Planning a long-haul trip may be a bit daunting to some people. We all know what it’s like – you wait for months just to get a seemingly good deal for your tickets, only to find that they you’ve grossly overpaid. There are so many things that can go wrong. With a bit of insight, planning, and know-how, this process could be much smoother, stress-free, and CHEAPER.
We have put together a comprehensive list of 10 travel hacks that will help you with planning your trip!
1. VPNs are your friend
The way that airlines price their tickets seems to be based on numerous different factors. Not only does demand play a huge role, but the price that YOU are willing to pay personally can change the prices too. This is based on what country you are searching from. Say that you are searching for a trip from London-Bangkok. If you are searching for this journey from a computer in England, it is likely to be more expensive than searching for the exact same journey on the exact same website, but from Lithuania (for example).
A great way to bypass this, is by using a VPN. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. You may have heard of them before, but essentially what they do is change your computers IP to another location. They have free versions that you can download as a Google Chrome add on – simply search ‘VPN add on’
Try this trick next time you are searching for a plane ticket and see the prices change before your very eyes!
2. Go incognito
This is technically part two to the hack mentioned above. It is based on the knowledge that airlines can change the prices for the SAME flight by storing your cookies. This means that if you search for a trip on your laptop, and don’t end up buying one, the second time you go on the same website (for the same ticket dates), the prices have gone up! The more you search the same flights, the more the airlines know that you NEED that ticket, so they hike the prices up!
A quick and easy way to avoid this, other than clearing all your cookies, is to go in incognito mode. In this mode your computer avoids any cookie tracking by websites. This is one of the travel hacks ensuring that you are able to search for the same journey for the same days as many times as you want, without the prices changing!
3. Speak to the hotel/hostel about booking directly through them
Everyone loves a good website that has all the best deals in one place. Online travel agencies such as Hotels.com and Expedia are great. You can see all the places you may be interested, all compared to each other by the click of a button.
However, the full pay does not go to the hotels. The online agencies take up to 15% off the price that you pay, which means that the hotels are losing out.
The hotels KNOW this, and if you ask to book straight through them, they may be willing to give you a 5-10% discount, as they would end up getting more money in the long run. Over a long period of time, staying in countless hotels and hostels, those percentages really start to add up for you as well!
Make sure you call up the accommodation and speak to a salesperson or manager and ask if they are willing to offer this, before you book straight through them – as a partial refund will most likely be rejected.
4. Connecting flights and stopovers can save you money
We all know the dreaded connecting flight. All you want to do is GET THERE, and here you are stuck somewhere in an airport you don’t have time enough to leave, trying to kill the hours… or you find yourself sprinting to your gate, only to find out that you missed the connecting flight!
The minimum connection time (MCT) that you need at each airport, between connecting flights is regulated by law and varies from airport to airport. You can look this up by running a quick internet search for ‘MCT [name of the specific airport].
The travel hacks trick lies in when you have a delay, due to atmospheric conditions or any mechanical problems with the airplane and you land at the connecting airport with LESS time than the MCT for that airport.
You can earn up to 600 euros if your flight is so delayed that you miss your connecting flight (which is wholly annoying but that is a lot of cash!). This applies with any flights taking off from the European Union, so if you are flying from America or elsewhere it may still be worth looking up the particular rules. This also ONLY applies if you bought the whole journey in one go, so they offered you that specific connecting flight. It does NOT apply if you bought a connecting flight separately and did not provide yourself with enough time to catch it (even if there is a delay!).
Secondly, there is another way to take advantage of the system – travel hacks style.
Booking a long-connection flight (also known as stopovers) usually means that you have around 24 hours to wait in between catching your connecting flight. Some airlines offer free overnight hotel stays, or a free city tour so that you don’t find yourself sitting in the airport trying to kill WAY too many hours. This is not normally the case but definitely worth checking before you book your flights! (who doesn’t love an impromptu hotel night, all paid for).
5. Book 2, get 1 seat free
Everyone knows the feeling of your heart truly sinking when you think you have a spare seat next to you, and then someone shows up last minute. Long haul flights are usually very cramped and uncomfortable, whilst having a spare seat next to you truly helps you to spread out and get more comfortable (and a better sleep!).
Have a read of our blog on how to be comfortable on a long haul flight to ensure that you are riding in comfort!
If a flight is fully booked, this hack will obviously not work. Whilst, if the flight is not fully booked, and there are two of you travelling together, book one aisle seat, and one window seat. The likelihood of someone opting to book a seat between the two of you is slim, which means that you may end up having that seat all to yourselves, without having to pay extra. How’s that for travel hacks?
Granted, social distancing on flights may be a new reality for a while, so the likelihood is that prices will increase, and social distancing will be in place whether you like it or not.
