When it comes to booking airline flights, we’re all after a bargain as flight costs can be a significant portion of a holiday budget. We’ve put together a few suggestions which may help you ‘bag a bargain’ or make the process simpler.
Top tips for booking flights:
- Use a good search engine
- Go ‘Incognito’ when searching for flights
- Take advantage of online alerts
- Consider budget airlines
- Contemplate using a travel agent
- Don’t wait to book – it’s not likely to get cheaper
Want to get a great deal without having to sit on the wing of the plane?
Use a good reliable search engine such as Skyscanner or AirFareWatchDog (which also sends you low fare alerts for flights from your home city). Jetradar is also useful and it includes budget airlines, not just the major ones. There are many options out there - consider Expedia or booking.com - so just find one you're comfortable with and go with that. Ensure you read reviews about any third-party sites you're not familiar with.
Budget airlines are worth a look, although there are compromises with the likes of on-board services. It also pays to check the ‘fine print’ for any additional costs such as luggage charges and other fees.
Travel agents can be worth visiting as sometimes they have special airfare rates available to them which can’t be accessed by the public. But it pays to do your homework first to ensure that the fare they offer is competitive.
Subscribe to online ‘alerts’ – some alerts for discounted flight prices are emailed and some are mobile apps, such as Hopper which allows you to book flights from your mobile phone and alerts you as to when it’s the best time to buy.
For New Zealand domestic flights, websites such as When’s A Good Deal? are great if you don’t have fixed dates but have flexibility to choose flights based on price.
GrabASeat – daily emails from Air New Zealand with domestic and international discounted flights.
Want to know how far in advance you should book a flight to get a great deal? Check out the best time to book a flight from the USA. Basically, it pays not to wait to book – if you know when and where you’re going, book then as it’s very rare for flights to get cheaper as the departure date gets closer. Savings are generally higher the further out you book.
Looking for a flight?
Depending on the ‘cookies’ in your browser, some flights will actually increase in cost each time you do a search in your web browser, particularly if you repeatedly search the same route. Apparently some sites want to scare you into booking quickly before the price gets any higher. Best way to avoid this is to conduct your search ‘Incognito’ as ‘cookies’ are reset each time you re-open an ‘Incognito’ window.
Google now has a Flights page which compares flight prices and once you have made your selection it allows you to choose a booking agent. The prices displayed are not always the best available but are a good starting point.
New Zealand’s House of Travel offers a similar service as well as allowing you to book online through their website.
Things to watch out for when booking flights online
Check the currency the website is quoting, so you can be sure you are comparing ‘like-for-like’. Some website prices are quoted in other than your local currency but this information may not be displayed until you have made your selection and are about to hit the ‘Confirm’ button. A bargain weekend escape can increase in price significantly once it’s been converted to your local currency. Not such a bargain then!
Hidden fees – not all fees are clearly displayed and that bargain may turn out not to be so great once you have completed the booking process.
Check the status of any booking selection ‘tick boxes’ so you don’t purchase an ‘add-on’ to an airfare you don’t want or need.
Book all connecting flights on the one ticket, rather than make separate bookings. This will help with checking luggage through to your destination, and depending on airfare rules, may provide assistance if flight delays result in missed connections.
When faced with a multitude of flight choices, making a decision can be confusing:
- consider the total travel time as well as the number and duration of stops. A cheap flight with two nine-hour layovers plus 17 hours total flying time may not be so appealing.
- consider which airline(s) are offered with the flight selection. Are you happy to travel with them?
- consider what is included with the class of fare - is the luggage allowance sufficient? Are meals included?
Be aware of international currency exchange fees and transaction fees, particularly if paying by credit card. The airfare may be displayed in your local currency, but if charged in another currency you may incur unexpected costs.
If using a third-party booking website, once your flight is booked and you've received your confirmation, you can often access the airline's website using the booking number(s) provided on the confirmation. This is useful to ensure that all is well with your booking and to select your seat(s) if you wish.
A useful website for checking out which are good airline seats to select is seatguru.com.
And lastly - taking your bike with you
Taking your bike on holiday with you? Had enough of watching baggage handlers use your precious cargo for ‘caber toss’ practice? Tired of getting to your destination to find that serious rebuilding is required to get your bike straight again?
Here’s a very helpful guide to taking your bike on an aeroplane and a list of the 10 best airlines for flying with a bike so you can be sure your reunion is a happy one.