Coronavirus Travel Rights
27 November 2020
We've loads of clever tricks to help you book flights at the right time, sit together for free, grab credit card freebie flights and more. Also see 60+ Overseas Travel Tips for more ways to save on your holiday.
Don't go direct to an airline – use a price comparison site as they search online travel agents (such as Expedia and Ebookers), as well as airlines.
They quickly show you the cheapest flight for where you want to go and the cheapest place to buy from, which is important as prices can vary wildly, even for the same seat on the same flight. For example, we saw a London-New York City return at £250 booked via an agent, but it was £260 for the SAME Virgin Atlantic flight booked direct with the airline. However...
Different comparison sites search different firms, so check at least two.
Crucially, our top picks include sale prices – and offer email alerts if your chosen route drops in price.
Below is our suggested order, though as prices are much of a muchness and change from day to day, we've ranked them based on features and ease-of-use as well as prices returned in our quick spot-check.
Quick tip: While comparison sites are best if you've a date and place in mind, if you don't have your heart set on a particular destination (or need inspiration), try setting your destination as 'Anywhere' to find the real bargains.
Many airlines now offer flexible booking policies to encourage you to book during the pandemic. So while there's no certainty on what restrictions will be in place when you come to travel, it's well worth looking for a flight where you've no-quibble rights to change dates or cancel for a voucher without charge.
None of the airlines we checked simply just let you cancel for a refund under the policy. Plus you usually need to pay the difference between the old and new fare – and it's possible prices will start to rise once the Government eases travel rules.
There's always a solvency risk with airlines though, so pay by credit card to protect yourself.
|Airline||What qualifies?||What notice must you give?||Can you get a voucher if you're not ready to rebook?||Can you rebook anywhere & at any time?||Do you have to pay the difference if the new flight costs more?|
|American Airlines||Bookings by 30 Sep 2020 for travel till 30 Sep 2020||Before flight departs||Yes, valid for travel till 31 Dec 2021 for economy||Yes, for travel till 31 Dec 2021 for economy||Yes|
|British Airways||Bookings by 30 Sep 2020 for travel till 30 Aug 2021||Before check-in closes||Yes, valid for travel till 30 April 2022||Yes, for travel till 30 Apr 2022
|Easyjet||All bookings||14 days before departure
||Only if you were departing 1-19 Jul 2020. Vouchers valid for 12mths
|KLM||Bookings from 22 Apr 2020||Before flight departs||Terms vary according to your ticket.||Yes||Yes|
|Ryanair||Bookings from 10 Jun for travel in Jul & Aug 2020||Seven days before departure||No, you need to rebook and choose your new date straight away||No, dates only - for travel till 30 Dec 2020||Yes|
|Virgin Atlantic||Bookings by 30 Sep 2020 for travel till 30 Apr 2021||21 days before departure||Yes, if you were departing by 31 Dec 2020. Vouchers valid for travel till 30 Sep 2022||Yes, for travel till 30 Sep 2022||No, if you were departing by 30 Sept 2020 and rebook to travel by 30 Nov 2020 on the same route. Otherwise, yes|
If your booking's not flexible, it's important to know what protection you have. If your flight or holiday is cancelled by them, you're due a refund. But that hasn't always proven easy – see 50 holiday firms ranked for cancellation refunds.
If your flight or holiday happens, but there's Foreign Office guidance against travel in place, refunds are unlikely as most insurers won't cover you.
Online travel agents allow you to book flights, hotels and car hire, often giving extra discounts if you combine them in a 'package'. Sometimes you can even find a deal that includes travel and accommodation, for less than the cost of the flight alone.
What's more, most package operators are ATOL-protected (though always check before you book). So if the company goes bust, your holiday is automatically protected. This means you'll get a refund if you haven't left yet, or you could carry on the trip and still get home if you're already there.
With package holidays, you also have greater protection if travel restrictions are reinstated due to the coronavirus pandemic, as has already happened with travel to Spain.
A number of comparison sites include packages. See the Cheap Package Holiday guide for our top picks, and how to find the best deals.
