Knowing when (and how) to book that annual flight back to the UK is as important a step in the expat learning curve as getting to grips with the currency. But with the cost of flights sky-rocketing during the school holidays, how do we make it affordable (without having to fly via Timbuktoo)? We’ve rounded up a selection of top expat tips for getting the best deal when booking….

1. Go Incognito

Did you know that if you keep searching for the same flights on the same computer, the website will remember you and prices can rise? It’s all to do with the cookies on your search browser remembering you have visited before – and when the company recognises your interest, they think they are onto a winner and inflate the price (nice, huh?) There is a way round it though – and it just involves going incognito. This will open a new browser window where your information is not tracked, thus not inflating prices as you search – and here is how to do it:

In Google Chrome or Safari, hit Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift and “N” together.

In Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, and “P” together.

2. Collect Airmiles 

Fancy a free flight? Of course you do – so make sure you take advantage of the oldest expat trick in the book by using credit cards that collect airmiles for most purchases (instead of your current account or cash) and paying them off at the end of the month. You may be able to make some large purchases throughout the year that will really stack the miles up – such as paying school fees if you can pay on credit card. Check your bank’s website about the best cards to suit your needs, or even consider swapping banks. It’s worth noting that there is also a company in Dubai called Airmiles Middle East, who allow you to collect points as you shop for groceries, book hotels, and feed the family. The miles can be accrued if you shop in the right places – but if you still haven’t collected enough at the end of the year to fly, you can use part-cash and part-miles to get those flights booked and save yourself some well deserved dirhams.

3. Book Airline Reward Tickets 330 Days In Advance

Want to use airline miles to book your seats, but struggling to find available flights when you start searching? Most airlines release their flights 330 days in advance, with a limited number of seats available that can be paid for in miles – so if you want to snap up one of those seats, 330 days in the future is the optimum time to try and book. Sometimes those seats can be gone just days later, especially if you’re looking to travel in style, so make a note in your diary and outwit the other travellers.

4. Start the journey in the UK

If your eyes water at the price of flights home at Christmas or during the summer holidays every single year, you could look at booking a single back to the UK on your next trip – and then starting the family’s return flights ongoing from the UK. You’ll almost always notice the price falling by thousands of dirhams, making that initial single worth the extra cost.

5. Use Dubai as a stop-over

If you are planning to take a holiday to another destination (whether that’s Bali, Australia, Thailand, Italy or anywhere else on the flight destination list for your chosen airline), another clever booking trick is to use Dubai as your stopover destination. Most airlines allow you to extend stopovers for up to a year, meaning you can start your flight in the UK (see above for why this makes sense), then stay in Dubai for up to a year, before flying off on holiday, back again to Dubai, and finally completing the journey with your next flight back to the UK. You won’t save money on the annual flight back to the UK– but you do usually get the onward holiday flights for only a few thousand dirham extra (yes, that’s the whole family!), making it far more affordable if you have already budgeted for your holiday. We don’t know about you, but we’re already planning where we want to head…

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