If you are planning a vacation, a major part of your budget will be the expense of flight tickets. In fact, sometimes it could become the deciding factor in choosing your holiday destination.
If you plan in advance, you can not only save on your overall holiday budget, but you make changes to the itinerary accordingly.
One of the most common tricks known is the use of incognito mode in one's browser or using different mobile phones or computer to check flight prices. It is believed that apps or websites keep a track of your search history (IP address) causing the rate of the same flight on the same day that your earlier search for, could be inflated the next time you look for it.
Here are five such tips on flight booking that could help you save on your next flight booking:
1. Book early but not too early
Booking very close to the date to your departure is definitely expensive but that does not mean you book way too ahead of the travel date.
Find the sweet spot.
Ideally, 6 to 4 weeks ahead of the date (in the off-season) or a maximum of 3 months (in holiday season or weekends) ahead of the travel day should work fine as these prices are based on dynamic pricing method.
The 4 to 6 weeks ahead of the schedule period is when airlines are trying to sell out on their flights causing the prices so be lower than a date too early or too late.
2. Avail airline offers
Usually around the start of a financial year, airlines offer tickets are discounted prices for a long-stretched period of travel, to be able to sell tickets in bulk.
This helps the carrier generate working capital for its business while promoting sales.
There are also cases where the airline may offer promotional sale on a newly launched flight route or give away cheaper tickets on an anniversary sale. Regardless, these are more like flash sales, which are open for 2 to 3 days for booking, and require you to be quick with your decision making skills.
To make the most of these offers, you could set a "Google Alert" on your phone for the terms generally used by airlines.
3. Be flexible with travel dates and timings
If you are not on a tight schedule, avoid booking tickets closer to the timings or dates that most people would prefer. Cheapest flights of the day usually leave very early in the morning or late at night.
Also, avoid weekends, or any major holidays for the same reason.
If you intend to travel to your family say on Diwali, be flexible with your booking dates and pick a date a few days ahead of the festival.
You can use websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to compare the rates over a stretch of period (like a whole week or month) and pick the date with cheapest flight.
These websites indicate the cheapest flight on a particular day and are especially useful for international travel as these scan through non-English websites.
However, look out for flights with stops in between, which could delay your journey by hours in an attempt to get a cheaper flight.
While lay-overs are unavoidable in international flights, compare various combinations of dates and airlines to save overall travel time.
4. Be flexible with destinations
Flights to smaller or regional airports are generally expensive due to the limit in the frequency for the particular route.
For example, if you wish to travel from Mumbai to Jaipur, it would more expensive and will have lesser alternative flight options than Mumbai to Delhi.
In such cases, you can plan well and book an early morning flight to Delhi and take the Shatabdi train to Jaipur (which runs in the morning) to save overall cost.
5. Take advantage of bank tie-ups
You can compare flight rates across various travel websites. Especially, if you are travelling within India, the Indian travel websites are tied up with various banks or payment app companies to give discount or cashbacks on bookings.
If your debit card or credit card or payment app usage provides a significant discount, you can save money than by booking the flight directly over the airline's website.
Read the terms and conditions on the offers before you make a purchase.
Things to note
• Be careful when you make bookings directly through a price comparison website. They could be tied up with a foreign website you have never heard of. There have been cases where customers haven't received their flight ticket over email despite booking and paying for them.
• Compare the prices on tickets for the return flight separately as a one-way journey rather than look for tickets simultaneously. You may end up finding a better deal and save on overall costs.
• Use your reward points that you may have collected over your card or payment app to bring down prices.
• Watch out for pre-selected options at check-out, like contribution towards a charity run by the website (if it is a travel website) or an insurance cover (from a tie-up of the website with an insurance company) before you make the payment. If you already have a travel insurance cover, this should not be required.