When looking for cheap flight tickets, timing is absolutely crucial. In normal times, flights should generally be booked early (business folk will pay top dollar at the last minute, so prices soar). However, right now we're still finding some late summer bargains out there.
If you're looking more longer term, unless you prefer sticking with the same airline and you're holding out for a sale you know is coming up, it's usually best to book as early as you can. Of course, there's always the chance the price may drop in a sale, but holding out for that is a bit of a gamble as they can't be predicted. So if you know a good price for the route you've chosen, eg, sub-£300 for a Dubai return, and you see it – go for it.
To find out when tickets are released, see our Flight Tickets Release Dates guide.
Package holiday companies reserve (or 'charter') flights to ferry their passengers. As such, they typically cover traditional holiday destinations, so if that's where you're headed, you could bag a flight super-cheap if they sell off unreserved seats. Tough luck if you're flying to Mali, but quids in if you're flying to Malaga.
Here's how to find charter flights:
Paying extra to choose your airline seat can soon add up. A family of four could spend £100s to guarantee they sit together on return flights – yet unless your heart's set on particular seats, it's usually unnecessary.
See our Airline Seating guide for full info on what you'll pay, your rights and how to sit together for free on a basic economy ticket.
The UK's a melting pot of different immigrant and ethnic communities, and this can be used to great advantage for a cheap flight booking. Niche travel agents often specialise in finding deals to the relevant communities' linked countries.
For example, Shepherd's Bush in London and the surrounding area has some Caribbean specialist tour agents, or buy the Jewish Chronicle, which has firms advertising cheap flights to Israel.
Don't forget to check prices elsewhere before you buy to make sure you're getting a good deal. If you know of a cheap specialist travel agent, please add your finds/read others' in the forum.
Direct flights are always more convenient. But if you've a bit more time, sometimes an indirect flight only adds a couple of hours to the journey, so you can often cut the cost by stopping over.
What's more, if your flight has a longer stopover, a number of airlines will offer you a free hotel.
We checked return flights from London to 10 popular long-haul destinations and how much you could save by stopping over. The results are in the table below – as a rule, we found the bigger savings were on longer, non-US flights.
All the examples below obviously take longer as they're indirect flights, but you can usually find stopovers that are less than three hours, so not a huge amount of extra travel time. NB: We haven't included Dubai, Los Angeles, New York and Miami in our comparisons below because when we looked it's often cheaper to fly direct.
|Bangkok||£509||£366||3h10 outbound via New Delhi, 6h50 return via Mumbai|
|Beijing||£495||£389||8h20min outbound via Vienna, 0h50 return via Munich|
|Cape Town||£1,056||£604||2h10 outbound, 1h45 return via Johannesburg|
|Kuala Lumpur||£596||£431||1h30 outbound, 1h05 return via Doha|
|New Delhi||£472||£370||3h10 outbound, 1h45 return via Bahrain|
|Rio de Janeiro||£971||£595||14h45 outbound via Zurich, 1h30 return via Frankfurt|
|Seoul||£619||£500||2h55 outbound, 1h45 return via Beijing|
|Singapore||£485||£399||3h20 outbound, 1h45 return via Istanbul|
|Tokyo||£926||£507||1h30 outbound, 5h05 return via Beijing|
|Vancouver||£506||£382||2h12 outbound via Toronto, direct return|
This time of year is often a great time to look for flights. Black Friday isn't all about cheap TVs and toasters – in recent years, airlines have jumped on board too, and we expect to see flight sales being pumped out over the weekend. Plus January flight sales are just around the corner...
Of course, with travel restrictions frequently changing during the coronavirus pandemic, the key thing to look for is flexibility (as well as a great price). To encourage people to book, many airlines are offering refunds, or the option to move your flight to another date, if you're not able to travel – check before you book.
See our Coronavirus Travel Rights for full help and the latest on travel restrictions.
