Long haul flight tips – there seems to be a myriad of options and advice out there on how to save money when travelling. We thought we’d write a round up our experiences in searching and booking our flights, and so out long haul flight tips checklist was born! These are things we’ve learnt and we hope sharing them with you will help you to also save on your travels.
Setting travel plans and not being flexible
The most common mistake people make when booking long haul flights is to decide their destination and exact travel dates, then trying to make their flights fit that. Understandably many people may be restricted by school holidays, childcare, work or need to travel to a specific destination. However this is not the best way to get cheap flights. Be flexible.
Creating your travel plans around flights is by far the cheapest way to book long haul flights. The cheapest days to fly are usually midweek on a Tuesday but Wednesdays and Thursdays are also cheap. Being flexible with your destination will also open up cheaper flights or, more to the point, avoid extortionate flight costs.
Don’t be a slave to the points:
Frequent flyer miles are great. We all have our favourite airlines, but don’t limit yourself. Flying with only certain airlines or frequent flyer alliances will cut you off from a world of other possible cheaper fares and options. Shop around.
Don’t go straight to the airline.
It’s increasingly rare that airlines themselves have the best rates on their flights. Most flights are cheaper to book through brokers. This is because the terms and conditions of your ticket and booking are invariably worse than when booked directly. However, be careful as broker tickets may not be changeable or cancellable. The service you get going to the airline direct might be better, but is it really worth £100-£200?
Now it’s time to discuss how to actually book flights. Here are our long haul flight tips:
Google it! Check it! Compare it!
Different travel comparison websites will give you slightly different feedback and prices but don’t get lost in the minutiae, go straight to Google Flights. Google Flights works on the same software to the ITA matrix and is the faster and most in depth flight search. It also has a map fare finder feature which, like Ryanair’s fare finder, is the best way to get cheap flights for the flexible traveller.
Once you’ve found the best options for you, have a quick look round on other brokers such as Travelsupermarket as this could save you £20-£30 per person or give you other options. Then finally double check it against the airlines price. If the airline price is the same or very similar then book direct, otherwise I would just go with the cheapest option.
A common misconception for booking long haul flights is the earlier you book the better. This is not true. Flight prices will fluctuate up and down all the time. However, long haul flights will follow a pattern that makes them easy to nab whilst they are cheap.
At 6 months out, prices will begin to fall to entice last minute holiday makers and to fill up empty planes. They’ll continue to fall until three to four weeks before the flight. At this point they will be at their cheapest, but be careful. With two to three weeks left they will start to rise and be very expensive the closer you get to flying so don’t waiting too long.
The amount the flights dip depends on the circumstances surrounding it which brings us to our next point
Be culturally and calendar aware
Flights at Christmas are notoriously expensive. Same goes for New Years, Easter, school breaks and bank holiday weekends. Being flexible will help you overcome these issues, but also be aware of things that might be happening in your destination. Flights to America on the 4th of July weekend will be expensive, so will flights to Mexico on the 5th of May (Cinquo de Mayo). Brazil is hosting a major sporting tournament every summer from 2013 to 2016. Airlines know this and won’t put on any cheap flights or offers during these time.
Look for offers
If you don’t like waiting until 3-4 weeks until you fly to book your flights, look for the offers. Airlines like to release their offers in batches and make plenty of noise about them. Sign up for newsletters, follow airlines on twitter, like them on Facebook and you should get the message.
Many airlines release their offers on a schedule so once you’ve followed them for a while you’ll get to know your favourite airlines’ schedule. For example, for the last 5 years Virgin Atlantic has taken £100 off all their transatlantic flight on boxing day. Now you know that, there’s no excuse to not get a great deal if Christmas hasn’t cleaned you out.
Ever wondered why you go onto a flight comparison website and it’s already got your itinerary in the search bar? It’s because that website has tracked your last visit and is ready for you. The super creepy thing, if it knows you are looking for a specific flight it can raise the price of that because it knows you are likely to pay.
go incognito” option. Alternatively there are some apps and programs that can disguise where you’re from. If that’s all too complicated, search for the flights on your phone and book them on your computer. It’s a small saving but always worth it.
