A host of airlines have worldwide flight sales, with Belfast to New York returns from £282, plus London to Los Angeles £425 and Cancun £548 all-in.
Even better, we've blagged a code to get £15 off £250+ flights at flight broker Opodo. This covers most flights, including sales, cutting NYC returns to £267.
Important! Ensure you know how to shop safely before trying these deals
- For safety, pay by credit card if over £100
- Protect purchases under £100
- Use unfamiliar sites without checking
- Let your antivirus run out
Tips for shopping safely
Whether it's a retailer or restaurateur, airline or air-conditioner seller, computer shop or car rental company, there are always two main risks. Either it's a dodgy company, or it's a legit company that has financial problems and goes bust.
The aim of these tips is to help you minimise the risks.
What happens if a company goes bust?
Quite simply, its customers are immediately transformed into creditors. This hits hardest if you've ordered goods or tickets from them, and not had delivery, as then you become one of a line of people trying to get your money back out of the company's assets, and you usually get back much less than you paid in.
Even if you've had delivery, if the company you bought from goes under and there's a problem with the goods, it can mean you've no comeback.
While MoneySavingExpert.com endeavours to check deals are valid, we don't check companies ' finances. Even huge names like MFI and Woolies have folded, so it's very important you use the right strategies to stay protected where possible.
DO Pay by credit card for goods over £100
Pay by credit card for something over £100, and Section 75 laws supercharge your consumer rights.
Unlike debit cards, cheques or cash, pay in full or part (even just £1) on a credit card and by law the lender's jointly liable with the retailer.
This means you have exactly the same rights with the card company as you do with the retailer. So if it goes bust, you can simply take your complaints there instead and get money back if there's no delivery.
Yet it's important you ALWAYS REPAY IN FULL each month, so there's no interest cost. See the full Section 75 guide.
DO Protect purchases under £100
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help. It isn't a legal protection, just Visa, Mastercard and Amex's rules, but it's a good back-up.
Spend on a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card or any debit or charge card. If the goods don't appear, you can try to ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
DON'T Use unfamiliar sites without checking
Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products like Ugg boots and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.
DO Check the site's legit
Most folk know to look for a security padlock on the bottom right of a website, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure.
To find out who registered the site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable firms should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.
Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big and a good, though not foolproof indication of legitimacy. Do a quick Google search for other shoppers' experiences.
DON'T Let your antivirus run out
Crucially, ensure your security's up-to-date - free software can be downloaded to your computer in about five minutes. Full details in the Free Antivirus Software guide.
DO Know your cooling off rights
Many people are surprised to learn you've MORE rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
These give you a legal right to send most goods back within 14 days for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. Read Consumer Rights for a full guide.
However, of course, this is balanced by the fact ordering online automatically means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering - when the company has your money. So if it goes bust during that time, the cancellation rights don't help.
DO Understand sometimes there's no protection.
Ultimately, there is always a risk that a company can go bust. If the above routes don't apply, then you have to make a decision about whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that, but do balance up the amount you're spending against the risk. Don't give large amounts of money to a company you're not sure about.
When and where?
There's currently a host of worldwide flight sales on. The biggies include Virgin*, British Airways*, American Airlines, Emirates and Air New Zealand. Travel dates vary by airline - for full lists of routes and dates, look at the specific sale pages.
Here are some of the top deals we've found (all taking into account the Opodo £15 off code), though of course prices may vary for your dates:
Belfast - New York £267 rtn (United/Lufthansa). For travel 8 Jan 2013 - 10 Feb 2013. Book by 22 Jan 2013.
London - Los Angeles £425 rtn (Air New Zealand). For travel 9 Jan - 28 Feb 2013. Book by 23 Jan 2013.
London - New York £364 rtn (Lufthansa). For travel 8 Jan 2013 - 24 Mar 2013. Book by 22 Jan 2013.
The trick's to use the sale pages for inspiration on bargain dates and destinations, but not to search for flights.
Step 1. Find the cheapest standard price
Once you know when and where, don't bother looking at the sales direct, as results are included in the cheap flight screenscrapers Kayak* and TravelSupermarket*.
These prices are very competitive for direct flights, but can sometimes, though not always, be undercut.
Step 2. Check the Opodo price
Once you've found a flight, go to Opodo* and search for it again. Pop the flight in your basket, as then it'll include the booking fee it sometimes adds (it says clearly if there is one). Provided the total isn't £15 more than the cheapest elsewhere, you can save.
Get the £15 discount:
Enter MSEOP15 in the promo code box to take £15 off flights over £250. The code's due to expire on Wed 16 Jan, but you can travel any time. See full terms & conditions.
WARNING! De-select insurance
Opodo pre-ticks an insurance box, automatically adding travel insurance to your basket. Click 'I don't need any insurance' to get rid of it – you can get far cheaper travel insurance elsewhere (see the Cheap Travel Insurance guide).
Finally, read Opodo's terms and conditions when you book, as they could differ from the airline's. It charges a £25 admin fee if you change flights, but many airline sale fares are non-changeable anyway.
Booking for more than one person?
The discount is per booking, not per person. To save on two or more flights, you need to book each flight separately - and that's allowed even if you live together (it's one discount per person, not per household).
Yet this is a gamble. Cheap flights' limited nature means there's a chance that between booking flights one and two, the cost could jump. Ideally, you and a friend should press ‘submit' in sync on two different laptops.
Warning! Pay by credit card!
Remember, for safety, pay on a credit card to get extra protection. See the Section 75 guide for full info.
Don't miss out on updates to this guide Get MoneySavingExpert's free, spam-free weekly email full of guides & loopholes
More travel MoneySaving
This is a one-off promo. For a step-by-step guide to permanently getting the cheapest flights anywhere, see the Cheap Flights guide.
If you want to go to a destination served by budget airlines, you could well be better off with the FlightChecker, our tool that show you when to go to get the ultra-cheap flights.
To slash the cost of hotel stays once you arrive, read Cheap Hotels and Hotel Sales.