6. Flight imbalances
Every time there is a big event such as a sporting event, there is an influx in people wanting to travel to a specific location. Airlines often put on additional flights to meet the demand, and prices normally follow. As we mentioned above, the demand for a specific flight is a major factor in its price. However, if you are a flexible flier, and do not need to adhere to a specific date, this may work in your favour.
Every time an airline flies a plane, they have considerable expenses, which means that they will try to put as many passengers as possible on that flight to offset the expenses of fuel etc.
When there is a big event, many of those flights are easily booked to capacity, due to the demand and sheer number of people that are attending.
However, once the airplane reaches the airport at the event, it rarely stays there during the whole event. Usually, it will refuel and fly back. This is where you come in. These are called flight imbalances, as far fewer people are likely to fly away from a major event such as the Olympics, than the amount of people flying to it.
Like we mentioned before, any passenger will help to offset the prices of flying itself, they often set up discounted prices in the opposite direction (i.e. away from the main event).
Long story short, if you are in a city that is hosting a big event, and you are looking to move on to a new location, look for flights out of the city on the dates just before and during the big event. This will save you a lot of cash!
7. Low-cost airlines
It is very time efficient to search for flights on Skyscanner or to google the flights that you are looking for. We are quickly presented with a comprehensive list of the various airlines that fly on the selected dates, and it helps us to choose the cheapest and most straightforward option.
However, there is something that these search engines do not do well.
Low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair operate on a system called point-to-point. This means that they often sell tickets to fly from one ticket to another without stops in-between. Whilst legacy airlines, such as British Airways or Emirates, often have stops called hubs (such as Dubai for the Emirates).
Normally, when you search on Skyscanner, you end up searching for a price from a place where they start, to their specific destination.
Low-cost airlines are not optimised to sell flights that have stops on the way to the destination. So, when you are searching sky scanner, the ‘point-to-point’ system that the low-cost airlines are working on, do not show up as well.
The best way to bypass this issue is to look for flights on the separate websites themselves. If you have the time, and don’t mind the effort, instead of searching for a flight from London Gatwick – Bangkok, search for flights from any nearby airports in Europe. This means that if you find a much cheaper flight from Copenhagen to Bangkok, you simply have to add on a low-cost flight from London Gatwick to Copenhagen and voila! You have now saved yourself some real cash.
8. Don’t fly on Fridays or Mondays
Airlines spend a huge effort in researching passenger behaviours, and therefore booking behaviours. The main way that we are segmented as travels are into business or leisure groups.
Business travellers usually have their flights paid for by companies, which means that they are less likely to care about price (hence an increase here). Business trips also often occur in the beginning of the week (like a Monday) whilst they rarely travel on weekends, especially Sundays. Whilst leisure travellers often plan their trips in advance and chose tickets based on price.
Due to the lack of business travellers on days such as Wednesday and Sundays, these days tend to be priced at lower rates than Mondays and Fridays. So if you have some flexibility, try to book your flights on these days as they are cheaper! This is probably the most simply and straightforward way to use travel hacks to your benefit!
9. One-way may be the solution to money saving
A way that airlines try to eliminate the flight imbalances that we mentioned earlier is by making people buy round trips. This way they ensure that many return flights are fully booked and avoid flying empty flights and incurring costs that are not covered.
However, this is not the case for low-cost airlines. Low-cost airlines have numerous small airplanes which go to various destinations, so selling one-way tickets does not cause the same imbalances.
This means that when you are booking your journey, you may wish to piece together various low-cost airlines for the trip out, and the return. With this hack you may find that buying two one-way tickets will be much cheaper than buying a round-trip!
10. Last-minute trips
When we are talking about last-minute trips, we don’t mean impulsive trips which are unorganised or unplanned. What we mean is that if you have the wiggle room for time and know that you want to move on to a new location soon, or take a trip soon, be prepared but don’t book the ticket in advance.
There are a large number of websites that sell last-minute tickets, some are airlines, and some are online travel agencies. When you are coming to the end of the warm season in September-October, many websites will offer good opportunities and cheaper flights and hotel deals. Discounts can range all the way up to 80% off! The only condition to this is that you have to fly very shortly after booking, sometimes even only one day!
The best way to work around this (if you have commitments and/or a full-time job) may be to book the time off in advance, pack, prepare for your trip, and then when the time comes to just a week or so before, have a look on the deal websites. You already have your holidays booked from work and everything else is ready, all you need to do is get the flight and the hotel, so there is an element of surprise as to where you will go and exactly when! However, this would only work if you don’t have a specific location in mind. It’s spontaneous enough, with a strong hint of organisation – just the way we like it!
We hope that these 10 travel hacks have provided some insight into how best to book YOUR ideal trip, whilst saving all the cash along the way! Find some of our other blogs here. If you’re looking for some more tips, take a look at The Daily Grog’s blog on finding cheap flights!