Go major hubs
Flying to small or medium sized airports will drastically increase your costs. Adding connecting flights to small airports limits the number of carriers who can provide a flight option.
Also, the bigger the hub, the more airlines fly there and the more likely there will be deals on. If you do need to travel to smaller airports then…
Link long haul flights with budget airlines
Budget airlines are growing all over we have our own guide to getting the best value for money from airlines like Ryanair available here. Instead of paying unseen amounts for connecting flight to regional airports, check out what budget options are available through websites like www.whichbudget.com
Budget airlines are also a great way to access bigger hubs for outgoing flights. Instead of getting train, bus or taxi to your nearest international airport, learn what flights your local airport does and a budget flight to London, Dublin, New York or wherever could be cheaper than a taxi to a major airport over an hour away.
Make the airlines pay for your flight
Airlines partner up to increase their reach and offer flights all over the world. When these airlines need to book a connecting flight through their partners they get specially discounted fares to sometimes bizarre effects.
An example of this are transatlantic flights from Dublin. Aer Lingus, the Irish Airline, has merged with a UK conglomerate of airlines. A Flight from Manchester to Orlando may cost £500 out of season. However, a flight from Dublin through Aer Lingus may cost £350 pounds for a flight from Dublin into Manchester on Aer Lingus, then the original flight from Manchester to Orlando. Why is that? Well…
Virgin will want to charge you £500 for the transatlantic flight. Aer Lingus will want to charge you £100 for the return flight from Dublin to Manchester so when it sees your enquiry for a flight from Dublin to Orlando it sees it as a chance to sell its Dublin to Manchester flight. Aer Lingus then contact Virgin for a price on the connecting flight from Manchester to Orlando and Virgin gives it at cost price which is £250.
Therefore Aer Lingus will charge £100 plus the £250 for the Virgin flight which is how you can get a £500 flight for £350.
The drawback would be you would have to go to Dublin for a connecting flight but:
- Ryanair to Dublin flights from local airports in the UK and Europe are so cheap they might be cheaper than getting a train or bus to the major airline hub.
- Dublin for the day or night with £150 in the pocket sounds fun to me.
Make the journey work you.
Save money with airport connections
Crossing London, New York, or Bangkok to catch a connecting flight with all you baggage whilst being jet lagged and rushing to catch a plane may not sound fun to you. However, the good news is that airlines recognise this will often take between £100 and £200 off the price of your flight.
Always specify to travel agents or online website you are happy to make connections and try to choose ones with a long connection. That way if you are flying into or out of America or the UK you get to see New York, London, or another great city which will only add to the fun of your travels.
Again, make the journey work for you.
Use your air miles
Ok this is a huge topic which will require its’ own post but Air Miles are an easy way to get free flights and you can get free flights without buying a single plane ticket or paying out any money. We’ll be doing a longer post on this but for now:
- Open a frequent flyer account for any airlines that you are about to book on.
- Always claim miles for flights you book.
- Claim miles on any hotels you book.
- Check what your bank and credit card offers in terms of free miles. By signing up to new credit cards you could be entitled to pick up between 40,000 and 60,000 miles for free which could fly you across your continent or even around the world.
For now, refer to our long haul flight tips when booking, to steer clear of the cardinal mistakes:
- Setting travel plans and not being flexible
- Don’t be a slave to the points
- Don’t go straight to the airline.
Remember to use our long haul travel flight tips checklist:
- Google it! Check it! Compare it!
- Be culturally and calendar aware
- Look for offers
- Go incognito
- Go major hubs
- Link long haul flights with budget airlines
- Make the airlines pay for your flight
- Save money with airport connections
- Use your air miles
Do you have any other tips? Please comment below.
Good luck and safe travels.
Last modified: 27th February 2017