cheap flights

Cheap Flights

Bag cheap scheduled & charter flights

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.

Flights & coronavirus

The Foreign Office lifted travel restrictions for dozens of countries in July. However, the warning's been reinstated for a number of countries, including France and Spain. We've been working flat out to answer your questions on travel insurance, cancelling and booking holidays, and much more. See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for the latest info.

Should you book now?

There's no getting around it, booking holidays right now is risky. If you're going to go anyway, at least aim for a flexible deal - ie, airlines that'll let you change dates or swap flights for a voucher to use in future without charge, and hotels that allow free cancellation. If what you've found is not flexible - though it seems like a stonking, unmissable deal - only spend as much as you could afford to lose.

If you're OK to go ahead, the rest of this guide includes full help on how to get a good deal, though bear with us on some of the detail, given we're in such a fast-moving travel environment right now.

  1. The Govt's lifted many travel restrictions, but since reinstated them for some countries - where can you go?

    The Foreign Office lifted travel restrictions for dozens of countries in July. However, the warning's been reinstated for a number of countries, including France and Spain, and it could come back for other countries too. See our Where can you travel hassle-free? guide for the latest.

    FCO advice isn't the only consideration when working out where you can go though. Quarantine requirements for those returning to the UK are an important consideration - those arriving from many destinations must still self-isolate for two weeks, which may make travelling impractical. And it's also important to be aware of other countries' entry restrictions - for example, the FCO has no warning in place for Australia, yet Brits are still not allowed to enter the country. 

    The situation's changing daily, which makes booking ahead tricky. For full details, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide. Plus check our airline-by-airline update for when flights are restarting, and what they're doing to protect passengers (masks, seat gaps etc).

  2. Use the top comparison sites to slash costs

    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.

    Top-pick comparison sites

    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.

    • Kayak* for a comparison including baggage. We argue within MSE Towers about the very top pick, but Kayak is Martin's favourite, so it wins. It's got a decent range of user-friendly filters – for example, you can specify at the start of a search whether or not you want to check in bags so you can compare costs more accurately.
    • Momondo for its flight data info. We like Momondo for its nifty tool that tells you the cheapest and most expensive dates around your flight, as well as helpful insights such as the cheapest airport to fly from/into. It doesn't do it for all destinations, but it has the biggies – New York, Dubai, Sydney, Cape Town.
    Google Flights
    • Google Flights for speed and ease of use. The search engine might not be the first place you think of when booking a holiday, but its flight comparison tool is a decent rival to the likes of Kayak and Momondo. Once you've selected a route, it immediately shows you how prices vary depending on which dates you fly.

    It's also worth checking Skyscanner* – plus try and Dohop. If you want a hotel too, Expedia* can be a good option. Discuss which ones you prefer in the forum.

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  3. Look for flexible booking policies – an airline-by-airline guide

    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.

    Airlines' flexible booking policies

    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
    Yes Yes
    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

    Are you protected if your booking can't be cancelled easily?

    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.

  4. It's sometimes cheaper to book a hotel too as part of a package (even if you don't use it)

    lying on beach on deck chairs

    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.

    Our top sites are Expedia* (which also owns Ebookers* and Travelocity*), Opodo** and Netflights for long-haul.

    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.

  5. When is the best time to book?

    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.

  6. Charter can be cheaper if you're heading to a traditional resort

    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.

    How to get the cheapest charter flights

    Here's how to find charter flights:

    • Use our top-pick comparison sites. While in the past you used to have to really search around for the cheapest charter flights, most can now be found on comparisons, including Kayak*, Momondo and Google Flights. It's also worth checking Skyscanner* and Expedia*.

    • It may also be worth going direct to charter airlines and travel agents. To ensure you've covered all bases, it may also be worth checking with the airlines themselves - try Tui* and First Choice. Travel agents may also manage to find cheap deals. 

    • If there are no charter flights, book a package but don't stay. This can sometimes be much cheaper than booking a scheduled flight. For destinations such as Orlando, package holidays can be dirt-cheap. It won't always work, but it's worth a try. Also see Cheap Package Holidays.
  7. Sit together for FREE on BA, Easyjet, Virgin etc

    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.

  8. Check ethnic travel agents for specific destination bargains

    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.

  9. Stopping over when flying long-haul could save you £100s

    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.

    How to save

    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.

      London to: Direct Non-direct Layover time and location
      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

    To look yourself, search via the big price comparison sites we've used above. Kayak*, Momondo and Skyscanner* all show you, and allow you to filter by, direct and indirect flights, so you can easily compare prices.

  10. How to hunt down mega-cheap bargain flights

    The key to nabbing jaw-dropping flight deals is to find them first, as they're usually snapped up quickly. If you want to take advantage, you often 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 really keenly-priced deal, 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:

    Jack's Flight Club
    • Jack's Flight Club* (JFC) sends its members email alerts with details of cheap flights. If you're flexible about when and where you go, this can be a good way to grab a bargain.

      Its basic service is free, though it also has a £39/year premium service which sends out more deals.
    • You have two options if you want to sign up for flight alerts from JFC:

      • Free membership. You'll get one or two emails each week with flight alerts.

      • Free 30-day trial of £39/year premium membership for 100s of users. With JFC's premium service you get four times as many deals, and early sight of alerts sent to free members – you get them at least three hours and sometimes up to a week before. And we've blagged a free trial for MoneySavers – simply go via our special link* to sign up.

