With an impending ten week Summer school holiday ahead of us this year, there’s a fair chance a trip home, or further abroad is likely to be on the cards for you and your family in 2017.
It goes without saying that being flexible on your dates and travelling off-peak will reduce the cost of air travel, but what are the top tips for saving money when booking our flights back home? We’ve compiled a list of the best tried and tested ways, and you won’t be disappointed!
How to search for cheap flights
First up, instead of only going straight to your favourite airlines’ website, why not get yourself familiar with some really good search comparison tools? Search Skyscanner, Momondo and Google Flights. They can help you with planning flight routes, timing, comparing prices and researching which airlines and codeshares fly your route, then start comparing.
Be aware of Summer dates to avoid
Steer clear of public holidays, trade fairs and other significant things happening! For example, the summer school holidays in 2017 start with Eid-al-Fitr and end with Eid-al-Adha so the immediate week surrounding these occasions will be peak-times on all routes out of the UAE with discount fares being hard to come.
Consider using transfer flights
We all want flights to be as straight forward as possible, especially if we have children in tow – but if saving money is your objective, think about some small diversions or different tactics from your usual route home. Take off the “direct flights” option and see what other airlines are operating your route. If you normally connect flights in Europe, like Amsterdam for example, you’d be wise to think about Middle East alternatives, such as Oman Air or Qatar Airways who have a short stop-over time (sometimes as little as 45 minutes), an efficient transfer service and great facilities at the new airport in Doha. These flights can sometimes be half the price of a direct routeing.
Set price alerts to your inbox
If there’s a particular route and date that you’ve been eyeing up, set yourself a price alert in Skyscanner or Momondo – they’ll email you when the price is lower – but be prepared to act fast! Normally only a few seats are released at a time and they are always snapped up fast!
Should you book ahead or last minute? That’s the big question. Whilst there’s no hard and fast rule, it’s wise to plan ahead and diarise when to start searching for flights as airlines release their seats for sale 345 days in advance (which means it needs to include the return date). You can be fast off the block to book which is best if you’re wanting to travel on peak dates or redeem frequent traveller rewards, or you can leave it closer to the date if you’re far more flexible with when you want to travel. Flights can get cheaper the closer you get to departure date (56 days before is statistically the savers favourite!), but you can’t always take this risk with family plans, and if you leave it too late, prices can also increase if the flight is already busy, so if you’re happy with the price – book it, but take time to check any cancellation and change fees applicable.
Clear your Cookies!
Always search through a different browser because it will make a difference to the price quotes you see. For example, if you normally use Internet Explorer, try Chrome or Firefox; open a private or incognito window each time (yep, those pesky cookies are watching your every move and know when you’re re-checking the same flights) so clearing your cookies is an essential part of keeping the price down!
Modify your search
Search initially for one adult ticket, then try adding family members. You may find that there are only a certain number of seats left in a cheaper price band and when you search as a a family group they might not come up. It’s still possible to book in two or more separate groups; many airlines including British Airways will hold your flight temporarily whilst you make your decision, and as long as your family are all on the same fight, (but booked in two transactions for example), you can still call up the airline and ask them to “link your PNR” (booking references) so you’ll end up having a merged reservation where you’re sitting together anyway.
Consider booking regional flights separately.
If you’re travelling to a UK regional airport like Newcastle for example, don’t forget to research Dubai to London flights and then London to Newcastle flights separately rather than a straight Dubai to Newcastle ticket, as not all of these options may show up on price comparison websites. It can save thousands of Dirhams doing it this way.
However, you’ll need to research their flight timetables and also their minimum connecting times between landing on one flight and departing on the next and it’s always advisable to read the small print. Whilst booking separate tickets for each leg, you may find that the luggage allowances can vary which can be an issue with budget carriers, and you may not be able to check bags all the way through which means collecting them and re-checking them through again.
Start your ticket from the UK.
If you book this way, you can often get the price of an extra flight thrown in for virtually the same price! How does it work? Firstly, you need to get to the UK (which can often mean paying a bit over the odds because you’ll end up booking a Dubai to London return flight but not using the return portion) and secondly, you need to be highly organised!
Plan your trips in advance, as this tip is most effective if you have a further holiday to book later in the year but will be returning to the UK within 12 months. For example, book your next trip London to Maldives but with a Dubai stop-over as part of the same ticket. It means you fly London to Dubai after your Summer holidays to return home, stay put in Dubai and then you can fly Dubai to Maldives for a mini break at half term for example, returning back home to Dubai where you’ll stay put again until Christmas where you may use your last (and fourth sector of your ticket) travelling Dubai to London. Start the whole process again, booking your next holiday add-on. So as long as you’re organised you can book London to Melbourne for example, and you return home to Dubai after Christmas and have your Melbourne holiday to look forward to later in the year. Having Dubai as the stop-over point means that you’re saving masses on booking those flights individually and it normally works out tag the London-Dubai sector is virtually for free!
Use your UK credit card
Pay in Sterling using the technique above and you’ll also save on the exchange rate. On top of this, UK travel agencies will normally competitively price match, so if you see something cheaper, let them know by screen capturing your cheaper quote and they’ll normally beat the difference.
Sign up to loyalty programmes
Whichever airline you take in the end, see what loyalty program they offer. Even if you think you might never fly with them again, they could be part of an alliance and every mileage point earned can help in the long run. You might also be offered bonuses like extra luggage allowances or discounts off car rental by being in their program too and don’t forget to register the children! On some airlines, children are eligible to join from the age of 2 and you may find that including them in a household account earns your whole family more mileage this way.
Have you tried any of these techniques and made great savings? Have we missed any of your favourite flying hacks? We would love to know more!
For more money saving tips, check out How To Save Money Living In Dubai