Who wants a free layover, free flight or a status match?
How about a free weekend in Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpar? How you would like a free flight from Manchester to Heathrow or meet and greet airport parking for a song?
Well if you are based in the UK, today I’m going to share some lesser known general tips for getting the best deals on your travel arrangements, whether booking reward flights or paying cash. There’s some useful tips thrown in for those based Stateside too as I don’t want you going away empty handed.
FREE UK connecting flights
If you are redeeming AVIOS reward points for British Airways flights from the UK and aren’t local to London airports, you can bag yourself a free flight from a regional airport offering flights into Heathrow. It costs me the same number of points whether I fly from Heathrow or Manchester. Frankly a four hour journey from my home in Yorkshire to Heathrow does not excite me so having the option to bolt on this flight is a real result for me!
Beware the same is not true if you are paying cash for a flight. Then you will pay slightly more for the privilege of flying from your local airport but don’t discount this out of hand as it may still work out cheaper once you factor in petrol and additional parking costs.
Jackie’s post ‘The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking – Maximising One Ways and Stopovers‘ covers a similar theme for those based in the UK.
By travelling from my local airport I may have an extra layover but parking is considerably cheaper at Manchester. We pay around £30 for a weekend’s parking including meet and greet. We’ve just booked for ten days departing next week and that has cost £50 including Meet N Greet. We recommend Eazy Parking (book through the Purple Parking link below) to bag yourself a bargain!
Plus if you are flying business, you get to enjoy the lounge in London for a little longer, and more importantly perhaps squeeze in a spa treatment before your next flight.
FREE stopover in Johannesburg?
Many routes allow different stopovers. For instance, flying to Sydney would allow for stopovers in Hong Kong or Singapore.
Flying from Manchester to Cape Town, I have options to stopover in London or Johannesburg. Of course, I’d be mad not to take the opportunity to go visit another new location especially when the price is exactly the same whether I stop off or not.
I could even go for the multi-stop flights travelling from Manchester to Sydney via Hong Kong and returning via Singapore. This way I get to visit yet another city at very little cost.
I remember the first time I did this and could not believe my luck when I bagged a few days in Fiji en route to New Zealand followed by a few days in LA on the way back. It’s a great way to visit a country for less and tick another country off your giant travel map.
You can take advantage of this whether redeeming points or paying cash so you don’t need to have a huge stash of points to book these. Great news for anyone just starting on their travel hacking journey.
Booking Reward Flights
Created by Andy of Economical Excursionists, this tool allows you to quickly search for the best award deals for your chosen destination. You will then need to navigate to the relevant website to book.
You can also elect for a personal consultation with this travelling duo and let them take care of the research for you in exchange for a small fee.
Finding the best non reward fares
I appreciate you may wish to earn airmiles but you want the best fare too right? Assuming you are not using miles to book a reward fare, I recommend using a flight search engine to seek the best deals. You can easily add the flights to your loyalty program afterwards to be sure of earning points.
There’s a few great ones to select from. How about Tripstreak, a new search engine, which even shows you how many reward points you will earn at the same time?
Skypicker (now known as Kiwi)
Or you can choose Skypicker, a site which has a cool map feature allowing you to set a budget and find destinations within a particular geographical area.
Google flights allows you to search on a similar basis to Kiwi picking the month of travel, any destination (or narrowing it down to a region) and see results on a map.
Sites like Matrix ITA allows you to search for flights to destinations and include flights to cities nearby so you can take advantage of hidden fares but do search for each route independently. The screenshot shows you an example of how this works.
Booking hidden city fares
This may sound like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and to be fair, it’s something the airlines don’t want you to know about.
It involves booking a flight from A to C which transits in B. You actually want to visit B but the cost of the fare to B is more expensive than the cost of the fare from A to C so you book the ticket to C and jump off in B.
There are a few problems with this as some carriers simply cancel your entire ticket if you fail to take the first flight. For instance we travelled from Manchester to the Maldives via Dubai and missed our flight to Dubai. When we tried to call to rearrange we were advised that the entire flights had been cancelled.
In the example above therefore, travelling from A to C is fine if you have booked a one way ticket however if you plan to return via plane and miss the flight from C to B you could find yourself offloaded. So if you do decide to risk this strategy, be sure to book one way tickets only.
I say risk because booking hidden city fares is usually in breach of the terms and conditions of the airlines because they want to discourage the practice, but really how can they prove you deliberately booked an hidden fare or that you didn’t have a family urgency that happened to require you abandoning the remainder of your journey?
If you want to read more on this subject, you can read this article from View From the Wing.
Check your fare type
This is something to check before you click to buy. In reality, the cheapest fares are the ones with virtually no flexibility. If you want a fare allowing changes and upgrades using airmiles, then you will need to splash more cash.
For other flight terminology it may be worth familiarising yourself with, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking Basics from the Globetrotting Teacher.
This is a pretty awesome site which allows you to get an idea of how you might be able to obtain an upgrade in loyalty status for hotel and airline groups.
Lets say you have Hilton Gold membership and would like to use Marriott more often but don’t want to lose the perks of your gold membership, you could contact Marriott to request a status match. Statusmatcher allows you to check the likelihood of getting upgraded.
I’ve often wondered about this and am going to give it a try as frankly I hate the beds at the Hilton but love them at Marriott so would not be averse to switching allegiance.
So there you have it, some top tools and tips for booking flights and getting the best deals.
Have your say
I’m sure you guys have some great tools you also use. What other money saving tips do you have for flights? Be a gem and pop them in the box below as we would love to hear from you.
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