Some airlines have already started their Black Friday sales. Here's what we found when we checked on Thursday 26 November:
Remember, don't just book direct with an airline – check prices for your route and dates on comparison sites first to make sure it's really a bargain.
If you want to take advantage of the very cheapest flight deals, you'll need to be flexible – ideally on both destination and dates – and able to swoop in and book quickly, so this isn't for everyone. But if your travel plans aren't set in stone and you're just after a bargain, there are a few nifty flight-finding services which can help.
While all work in slightly different ways, they'll alert you when an airline's dropped prices on a particular route – and also flag up pricing mistakes or 'error fares', which can be mega-cheap. Here's our pick of the best:
You have two options if you want to sign up for flight alerts from JFC:
JFC's emails have step-by-step instructions on how to book via the airline's website or a comparison site – but you have to move fast. It says on average premium deals last about three or four days, and error fares can go much quicker.
Whichever membership you choose, you can also download the free iPhone or Android app to get notifications as soon as a new price alert is available for your membership group, and view previous price drops.
There are a number of other places worth keeping an eye on to be sure you can pounce on deals first. For example, frequent-flyer sites God Save the Points and Head for Points sometimes flag cheap flight deals (though both sites' main focus is on making the most of schemes such as British Airways Executive Club, and the deals aren't always for economy fares).
HotUKDeals has a travel section, where users flag cheap flights they've spotted. And we'll flag any hot deals we spot in our weekly email, and on Twitter and Facebook. Let us know on the forum if you've used the sites above, or found any others we've missed.
If you purchase an error fare, where an airline has made a mistake with the price, it will often honour it simply to avoid any bad PR. Other times it will cancel your booking and you'll be refunded.
Jack's Flight Club says about 70% of error fares are honoured by airlines, so it can be well worth giving it a go. But if you do book one, it recommends waiting about two weeks before booking any non-refundable aspect of your trip, just in case.
It can be difficult to know at what point your error fare is confirmed, as airlines' T&Cs don't always clearly spell out at what point your contract with them is legally binding, and therefore your ticket is guaranteed. For an example of an airline refusing to honour an error fare, see our BA cancels cheap tickets to Middle East MSE News story.
Realistically, it may be difficult to fight your corner if an airline does cancel your flight. If you've already booked other aspects of your trip such as accommodation, you can try to claim it as a 'consequential loss' from the airline you booked with – but there are no guarantees this will work. Ultimately, you'd likely need to go to the small claims court to try to get back any additional costs incurred (but again, there are no guarantees).
If you like flying with a specific airline or know the exact flight you want, 'codesharing' could be a way to get a flight with that airline via another one. It's when airlines buddy up to sell seats on each other's flights, sometimes at a different price.
For example, when we looked in March, we found a Virgin Atlantic return flight from London to Las Vegas in September for £881, booking via Virgin Atlantic. But exactly the same flights booked via its partner Delta cost £816, saving £65.
Codesharing flights are included in comparison site results, so you'll find them using the sites above. You won't spot them if booking directly with an airline. It should be clear on the comparison site, eg, if you book with Virgin, but it's a Delta flight, it should say so. This works best on popular medium or long-haul routes – simply book via a partner airline to grab a seat on the same plane for less.
This table lists some of the major airlines that buddy up with each other – it won't always work, but it is worth checking.
