Flight booking tips!

Tips for booking flights:

When seeking a cheap flight, don't forget to consider:

1.Do I really need to fly direct? Is there an alternate airport I can fly into or out of? Can I fly from a major airport hub such as London to get the cheaper rates? Can I also consider provincial airports—just in case they have a deal on? Sometimes Bristol is far cheaper than London, but usually it's the other way around.

2. Do I need luggage? (more and more routes make you pay a premium for a larger cabin or checkin bag)

3. Do I really want to go home as soon as my programme ends? (why not go backpacking?)

4. Can I be flexible and fly out earlier, to make the most of deals? 

5. If a return is expensive, what do two singles look like? 

6.If your destination is in Europe, why fly at all?!! (You can easily reach your destination by train and may save money in the process! €185 gets you 4 days of train travel over 30 days with an interrail global pass. Why not make the journey a big part of your summer fun? You can book a pass now here on Trainline - its more of an adventure, its better value than summer flights, you can carry more bags but best of all its green. Why fly if you can interrail!

7. Airlines and OTAs are cheeky. The more you search, the worse prices can get. If you feel something fishy is going on with flight prices getting worse and worse on each search, simply download a privacy-oriented browser (e.g Brave.com) and search again in incognito mode. You may be pleasantly surprised. A VPN is also purported to help too—it is alleged that some vendors will have tickets for sale at higher prices if you are e.g in Monaco or Chelsea.

In our experience, the best search engines for flights are:

*Top tip about OTAs: 

If you find a flight you like on one of the OTAs above (Online Travel Agent), before you pay, don't forget to go and search on the actual airline webpage.This is very important because often flights booked on an airline website direct will have favourable terms, e.g more bags or ‘cancellable' and 'changeable’. OTAs usually have contracts with airlines that mean they offer inferior support. As an example, Qatar tickets bought direct can be changed/cancelled for free anytime, but Qatar booked on Skyscanner will cost a lot to change.

If you find yourself on a European budget airline (e.g Ryanair, Easyjet..), they really are best booked direct - the prices are usually cheaper/better, there are more/cheaper options for adding luggage and these airlines occasionally give you a hard time if you don't book direct! Ryanair used to charge £40 to people that didn't checkin online but only divulge the checkin codes to direct bookers...!

*Top transit tip:

If you are going long haul, why not break the trip up into multiple legs by transiting. For short-haulers, why not grab a pizza in Rome before reaching your destination?

If you search around, you can usually get double the adventure for half the money! Transit routes are cheaper but let you see more of the world. In the past, participants have taken 24-hour layovers in Vienna (Austrian Airlines), Prague (Hainan Airlines), Amsterdam (KLM), Paris (Air France), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Helsinki (Finnair), Warsaw (LOT), Dubai (Emirates) and even Astana and/or Almaty (Kazakh Airlines). Lots of other destinations are also available based on how you plan your route to E/SE Asia. Mexico/US layovers are usually options for those headed to Colombia. In Europe, transit options abound if you use Skyscanner's cheapest routes!
If you would like a longer layover, please consider breaking up your journey; it can sometimes be cheaper to make your own way to the first city, such as Paris, and have a return booked from there. *Of course, if you like the sound of this, be sure to check that you don’t need a visa for the mid-way destination before booking and that times aren't too tight between the different legs of your journey!  
Note: it is always worth carefully checking if you need a visa in transit! Anyone transiting the USA or Canada will always need an ESTA or ETA - fairly easy to process online, but don't forget to! Any British citizen leaving the airport's airside in India will need a visa, which can take weeks to obtain. If your flight requires you to re-check bags in India then it needs a visa...many routes won't require this but it is up to you to check.
'Free changes', be advised:
If you are paying a premium for a flight that includes 'free changes', don't forget, fare difference is the nub.
Free flight change is a misleading notion, it just means you won't pay a penalty of usually approx £200 to change the ticket. But fare difference can often make a 'free' change intolerably expensive. Generally, we find that you'd probably spend less if you buy a flight a return leg a week ahead, vs. a changeable flight. Sometimes a changeable flight costs much more. If you change a flight a week ahead, if fares have doubled with your airline, then your fare difference will be unpalatable. Atleast if you buy a ticket at short notice, you can choose from tens of airlines who are competing on price, whereas if you are tied to the airline you booked a 'free change' with then you will be stuck looking at whatever fares they decide to offer.

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