Here at HostelBookers, we are ALL about finding the best deals for the lowest prices. The more money you can save before your trip, then the more money you’ll have to spend on fun things while you’re there, right?
So we went straight to the experts and interviewed Rose, consumer writer for MoneySavingExpert.com, about how to score the cheapest deals on flights, package holidays, travel insurance, price comparison sites and more.
Where are you guys based?
The MoneySavingExpert.com team are based in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, in what we affectionately call ‘MSE Towers’. The site was created in 2003 by Martin Lewis, the site’s founder and editor, for just a hundred quid – it now has over 13 million users a month.
How do you find out the best deals?
Our editorial team are experts at keeping their ears to the ground, doing our own independent research and investigations to uncover hidden loopholes and bargains. Our forum users are also great at flagging up any really hot bargains they’ve found, so they’re a fantastic help too.
When are the cheapest times to fly?
When it comes to booking standalone flights, book as early as you can to give yourself the best chance of netting a cheap flight. Business folk will pay top dollar at the last minute, so airlines often make their prices sky-high to match.
If you’re booking a package holiday, it’s a different game. The later you book, the cheaper – eight to ten weeks before departure is when bargains start to flood in – but this will mean you’ll only get limited choice. So again, if you can’t book late, book as early as possible.
Which is the best comparison site to use?
If you know the specific dates and destinations for where you want to go, your best bet’s likely to be using a type of price comparison site known as a screenscraper. These canny sites search scores of airlines and brokers to find cheap flights that fit your criteria.
As these don’t all search the same sites, it’s worth trying a few to help you find the cheapest results. Some biggies to try include Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket and Kayak, though there are many more.
If you’re looking to buy a cheap flight with a hotel, try flight broker sites. These can offer their own special deals, plus extra discounts if you book hotels with them as well. Here, try Expedia, Travelocity and Opodo.
Are there any sneaky tricks to getting money off?
If you’re looking for insider info on the latest flight sales, one trick is to sign up to the email newsletters of the big airlines and flight sellers. These often announce details of their short-term sales as soon as they’re launched, so they’re good if you know where you want to go and you’re ready to pounce.
A few to try are British Airways, Opodo, American Airlines, Air France and KLM (it’s worth making a separate folder in your inbox so you can see these as soon as they land).
There’s another quick trick that can help you find cheap flights. The UK’s a melting pot of different immigrant and ethnic communities, which is a great help for cheap flight bookings. Niche travel agents often specialise in finding deals to those communities’ linked countries, so try these too.
For example, Shepherd’s Bush in London has some Caribbean specialist tour agents. Or try the Jewish Chronicle, which has companies advertising cheap flights to Israel. For the full armoury of tricks see MoneySavingExpert.com’s Cheap Flights guide.
Is it better to do a package or book flights and accommodation separately?
Good question. In a nutshell, if you’re going away specifically for seven, 10 or 14 days to a traditional holiday destination (eg, a week in Malaga), then package holidays, where everything’s wrapped up in one, often come up trumps. Yet if you’re travelling off the beaten track (eg, 17 days in Timbuktu), booking separately may well be cheaper, so do check.
A handy bonus with package holidays is that most package operators are ATOL-protected (though always check before you book). This means that if the company goes bust or something goes wrong, your holiday is automatically protected.
This means you’d get a refund if you haven’t left yet, or you could carry on the trip and still get home if you’re already there. But unless you’ve booked your flights directly with a flight provider that’s also ATOL-registered, this doesn’t apply to standalone flights.
Plus from April 2012, ATOL protection has been extended to include flights and accommodation or car hire booked from the same company within a day of each other, even if they’re not part of a formal package.
Should I just grab travel insurance via the airline, if it’s offered?
No, no and no. Never just automatically book costly travel insurance via your airline – do this and you’re likely to end up paying far more than you need to. You can get an entire year’s European cover for less than £20, or worldwide for under £30 at the time of writing. See MSE’s Cheap Travel Insurance guide to find the right cover for the least cash.
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