|American Airlines||British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Latam, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7, SriLankan Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, China Southern, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airlines, Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Interjet, Jet Airways, Seaborne, WestJet.|
|British Airways||American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and TAM Airlines.|
|Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, GOL Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Seaborne Airlines, Transavia, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, WestJet|
|Emirates||Air Malta, Air Mauritius, Alaska Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Copa Airlines, Flybe, Qantas, Tap Portugal, Flydubai, GOL Airlines, Japan Airlines, Jetblue Airways, Jetstar Airways, Jetstar Asia, Korean, Malaysian Airlines, Siberia Airlines, South African Airways, TGV Air (SNCF), Thai Airways International, WestJet|
|Lufthansa||Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air Malta, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, BMI Regional, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Eurowings, Latam Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Luxair, Privatair, Singapore Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United.|
American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, SriLankan Airlines
|Qatar Airways||American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and S7 Airlines, Nippon Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines, Bangkok Airways, GOL, JetBlue, Middle East Airlines, Oman Air and Philippine Airlines.|
|Swiss Air Lines||Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air Malta, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Edelweiss Air, Egyptair, El Al, Germanwings, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, Ukraine International, United Airlines.|
|Turkish Airlines||Adria Airways, Air Algerie, Air Astana, Air Canada, Air China, AEGEAN, Air India, Air Malta, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Azerbaijan Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Hawaiian Blue Airlines, Iran Air, JetBlue, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, Luxair, Pakistan International, Philippine Airlines, Oman Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Brunei Airlines, Royal Jordanian, RwandAir, UIA, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Tap Portugal, Thai Airways, United and UT Air.|
|Virgin Atlantic||Air China, Air New Zealand, Delta Air Lines, Flybe, Jet Airways, Singapore Airlines.|
Even if you think an airline's safe as houses, it's important to protect yourself as fully as possible. The easiest way is to book on a credit card, as when a flight costs more than £100, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means the card company's equally liable if something goes wrong (see the full Section 75 Refunds guide, or the Chargeback guide for protection on debit card purchases).
So if you book a flight and the airline goes bust, you can at least get your money back from the card company. Always pay your card off in full at the end of the month so you're not charged interest.
With package holidays, most operators are members of the huge ATOL and ABTA travel protection schemes. This means if the firm goes bust or there's another issue, your getaway's protected that way. However, if you book flights and/or hotels directly, this won't apply unless the provider's ATOL-registered.
If you book a flight and/or a hotel via a travel agent, you're unlikely to be covered by Section 75, because there's no direct relationship with the supplier (though you may still be covered by ATOL/ABTA).
If you book a flight plus separate hotel or car hire together from the same travel website in the same transaction, you get full ATOL financial and legal protection, just as with a traditional package holiday. If you book these elements from the same site, but in different transactions, you'll only get limited protection. See our Holiday Rights and Coronavirus Travel Rights guides for more.
It depends on the policy. Most are designed to cover packages. The biggest issue is lack of cover for knock-on consequences. For example, if your policy covers scheduled airline failure and the airline collapses, you may be able to claim the flight's cost but not cash paid upfront for a hotel.
To beat this, scout out policies that specifically cover 'indirect loss' – it should be in the small print, so check there. For maximum cover, look for increasingly available, albeit pricier, 'independent traveller' policies. See our Travel Insurance guide.
If you book but don't have travel insurance, you won't be covered if you get ill or need to cancel, so buy it straight away.
But beware – some cheap airline and holiday websites try to add expensive travel cover when you book. Always double-check the full cost, and beware tick boxes for any rogue policies before paying.
Holiday firms' own insurance is usually a massive rip-off and offers more limited cover. Instead, check out our Cheap Travel Insurance guide to see how to undercut their prices.
EHIC cards give you treatment at state-run EU hospitals and GPs at the same cost as a local. Yet many don't realise they have an end date. Check yours now and renew for FREE (never pay). Full help in our Free EHIC guide.
It's worth noting, after the Brexit transition period ends from 1 January 2021, the EHIC's future is uncertain. However, you'll be able to use your card for the rest of 2020, and apply for a new card or renew yours if needed. See our Brexit need-to-knows for updates on this and more.
If you're flexible on your dates or have an open mind about where to go, try using internet tools to home in on the cheapest destinations and times.
Momondo is a metadata search engine and works similarly to the likes of Skyscanner. However, its standout feature is the 'Flight Insight' data it offers for a number of popular routes (you can find it at the top of your search results). It helps pinpoint when to book, which day to fly and even which airport's cheapest.
For example, when we checked, London-Phuket prices were cheapest in March, and most expensive in December. Yet for a London-New York search, it's cheapest to go in February or March. Momondo says the time to book for the cheapest flights to both destinations is at least 60 days before departure.
