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What’s the smartest way to book a flight in 2019?

by | Sep 23, 2019

What, really, is the smartest way to book a flight these days? It used to be a pretty simple task. Pick your airline, give them a call or head to their website, and book. Job done!

These days, however, things have changed. Travellers and tourists are far more savvy, while internet algorithms mean that checking flight prices on airlines’ websites can be a bit of a lottery.

We all want to get the best bargain we can when booking flights (check out our guide to European carry-on sizes) – and the plethora of information available to us helps to make that possible. But – thanks to all this information – there’s also more potential than ever before to miss out on a few hidden gems.

Most travellers have an understanding of how to use travel aggregators like Skyscanner. These are great tools, and do a great job of pulling everything together. But are there other ways of saving big on flights? And might it even be better to go a bit more old-school, and return to booking directly through airlines again?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and give you our best hints and tips to bag yourself the best deals when booking flights in 2019.

Let’s dive in!

When using sites like Skyscanner, it’s important to stay stealthy. Credit: Stephen Leonardi

Go stealth

The algorithms of airline websites are tricky things. If you’ve ever noticed a change in price on flights you’ve been keeping an eye on – don’t worry, you’re not going mad! Popular routes are frequently bumped up in price, on a daily and even hourly basis.

The best way to get around this is to use private browsing. All web browsers will have a private or incognito mode, which resets your cookies every time you open it. This keeps your search history private, avoiding the inflation of prices as you keep checking them.

Diversify your tools

These days, almost everyone who travels regularly is aware of how flight aggregators work. Skyscanner is the standout one, but there are a bunch of others like Momondo, Kiwi, and Kayak.

While these are all great tools, they each work slightly differently. As such, rather than just relying on your favorite one, it’s a good idea to check out the options on all of them – or at least as many as you can keep track of. Some don’t include budget airlines, for example — while others mix and match airlines for single trips more effectively.

By diversifying your use of airline aggregators, you’re sure to increase your chances of getting the best deals.

Some people use voodoo in an effort to reduce airline prices. We don’t recommend this. Credit: Capturing the human heart

Find out when it’s cheapest to fly

Before you make any decisions about your holiday, it’s worth doing a little research and working out the cheapest dates to fly. Skyscanner, for example, offers a great little hack to work out what the best day to fly is over an entire month.

The trick is to search for a one-way flight to your chosen destination, while viewing results for the “whole month” and the “cheapest month”. This will give you the full, day-by-day breakdown of the cheapest month — allowing you to pick the most affordable day to hop on the plane.

Be on the lookout for mistakes

Newsflash: airlines make mistakes. Surprisingly regularly, even. Sometimes these come from complicated currency conversions, technical faults or just plain old human error.

The great news for travellers is that if you catch one of these mistakes, the airline will honour it! And that could mean paying less for a flight than it actually costs.

Searching month-by-month on Skyscanner, as explained above, is a great way to spot unusual anomalies. There are also a few websites that are always on the lookout for fare mistakes, such as Secret Flying and Airfare Watchdog.

Similarly, it’s worth getting involved with travel discussion forums online, and signing up to as many “deal detectives” on social media and newsletters as you can. The more coverage you have, the more likely you are to stumble across a very convenient mistake.

Flying local is often a good way to cut costs. There’s sometimes a fine line between “chartered jet” and “local minibus with wings”. Credit: Avel Chuklanov

Fly local

In many countries – particularly in Latin America and Asia — there are a whole load of small airlines that aren’t featured on aggregator websites, and some that don’t even offer online booking.

In Mexico for example, Aerotucan serves four airports in Oaxaca state — acting almost more like a bus service!

These smaller airlines are often very reasonably priced, but won’t show up on most of your internet searches. If you are planning internal flights, it’s therefore worth a little research to find out if there’s a cheaper, local alternative that might help you stretch your money that little bit further.

Don’t sweat your destination

This option is really only for the mavericks — for those who enjoy travel for its own sake, and are happy to let fate decide wherever they end up in the word.

It’s not for everyone — but if you don’t have a fixed destination in mind, you’ll be able to take advantage of the cheapest flights going. After all, some destinations are naturally more expensive to get to than others.

Almost all the aggregators like Kiwi, Skyscanner, and even Google Flights, offer the option to not pick your destination. Pop in your dates and your departure airport, and you’ll end up with either a list or a visual representation that offers approximate prices for destinations around the world.

From here, you can either pick the best price, or the weirdest destination. It’s entirely in your hands.

Don’t waste any time

Probably the best bit of advice we can give you is: if you find a good fare, buy it immediately!

It’s very rare for prices to go down, and waiting for a potential sale, or another airline mistake, tends to mean missing out. And remember — most airlines offer a 24 hour cancellation period (it’s even the law in the US) — so if something goes horribly wrong, there’s usually time to correct it.

All in all, booking as far in advance as possible is usually the best hack there is.

Good luck, and happy flying!

We hope this quick guide helps you source the cheapest flights for your travels — in 2019 and beyond.

The key is to diversify your tools, look for alternatives to the mainstream, and act quickly. Follow these tips, and we’re sure you’ll be saving money in no time!

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