Finding cheap flights online - be flexible!


We’ve spent a great deal of time researching and testing ways to get the best airfares to enable us to travel as much as we do, and we’d like to pass on some of our tips for seeking out these cheaper fares, as well as other ways to save on flights.

Be flexible on travel dates

If you can be flexible as to your travel dates – even just by a couple of days – you can potentially save yourselves thousands of pounds when booking flights for a family of four. Not that we want to be seen to promote this kind of behaviour, but we do sometimes fly a day or two before the end of a school term if it means saving hundreds of pounds. Luckily we have a supportive head teacher who recognises the benefits of family travel.

If you can be flexible, there is a website called www.triptivista.com that allows you to scan a whole month to get the cheapest option for a holiday length that you decide (e.g. I want to travel from London to Bangkok in October for 10 days). Add the origin, destination, number of days you want to take off, number of passengers and min and max date you want to scan flights for.

Again, if you can be flexible, Skyscanner offers a similar feature by giving you a whole month view, allowing you to pick the cheapest days to travel. Here’s how:

1. Go to the Skyscanner website
2. Enter your departure & arrival cities
3. Click on the departure date and it will allow you to enter either ‘specific date’ or ‘whole month’. You can go one step further by selecting ‘cheapest month’ if you are not dead set on travelling in a particular month.
4. Hit ‘Search flights’.
Kiwi.com and Google Flights work similarly to Skyscanner, plus they have map views as well, so you can see where the airport is. For tracking when and where is cheapest to fly, Hopper also offer price analysis and track fluctuations (i.e. when is best to fly).

Be flexible on departure or arrival airports

Being flexible with airports – and even cities – can unlock some significant discounts. If you’re planning a road trip from A-B, could you do it from B-A instead? Some of the larger cities have a number of nearby airports so you perform a search for those airports and compare prices.
Don’t assume that flight prices will be similar from them all. All airports have different overheads and taxes. We live close to Luton. It is undoubtedly more convenient for us to fly from there, but when we search for flights, sometimes we find it is much cheaper to fly from Stansted, Gatwick or Birmingham, even after taking into account the extra cost to get to these airports. You need to obviously weigh up the saving versus the inconvenience of landing somewhere and having to take a one hour taxi at 3 am versus a ten minute journey!
You can find out which airport is the cheapest for your flight when using Skyscanner by selecting the ‘add nearby airports’ option when you search and then un-tick the ones you don’t want to fly from.

This works for your arrival airport too – but be careful – if you’re not sure where the airport is and how to get to and from it, you could end up spending more in airport transport costs and therefore negating the saving you made on the fare.

Be flexible on departure cities

Airline pricing is a crazy world which we do not claim to fully understand! What we do know is that sometimes you can find returns much cheaper if your origin is not your local airport, particularly if your local airport is one of the main London ones (Gatwick or Heathrow). This is because the airport taxes are so high flying out of London. If you fly out of another hub like Paris, Rome, Amsterdam or Dublin, you will probably connect to the same flight you would have taken from London, and you will save hundreds of pounds.

This obviously involves a separate flight to get to that alternative airport which is not great for your carbon footprint, but with the savings you make on the flights, you can choose to offset your footprint by paying a little donation which goes towards planting trees or another similar green initiative.

We’ve saved significant amounts on a family trip from London to Vancouver by booking a return flight from Dublin to Vancouver, and a budget flight from London to Dublin. The flight from Dublin actually takes us back to London and we then take the same flight we would have taken if we had departed from London, but because we aren’t ‘departing’ from London, we save £1,600 for a family of 4! There are the connection times to consider leading to an overall longer journey– but for a saving that great, we think it is worth it.

This particular price discrepancy was down to the difference in airport tax between Dublin and London, but is along the lines of what’s known as “Hidden city” ticketing, related to booking flights with connections, and not taking the whole route. There’s now a website dedicated to showing hidden city tickets called Skiplagged – however the airlines don’t want this publicised and are taking action against the website. Some things to bear in mind you use this flight price trick:

If your luggage is checked, it may go on to the final destination. For this reason it’s best to have carry-on luggage only or check with the airline before booking what the situation is. Sometimes you can ask at check-in to have the bags offloaded where you want, but we couldn’t guarantee this will work!

You may not be allowed off the plane if the same plane is continuing onward to its final destination. Again, check with the airline.

Airlines may detect that you did not take your connection. We are not sure what the consequences of this are, if there are any at all, especially since people miss flights all the time. You can’t miss the first leg of your flight as the next leg will be cancelled (ie we have to take the Dublin to London section of the flight, rather than boarding in London). On the way back, we will exit at London and not take the connecting flight on to Dublin. We will have hand luggage only. Wish us luck on cramming everything in!

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Written by flashpackingfamily
Hi! We’re an ordinary family travelling of four, part-time now that the kids are in school. We’ve visited 85 countries between us, and plan to visit a whole lot more amazing places as a family before the kids fly the nest. We love sharing our experiences and providing helpful tips and practical information...

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