The results are a useful average to help plan your trip dates rather than a cast-iron guarantee. The data's based on prices quoted in flight searches and includes sales too, so take it with a hefty pinch of salt, and if in doubt book early.
When you're ready to book, don't assume Momondo will always come up cheapest either – try the other comparison sites to see if you can beat it.
Put your dates into Momondo and click 'search'. If it's available for your route, you'll find a 'Flight insights' option at the top of the results. Click it – you'll find handy stats to help you hone your dates.
As well as the cheapest month and day of the week to fly, it shows you the cheapest airline and the cheapest route/airports (eg, London Gatwick to New York LaGuardia).
It works for over 150 of the most popular routes from the UK (most leaving from London), and about 1,800 worldwide. Sadly, it isn't available for every route yet, but Momondo says it's adding more routes as it gets more data.
Momondo's 'days to departure' graphs only go back 60 days, but it may occasionally be possible to get it even cheaper by booking further ahead.
The best time to book seems to be dependent on destination so it's worth looking into where you're going and playing around with dates.
The orange-loving airline releases seats in several tranches throughout the year. Keep an eye on our Easyjet tricks guide for the latest dates.
Now there's no way to know if you'll get the very cheapest tickets as soon as they're released – prices are based on demand and Easyjet could easily change its pricing policy or cut prices in a sale. But it does tend to be the cheapest time to book, especially for peak dates like the summer holidays.
Luggage, check-in, reserved seats and food are just some of the extras you may have to fork out for with a flight booking. And what's worse, they're not always made clear.
To help, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) website has a useful airline charges comparison table which shows extra fees for a host of big airlines, as well as luggage allowances, seat selection charges and even whether a meal's included with your ticket. While you should always double-check these with the airline before you book, it's handy to see the real cost of your ticket so you can make a more accurate comparison.
Airport lounges aren't just reserved for first class, business class or elite frequent flyers. Access can be free with certain credit cards or bank accounts, or you can get it cheaply via frequent flyer schemes such as Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club.
One-off passes typically start from around £20 per person. Given you could pay that for food, drinks and snacks alone at the airport, it can be good value, especially when you usually get a comfy seat in peace, and a newspaper or magazine thrown in too. See Free or Cheap Airport Lounge Access for full tips.
Booking budget airline flights can be a minefield. Outrageously, budget airline 'extras' can include taking bags and checking in.
The Budget Flight Fee Fighting guide has tricks to beat those nasty charges, from paying the right way to beat the fees to multi-pocket jackets so you can take extra carry-on luggage. Plus see our Easyjet Tricks and Ryanair Tips guides if you're flying with them.
Some tips may even work with non-budget airlines. If you're flying British Airways, for example, you can save about £10 each way on short-haul hand-luggage-only trips compared with its cheapest singles with checked bags.
While public transport usually wins, for large families or groups, driving to the airport can be cheaper. Yet booking early is crucial. Wait till you get to the airport and you're a captive customer – a dream for airport parking companies, not so for MoneySaving. Even booking in advance on the day could save money.
Some inspiration from MSE forum user Bigdaddy10:
I paid £40 instead of £115. Granted we booked for the August bank holiday in March, but it goes to show there are bargains to be had by booking ahead.
To maximise savings, book well in advance. Just as with flights, comparison sites are the best place to start, but it's also worth trying booking direct, combining parking with a hotel room or renting a personal space near the airport. Our Cheap Airport Parking guide has full step-by-step help, plus we've blagged extra discounts on top to help bring costs down further.
Holiday car hire can save a hefty whack on taxis to and from the airport, as well as transport costs while you're there, providing you do it right.
If you're going to need it, book the right way and generally as early as possible to grab it cheaply. What can be £5/day months ahead can be triple or more just before you go and far more when there, adding £100s overall.
You can find full details of current deals and tips 'n' tricks in the Cheap Car Hire guide, but here are the key points:
Many mistake Avios for a frequent flyer scheme. Actually it's a points scheme like Nectar and Clubcard. You earn points in Shell, Tesco and by spending on credit cards, though rewards are travel-focused.
