7 secrets of finding the best low cost flights
We reveal our seven savviest secrets, tried and tested by expert budget travellers, that will help you to find the best low cost flights. There are a few ways of finding low cost flights that everyone knows about - like using a flight comparison site such as Skyscanner, of course. But if you really want to find the best low cost flights you have to know the tricks of the trade.
When is the best time to book? We reveal our seven savviest secrets that have been tried and tested by expert budget travellers*, and will help you to find the best low cost flight every time.
Secret 1: Book seven weeks in advance
Finding a great flight deal used to be all about booking at the last minute, as airlines were desperate to get rid of their empty seats. Today there are so many budget airlines and business travellers willing to pay big bucks at the last minute that it’s no longer the case. We've crunched the data and found that seven weeks is the best time to book for short haul flight such as the UK to Malaga whereas you need to look around 18 weeks in advance for long haul destinations.
Secret 2: Sign up for email alerts from your favourite airlines
Although last minute flight deals are hard to find, they do exist if you know where to look. Take the leg work out of finding cheap flights by visiting a few of your favourite airlines and signing up for their newsletters. Your inbox will soon be filling up with news of flash sales, new routes with special introductory rates, and most importantly, low fares on last minute flights. Keep your eyes peeled on Tuesday afternoon. By this point most airlines will know if their weekend flights are fully booked. If they still have a lot of empty seats, this is when they will slash the prices and tell their subscribers.
Secret 3: Go everywhere
If you’re in the mood for exploring destinations you may not have thought about before, this is the best way to pick up bargain basement flights.
Using the ‘Everywhere’ search function on Skyscanner you can find out where it’s cheapest to travel to; as well as when it’s cheapest to go there.
Simply type in the airport you want to depart from, and in the destination box type in ‘Everywhere’. If you’re really flexible, you can select ‘whole month’ from the departure date box as well.
Secret 4: Choose your credit card wisely
If you have a good credit score, another way to cut flight costs is to apply for an airline credit card which rewards you with Avios points (air miles) which can be redeemed against set flight routes. These cards are great for cutting the cost of expensive long haul flights. Usually these credit cards are an extension of frequent flyer programmes, and the more you spend the more points you earn. The best way to build up your Avios miles (without building up debt) is to use it for day- to-day purchases (grocery shopping, filling up the car, going out for dinner) and sticking to your usual monthly budget. Remember to pay off the credit card in full every month so you won’t have to pay interest: you can do this by direct debit, if you’re a bit forgetful.
If you’re not keen on getting a credit card, you can transfer your Clubcard and Nectar points into Avios too.
Secret 5: Shop for flights on Tuesday afternoon
There is a theory that Tuesday is the best day to go looking for cheap airfares. Quite a few airlines release their last minute weekend deals on a Tuesday, as they tend to start their sales on a Monday evening - as competitors scrabble to compete, by Tuesday afternoon you could be bagging a sweet bargain on your air fare.
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Secret 6: Buy a one way ticket to your destination (and back)
Not always, but sometimes, buying return flights with one airline can be more expensive than purchasing two one way tickets from different airlines. For example, flying from Edinburgh to Paris with Ryanair on a cheap one way flight and then booking a cheap one way flight home with Easyjet. This method gives you more flexibility, too, as you can come back when you want or even fly home from a different (cheaper) airport.
Secret 7: Try the 24-hour rule
Some airlines may offer you a free refund if you cancel more than 24 hours before departure, so watch the price of the flight you’ve just booked using Skyscanner price alerts. If the cost of the flight drops substantially, cancel your original flight and book the new one. This will save you a bit of money, but be wary as some airlines don't offer this and some may charge a cancellation fee if you’re out of the 24 hour window.
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Statistical information correct at time of publication.