It’s the first rule of booking a MoneySaving holiday: don’t go at the same time as everyone else. But for many people – certainly families with school-age kids, but others as well – it’s simply not always possible to steer clear of the crowds.
In my case, it wasn’t the school holidays which dictated when I could go away (my son is yet to turn two).
But a combination of work, weddings and family commitments whittled down our options until my wife and I were left with just one window for a holiday this summer.
Unfortunately the last week of May, we soon discovered, is also half-term – peak time for families planning an early summer getaway, with prices to match.
Flights to our chosen destination of Sardinia were considerably more than normal, even with the budget airlines. For Saturday-Saturday return flights to Olbia for myself, my wife and my son, with a generous three pieces of luggage, Easyjet quoted a hefty £836.64.
Book a Flexifare… then switch
Time, then, to exploit a handy trick unique to Easyjet which can help get around the inevitable school holiday price hike. Like many airlines Easyjet offers flexible tickets – but crucially, Easyjet’s Flexifares not only allow you to switch flight without paying a penalty, they also don’t make you pay any extra if there’s a difference in fare.
The idea is to book a Flexifare on the same route at a less busy time, then switch it to the dates you originally wanted (step-by-step instructions in the Cheap Flights guide). A Flexifare costs more than a standard fare at the same time – but much less than booking a standard fare at peak time.
Now, there are some important warnings.
Crucially, you can only switch your ticket to a flight which still has availability – so you need to guess if there’ll be room on the flight you want to switch to.
Easyjet makes you wait 24 hours after booking a Flexifare before allowing you to move it, which makes the whole thing a bit of a gamble. Get it wrong, and you could be left with a pricey ticket for the wrong dates.
It’s also worth noting you can only switch the flight to another on the same route, and the date you’re switching to must be no more than one week before or three weeks after the date of the original flight. Plus Flexifares aren’t always available on every route – you’ll have to check.
How the Easyjet Flexifare trick works
But if you’re prepared to take a risk and get it right, the savings can be huge. Here’s how I did it:
- First, I used the Easyjet website to see if I could book 20 standard tickets on the flights I really wanted at the end of May. I didn’t actually book anything of course, but it quoted me a price, which let me know there were still a decent number of seats left and I had a reasonable chance of switching to the date I wanted.
- Next I took a deep breath and booked Flexifares departing on 11 May and returning on 15 May – the cheapest tickets I could find within the time period which allowed me to switch to the end of May. Flexifares also include one piece of hold luggage and speedy boarding, which is nice. After paying for a third bag (the toddler has a lot of toys…) it came to £405.64 all-in.
- Then it was squeaky bum time. You have to wait a nerve-wracking 24 hours before switching your flights, so I spent the next day desperately hoping there wasn’t a sudden surge in people wanting to travel in the last week of May.
- Exactly 24 hours after I first booked the flights, I logged onto the Easyjet site and switched the flights. Thankfully the dates I wanted still had availability (although we ended up flying Sunday-Sunday in the end as the times worked better).
It’s not the easiest trick in the book. You need to do your research, endure a nervous wait and there’s always a risk you might not get the exact dates you’re after.
But we were able to save a whopping £431 while still travelling on the dates we wanted, simply by looking at the other fare options. If you’re flying an Easyjet route and have no choice but to travel when school’s out, you might find the extra hassle is well worth it.
What do you think? Will you be trying out the same trick to bag a cheaper flight? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.