However, you still pay taxes and fees on flights, wiping out some of the gain. These can be up to £100 for European return flights with BA, for example. But if you opt for its Reward Saver scheme, you pay a fixed fee on most short-haul economy flights, as long as you earn at least one point the year before you book.
It's easy to search for flights from A to B but don't assume it's the cheapest way. By being a little creative about the route and splitting the ticket, you can slash the cost.
It's commonly associated with trains (see our Cheap Train Tickets guide) but it does work on flights too, you just have to be willing to do the research.
MSE Guy broke down his search for flights from London to Singapore and Malaysia and saved £170:
I wanted to book flights from London to Malaysia and Singapore, including a trip to the Malaysian island of Penang.
I originally searched for open-jaw tickets from London to Singapore, then Kuala Lumpur to London with the intention of booking internal flights from Singapore to Penang and Penang to Kuala Lumpur. The initial cost, including internal flights, was £910.
Being a MoneySaver and to fully compare costs, I tried searching London to Penang then Kuala Lumpur to London. The quote dropped to £760. But as the outbound flight was via Singapore anyway, I broke it down further – London to Singapore, Singapore to Penang, Penang to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur to London.
New quote: £740, a huge £170 less than tickets on my initial search.
A number of firms offer to ship your holiday luggage abroad, allowing you to avoid sky-high budget airline fees. We've crunched the numbers and found this can save serious cash – some of the time.
We've found three firms that offer competitive prices for sending luggage abroad – Send My Bag*, Bags Ahead* and Uni Baggage (aimed at students but available to everyone). All three are well reviewed – though this is a new, untested concept so let us know what you think in the forum. Here are the basics:
While doing this can be cheaper than paying to take your bags on the plane (see our full cost analysis below), this isn't just about saving money. Shipping bags ahead means you don't need to lug them to and from the airport – handy for families, the elderly or those with disabilities.
What's more, this can be a way to avoid eye-watering last-minute luggage charges on your return from holiday, if your bag's over the weight limit. For example, Easyjet charges £12 per KILO for excess weight at the airport.
Travel insurers usually specify that only belongings you're wearing or carrying with you while travelling are covered. This means you won't be able to claim on your travel insurance for loss or damage if you send your suitcase via courier.
However, each of the sites above offers a basic level of cover included in the price. You can increase the cover by paying extra, eg, if the contents of your suitcase are worth more (though you should avoid sending anything valuable).
Always check you're happy with the cover offered before you book, and make sure you're aware of any exclusions, eg, most sites exclude fragile items and damage to your bag/suitcase.
To really save using this trick, you may need to share a suitcase. That's because it's cheaper to send a single 30kg bag via courier, for example, than two 15kg bags.
If you want to pack separately, you'll pay more (though in some cases you can still save).
Just as you would when checking it in for a flight, ensure your bag is sturdy enough to hold the weight and all straps and handles are secured. Check the site's rules on what you can use to send your items, eg, suitcases, cardboard boxes, holdalls or duffel bags.
You can track your luggage's progress via the Send My Bag and Uni Baggage websites – Bags Ahead says it will send you text or email updates.
Check what's allowed. For example, Send My Bag's destination pages have information on which items you can and can't transport to certain destinations. It says in general you should never pack aerosols, flammable liquids or glass in unaccompanied bags.
If you're sending luggage to another European Union country, no customs documents are required (though of course this may change when we leave the EU at the end of March 2019).
When shipping outside the EU, requirements vary by country. Some only require a packing list – others also ask for a copy of your passport, flight ticket, work permit or visa. Send My Bag's destination pages have info on each country's customs requirements.
There's no overall winner here, as prices vary hugely by destination, dates and how much luggage you're taking. But to get an idea we spot-checked prices for 108 flights across eight airlines, to four destinations, in August and October, looking at luggage for an individual (15kg), couple (30kg) and family (55kg).
Our snapshot analysis found it's cheaper to post your luggage roughly a THIRD of the time – it often won for couples and families flying short distances, but rarely for single bags and almost never for longer flights.
