Since we left the UK in 2013 to travel the world, we’ve taken 33 international and domestic flights between 15 countries and spent £6,098 on airline tickets. We’ve also spent countless hours searching online for cheap airfares so we now have a pretty good idea of how to find the best flights available – here’s how we do it.
Finding the best flights online
Finding flights, especially round the world flights, can be a long and tedious process since there are so many airline and flight comparison sites to search though. We always prefer to spend as little as possible on transport, so we look for the cheapest flights available, even if they are longer and on less lavish airlines.
How to find flights
Here’s how we search for our airline flights:
Search in advance – we always start looking for flights as far ahead as possible to get the cheapest prices. According to research by Momondo, flights can be on average 26 percent cheaper if you book 53 days in advance but we’ve gotten great deals booking even further ahead than this.
Conduct a general search – we start by using a flight comparison website, which gives an overview of airlines and prices for our journey. We’re lucky to have flexibility on our travel dates, so we select the ‘whole month’ option when searching to compare which day is cheapest to fly on; weekday and early morning or late night flights usually cost less.
If you’re only able to travel during school holidays then we’ve heard that you can book cheaper flights with easyJet just before or after peak time, but select the ‘flexi-ticket’ option, then amend your ticket to the correct dates. We’ve never used this tactic but it’s worth looking into if you have to travel in peak holiday times.
Choose the cheapest airports – we conduct multiple searches, selecting different airports within the countries we’re flying to and from, to find out which is the cheaper option. Be wary of false economy here though; some airports will be conveniently located in or just outside cities with good public transport links, while others will be further away and cost more to get to. For example, in London you can often find cheaper flights from Luton than from Gatwick or Heathrow, but Luton is more expensive to get to, so it actually works out to about the same price as travelling from Gatwick or Heathrow.
Look at connecting flights – often, connecting flights will be cheaper than direct ones and we normally choose this option when booking long-haul, international flights. For instance, we saved hundreds of pounds by choosing a flight from Taipei to London which had a 16-hour layover in China; we’ve also had shorter stop-overs in places like South Korea and Mumbai, when travelling between London and Asia.
Check the budget airlines – the problem with flight comparison sites like Skyscanner is that they often don’t search all the available airlines, especially not the budget ones like easyJet. So, we make sure to check all of these separately to find the cheapest deals.
Check the airline websites – if you find a deal on a comparison site, it’s worth checking the airline’s own website to find out if it’s cheaper to book directly through them – this has saved us some money in the past.
Clear your browser history before booking – if you’ve spent a lot of time searching for flights online and are ready to buy a ticket, it’s worth clearing your internet cookies and looking up the flight again on a new tab in your browser before booking – this ensures you’re seeing the most up-to-date price. We’ve also heard from a study by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation that it’s cheaper to book your any flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – but we’ve also gotten great deals just by monitoring prices and booking far in advance.
Deselect extras – when we’re going through the booking process of buying flights, we deselect paid-for extras, like in-flight meals and seat reservations to save money.
Save on baggage – look carefully at the airline’s baggage policy before you book a flight; some will provide you with free check-in bags up to a certain weight, others will charge you. Depending on the rules, we try to save money by just checking in one bag and taking carry-on luggage but we also make sure to take advantage of free check-in baggage. At the beginning of our trip, we specifically bought backpacks that are the right dimensions to be used as carry-on luggage if needs be.
Resources and airlines we’ve used
We generally tend to stick to Skyscanner as a comparison website, but you can also check Kayak and Moneysupermarket to compare flights. If you’re interested in reading more about our flight expenditures, you can find out how much we spent on 15 months’ worth of flights to and around Asia in this cost breakdown, or check out our individual travel cost posts for each country we’ve visited. Here are the airlines we’ve used in the past:
Asia Airlines – we have gotten some incredibly cheap flight deals using Air Asia; Kuala Lumpur to Kuching was one of the cheapest at just £32.85 per person. We’ve also flown with Zest Air, who are an off-shoot of Air Asia. We used Maylasia Airlines for domestic flights in Borneo as well as Vietnam Airlines to travel from Laos to Hanoi and Nok Air for a domestic flight in Thailand. The cheapest deal we found for a long-haul flight from Taiwan back to London was with China Southern Airlines.
In Indonesia we took some domestic flights using Lion Air and found our cheapest flight ever through Merpati, which cost £26.75 per person for a return flight between Bali and Lombok! We did have to book this at the airport though, since you needed an Indonesian credit card to book online, which we didn’t have.
Australia and New Zealand Airlines – we used Korean Air to fly from London to Auckland, with a stop-over in Seoul. This was one of the best airlines we’ve ever used; we got loads of complementary snacks and scored emergency exit seats with extra legroom. We used Air New Zealand to fly onwards to Australia, where we took extremely cheap domestic flights using Tiger Airlines – we flew from Melbourne to Sydney for just £30 per person!
European Airlines – we always fly budget in Europe; it’s normally cheaper to travel from London using easyJet, Ryanair or Flybe to major airports in European countries. We’ve just booked return flights between London and Madrid through easyJet for just £67 per person. It can also be cheap to fly from other lesser-known airports; we flew to Alicante, Spain from Bournemouth in the UK for £36.20 each. For a summer holiday in Italy, we’ve booked flights from Madrid to Florence through Vueling for just £45 each.
American Airlines – we flew from London to New York return for a three-month US road-trip last year with Norwegian Air; this cost £446.50 each. We’ve also used Norwegian air to fly to Bangkok for just £253.55.
Do you have any questions for us about finding the best flights; or do you have any tips of your own to share?