12 flight booking hacks every traveller should know
Every frequent traveller has their own tricks for booking the best and cheapest flight possible.
Luckily, some were willing to share their secrets on a Quora thread that asked, "what are the best flight booking hacks?"
1. Look at all your options.
Quora user Saran Udayakumar, who has 45,000 miles in the sky under his belt, says that when he's booking flights he makes sure to check travel search engines like Kayak, Priceline, and Skyscanner, as well as airlines' websites.
Going that extra step ensures getting the best deal out there. Plus, many travel search engines allow you to set price alerts for certain flights, which is a great way to keep track of fares.
However, keep in mind that when you book directly through an airline's website and your flight gets cancelled, you'll have an easier time dealing with the airline — and getting rebooked — than you would if you had booked through a travel search engine.
2. Don't be opposed to stopovers
This may seem like an obvious one, but nonstop flights are typically more expensive than flights with layovers. So if you're looking for the cheapest possible option, Udayakumar says to consider booking a flight with a layover.
Even better, look for a layover that's long enough to allow you to leave the airport — it's like taking two trips in one.
3. Clear your cookies or open an incognito tab before booking.
According to Udayakumar, travel agencies and airlines often use your computer's cookies to determine what kind of flight you're interested in booking. Once they discover what you're looking for, they will often raise prices accordingly.
To prevent this from happening, you can either clear your browser cache or just open an incognito tab before starting the booking process.
4. Book a connection you know you're not going to make.
This hack is better suited for risk takers, as it involves gambling with airlines. Udayakumar suggests booking a cheap flight with a super short connection time that's almost impossible to make.
Before you even board your first flight, tell a gate agent that you're worried about not making your connection, and ask them if they can rebook you onto a (more expensive) direct flight to your destination.
If it works, you just scored yourself a direct flight for a great price. If it doesn't, well, you're stuck with a connection you probably won't make.
5. Don't only rely on big-name airlines when flying internationally.
According to Quora user Patrick Keane, a frequent flyer with Star Alliance and a Lufthansa eXperts member, some airlines you probably haven't heard often offer the cheapest fares for transatlantic flights.
Keane suggests checking WOW Air, Norwegian, and XL Airways France.
6. Fake your computer's IP address to fudge your location.
Flight prices differ widely from country to country, says Quora user and avid traveller Anya Mary. Often fares are cheaper in countries with lower living standards, so pretending you're booking from, say, India, instead of the US, can make all the difference.
There are two ways to go about this. Let's say you're flying from LA to Delhi, you can either go to www.airindia.in (instead of www.airindia.com) — this also works for travel search engine sites — or mask your computer's IP address by using an Indian VPN to make it seem like you're located in India. Just know that you'll be purchasing that flight in rupees, so make sure to use a card without foreign transaction fees.
There is also the risk of accidentally booking a "resident-only" fare — meaning it can only be used by locals — but more often than not nobody checks to make sure that you are, in fact, a local.
7. Book a flight with a layover that's actually your end destination.
Quora user Gaurav Srivastava refers to this hack as "hidden city ticketing." Here's the example Srivastava uses to explain the trick: Say you're flying from New York to Chicago and you find a cheap flight that goes from New York to Kentucky, but with a layover in Chicago (chances are a flight like this will be cheaper than a nonstop flight from New York to Chicago). Book that flight and then just disembark in Chicago (don't board the connecting flight to Kentucky).
While doing this isn't technically illegal, many airlines don't allow it, and will even fine you.
8. Look out for "fifth-freedom flights."
Srivastava explains that the "fifth freedom refers to the right for an airline to carry revenue traffic between two foreign countries as part of a service connecting the airline's home country."
Here's what that means in layman's terms: Generally, airlines fly between their home country and other countries, but occasionally, because of layovers, they will have flights between two foreign countries. For example, a flight operated by Singapore Airlines from New York to Singapore with a layover in Frankfurt is a fifth freedom flight, because neither New York nor Frankfurt are the airline's home country (that would be Singapore).
Why look out for these? While not necessarily cheaper, they are often better airlines and newer aeroplanes than what you would usually find on these routes.
Airlines are usually not allowed to list these fares on their website or on travel search engines, however, Fly Pointy End has a comprehensive list of such flights.
9. Book an early flight when you can.
Turns out waking up at the crack of dawn for an early flight is worth it. Quora user Dan Birchall highlights a few reasons why.
First, if your flight is cancelled you can easily be moved to a later flight. If you book the last flight of the day and it gets canceled, you're stuck until the next day.
Second, if you book a flight that gets you to your destination early, and that flight is oversold, you can volunteer to get bumped, and then get rebooked onto a later flight, while also receiving flight vouchers, upgrades, lounge access, or even cash.
10. Consider booking one way tickets and flying into and out of different cities.
While booking a round trip ticket in and out of the same city might seem like the easiest, most logical way to go, Quora user Jeff Mccoy says that it's not always the cheapest. Sometimes, booking two one way tickets that arrive in and depart from different cities can save you a lot of money.
For example, let's say you're flying from Chicago to Düsseldorf, Germany. Maybe you fly into Düsseldorf, but then fly back to Chicago out of Cologne, since the two airports are only about a 45 minute drive from each other. So make sure to always research nearby airports.
11. Search for one-person flights even if you're booking for multiple people.
If the first search you perform for a flight is for multiple seats, the airline might hike up prices, McCoy says. So instead, start by searching for a flight for just one person, and look into booking for multiple people later.
12. Use Points Loyalty Wallet to trade and/or buy points and miles.
"Trading or buying a few extra miles might be all you need to earn a travel reward," McCoy says.