While of course this wasn't a scientific sample, posting luggage beat flying with it on 39% of the 108 flights we looked at – it won on 64% of Malaga flights and 60% to Berlin, but just 4% to New York and none of those to Paphos, in Cyprus.
In one case it was £41 cheaper to post a family's luggage – and on three of the 24 routes and dates a courier firm beat ALL the airlines we checked.
To give you an idea, here's how prices compared on a sample of the flights we checked:
|Flying to Malaga|
|Flying to Berlin|
|Flying to Paphos|
|Flying to New York|
|Individual (15kg)||£59-£79||n/a (2)||n/a||n/a||£35||n/a||£30||None|
|Family (55kg)||£198||n/a (2)||n/a||n/a||£105||n/a||£90||None|
|Prices correct as of May 2018. For flights on 11 Aug, or where none available, the following day. Flights from London where possible, or the closest possible alternative. (1) Prices by weight not number of bags – so some repacking may be required. (2) Baggage included in ticket price.|
Once you know what the flight is, there are a few sites which should help you improve your experience on it after booking (or do it before if you want to check out an airline/plane).
Use Seatguru to check out the plane's seating plan so you can see whether 18E beats 19C. Also try similar site Skytrax, which includes airline reviews and rankings. And FlightStats details punctuality on current flights and other data.
While it's not on the cards right now due to coronavirus travel restrictions, everyone from the UK going to the USA by air or sea, even those just passing through, must fill out the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) in advance. Once you've got it, it's valid for two years, providing you keep the same passport.
For full info on how it works and how to avoid paying more than the official $14 per-person fee, read the ESTA guide.
If the date you plan to fly is a good number of months away, sign up to the email lists of all the relevant airlines. Often they email details of short-term sales, so if you've definite plans, you can pounce when the moment comes.
Ones to try for sales are the newsletters of Opodo*, Air France* and KLM. Remember, though, before you book in an airline sale, always use a comparison site to check that you've actually found the cheapest price.
A few forumites have reported problems booking flights while having two or more web pages open, where the flight details get booked using the wrong details from an older search.
If you're using more than one page to search, it's a good idea to close the other pages before you book, and try deleting your browser's cache to ensure you're seeing the most up-to-date price. Forumites recommend clearing your internet cookies and starting with a new browser page, too, or even using a different browser altogether to look for quotes.
Always double-check the exact details of the flights before you book.
If it's happened to you, contact the airline or booking site straight away to see if you can get it amended (see How to Complain for help). Let them know it's a known fault others have reported too. Yet sadly you've few rights if the airline refuses to correct it, as it'd be difficult to prove it's their error, and it may charge you fees to amend or cancel.
If it's happened to you, let us know in the Wrong Flights Booked forum discussion.
If you're looking to buy duty-free goods but don't want to have to carry them on the plane, website Duty-Free On Arrival has a handy airport search that gives info on whether you can buy duty-free when you arrive.
Travelling within the UK or EU? You can go one step further: do your shopping on the way out and ask to 'shop & collect'. Your items will be safely stored and ready for collection after you pick up your luggage and clear customs on the way home.
However, don't assume buying duty-free is always cheapest. If you're after an item, quickly check prices online before you go. This'll help give you a benchmark to compare with the duty-free price when you get there.
Hoppa* lets you book transfers between airports and popular resorts across the globe. It offers basic shared shuttle buses, as well as private transfers, and forumites report it can turn up some very competitive prices (though always check these for yourself before you book).
Allow plenty of time, and don't expect anything too fancy. Here's how MSE Jenny found it:
From my experience, don't expect anything too posh if you opt for a shuttle bus, and allow plenty of time to get to the airport. After all, if there are hordes of other passengers to pick up, you don't want to miss your flight.
Feedback's generally positive, though there are reports of occasional problems with missed pick-ups, so factor this in if you're considering it. If you've used it, please let us know how you've got on in the forum discussion.
Clever ways to calculate your finances