        IMPORTANT: You'll need to sign up using your credit or debit card details, and if you don't cancel before the 30-day trial ends you'll be charged the full £39 for a year's subscription.

        You can cancel at any time, simply email asking to end your membership and it should be confirmed the same day. Your membership will continue until the trial expires. Memberships auto-renew, so remember to cancel if you don't want to continue.

      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.

    • Holiday Pirates mainly searches for cheap package holidays, but it also lists deals on flights and hotels. You can get free alerts if you sign up to its email newsletter or download the app. Some deals can be booked through its website – for others, you'll be directed to a travel operator's site to pay. 

    • Secret Flying can also be a winner. There's no need to sign up – simply visit its (free) site to view cheap flights. You can filter by destination and month. It will direct you to the airline's website to book. Some deals may be in euros or dollars – make sure you pay with a specialist card to avoid hefty conversion fees. 

    Where else to look

    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.

    More info

    • 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).

  11. Use the 'codeshare' trick – buy a seat on the same flight via a partner airline for less

    guy checking flight times

    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.

    More info

    • 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.
  12. Pay by credit card for extra protection – and know your rights if an airline goes bust

    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.

    Quick question

    • 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.

  13. Don't forget travel insurance - get it as soon as you book

    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.

    Also check your FREE EHIC is valid

    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.

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  14. Clever tools tracking routes' cheapest prices can help if you've complete flexibility on dates

    guy watching plane take off

    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 Flight Insight

    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.

    Quick questions

    • Illustration of aeroplane and boarding pass.

      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.

    If you're set on a British Airways flight, it's also worth checking BA's cheap fares finder for its lowest prices to worldwide destinations.

  15. When to book the cheapest Easyjet seats

    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. 

  16. Check the real cost of your ticket and look out for hidden extras

    airplane ticket

    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.

  17. Get cheap airport lounge access and avoid the chaos of the airport

    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.

  18. Budget doesn't necessarily mean bargain

    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.

  19. Book parking in advance if you're driving to the airport

    airport parking

    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. 

  20. Flying then driving? It's usually best to book car hire early

    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:

    • Work out what you need. There's often a mass of costly add-ons on offer, including sat-navs and extra drivers. Before you book, work out what you need and ditch the rest.

    • Quickly compare quotes. Next, take the legwork out of your search by using the right comparison sites to grab the most quotes in the least time. Our top picks are Skyscanner*, Kayak*, TravelSupermarket* and Carrentals*.

    • Check for extra discounts. See if you can squash the price further via fly-drive package deals, cashback, specialist travel brokers and online vouchers.

    • Get cheap excess insurance before you go. The hire firm will want you to get up to £25/day excess cover on top of the included insurance. Instead, get Cheap Excess Insurance for as little as £2 before you go.

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  21. Loyalty sometimes does pay – join airline schemes to earn 'free' flights

    passport and suitcase

    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.

    For full info, plus 30+ ways to push it to the max, see Boost Avios Points. Also see Airline Credit Cards for point-earning credit cards for Avios and Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club.

  22. You can split tickets on flights too and sometimes save £100s

    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.

    Found your own split ticket bargain? Please post details in the MSE forum.

  23. Can you beat airline baggage fees by POSTING your luggage?

    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.

    How does it work?

    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:

    1. Get a quote and compare prices. This varies by destination, so you'll need to visit each courier site and get a quote, then compare it with what airlines charge.

    2. Choose a collection/delivery date. Send My Bag and Uni Baggage ask you to pick a date for your bags to be collected and then give you an estimated delivery date, usually two to three days later. (Send My Bag recommends your bag arrives a day before you.) Bags Ahead asks for your arrival date, and gives a collection date based on this.

    3. Print labels and wait for your bag to be collected. You'll be emailed labels (Bags Ahead and Send My Bag will post them if you book far enough ahead). Then you'll be given a collection window (9am-5pm or 9am-6pm) – Send My Bag says it's happy to collect from a neighbour if you won't be home, or your office/place of work.

    4. Meet your luggage at your destination. All the courier sites say you don't have to sign for your bag personally – anyone at the delivery address can do it, eg, the hotel reception desk (though make sure you notify them in advance).

    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.

    How does the cost compare with airline baggage fees?

    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:

      TABLE_CELL_STYLE Courier firms (1) BA Easyjet Flybe Norwegian Ryanair Virgin Max saving
      Flying to Malaga
      Individual (15kg) £29-£31 £20 £28 £24 £23 £35 n/a £6
      Family (55kg) £64 £60 £89 £86 £69 £105 n/a £41
      Flying to Berlin
      Individual (15kg) £26-£31 £20 £23 £24 £20 £20 n/a None
      Family (55kg) £58-£60 £60 £73 £84 £60 £60 n/a £26
      Flying to Paphos
      Individual (15kg) £99-£108 £25 £30 n/a n/a £35 n/a None
      Family (55kg) £258-£324 £75 £98 n/a n/a £105 n/a None
      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.
  24. Plan where to sit and check out food reviews before you fly

    airplane food

    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.

  25. If you're flying Stateside, don't forget your ESTA

    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.

  26. Sign up to airline email bulletins to monitor upcoming sales

    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.

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  27. Beware – having multiple web pages open could lead to a wrong booking

    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.

  28. Planning on treating yourself at duty-free? Opt to pick it up on the way back

    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.

  29. Cut airport transfer costs with shuttle buses or splitting airport travel with others

    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.

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