think would be a good deal to the Blue Lagoon. 50% of people said over £80 and 20% said over £50. So when those people head to an estate agent to pay crazy amounts, they’ll have no idea that flights are often £20 one way!
vi. As you click on each possible destination, follow steps 4-10.
E) Finding another way to get to an expensive City
i. Let’s say you’ve completed steps 1-6 and you can’t find a flight cheap enough or within your budget.
ii. Change your destination to the entire Country instead of the City you want to visit.
iii. See which City is the cheapest for the time you’d like to visit and complete steps 1-9 with this.
iv. Meanwhile, using Google or websites such as Go Euro or Seat 61 you can find out the different forms of public transport from one City to another. Buses are often extremely cheap, but will take time out of your travels. Overnight trains are great because the cost covers accommodation too.
v. Compare the difference in cost between the original searched flight to your destination and the flight + public transport.
vi. Book it!
F) Pay through the original website
i. Complete steps 1-6.
ii. Once you know the total price, open a new tab and find the website for the airline you’re looking at.
iii. Using their website, search for the same day as you did on Skyscanner and compare prices. This isn’t necessarily a definite money-saver as it can actually go both ways! We’ve saved money before through doing this, so it’s always worth checking, even if it rarely works.
There we have it! Our best kept secrets to finding cheap flights around the world. Please note that these aren’t set in stone or exclusive – you can mix and match all the above to come up with your own way of searching:
1. You are entirely flexible: A+D
2. You need a long-distance flight on a specific date: B+E
3. You want to go backpacking across Asia: A,B,C,D,E+F!
4. You want a quick cheap getaway: D+F
5. A specific destination with no time limit: A+E
Our best advice to you is to make your way through each of these with different destinations in mind. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a pro! We’ve flown for £4 return before and found some amazing deals for less than a weekend in our own City! Using these tricks, we’ve saved ourselves 100s of pounds and now it’s time for you to do the same. The world is changing and it’s becoming increasingly more important to know our way around money scams. Good luck and happy searching!