Flight-Delayed's travel tip #7: Booking flights and trips
Friday, July 19, 2013
Unfortunately there are a lot of traps you're at risk of falling into when booking a trip (online). To save you from that, Flight-Delayed has compiled a few handy tips as part of our summer travel guide. Knowing where to find cheap flights and what to keep in mind when you do will certainly not hurt. Avoid holiday horror!
Tip 1: The cheapest plane tickets - where can you find them?
Naturally, there are plenty of websites around that offer holidays and flights. But how to determine what to do and what not to do? Here are two useful tips to start off with. Cheaptickets.com compares airfares from every airline around the world and shows you its search results in an easy-to-use format. And the site also enables you to book your hotel or rental car at the same time.
A second example of a site that allows you to compare prices is Skyscanner. Skyscanner is 100% independent, and searches more than 1000 low-budget airlines and charter flights. You can select different airport to compare prices, which may save you a lot of money, considering smaller airports often charge less in airport taxes. Do you prefer searching for flights on your mobile device? Both websites have their own app!
Tip 2: Check if the travel organisation is certified
A lot can go wrong with your ticket or trip. That's why it's a good idea to look into an organisation before you book your trip with them. One way of doing that is by checking which logos are listed on a website. Travel organisations can join several associations, which gives you the assurance that your money and trust is in good hands.
One such organisation in the UK is the Travel Trust Association. The TTA is a travel trade association that aims to protect customers with financial protection. Travel agents, tour operators and travel organisers can become members of the TTA. Should one of these members financially fail or cease trading, the Travel Trust Association will liaise with the suppliers and tour operators to ensure that the holiday goes ahead unaffected. If for any reason this is not possible, they then administer a claim for a refund of the passenger's money.
Another important organisation in the UK is the ABTA, or the Association of British Travel Agents. The ABTA also offers financial protection, gives consumer advice and helps in dispute resolution. ABTA members are committed to following the Association's code of conduct, including fair terms of trading, so it's a safe choice to book your holiday with an ABTA agent.
Interestingly enough, the two websites mentioned above aren't member of the TTA or ABTA. Cheaptickets' website does include mention of TRUSTe, which ensures you that it is a trusted website and that your customer and payment data will be handled in a safe and responsible manner. So buying a cheap trip through a website is fine, as long as you're aware of the terms and potential risks.
Tip 3: Vacation packages or independently booked elements?
What's easier than booking a trip fully inclusive, all in one place? Benefit from discounts offered with vacation packages, for instance booked with Expedia. This website, counting as one of the largest travel agents in the world, allows you to compose your own trip from separate elements. So save money by booking your hotel, flight and rental car at the same time: thanks to special deals Expedia has with hotels, airlines and other companies, you will get better deals than when you would book each element individually.
Another hugely popular and very easy-to-use website for booking accommodations is Booking.com. This website also allows you to search within specific price categories, and also shows you travellers' reviews and photos of hotels (which is very useful, considering most hotels are nothing like the photos on their websites).
Tip 4: Book a last minute
Are you flexible? Don't like planning ahead and prefer to be surprised? Pack your suitcase when you feel like going away and go to your airport's last-minute desk! It's the ideal solution for the adventurous of heart. The last-minute ticket desk offers flights and holidays 365 days a year, at reduced rates. Would you prefer deciding on a destination at the last minute but not actually on the spot? Go to your travel agent and ask for reduced-rate trips with a departure date within six weeks.
Tip 5: Remove your cookies before booking a flight
The person sitting next to you on the plane paid the same as you did for you flight, right? Wrong! Airlines determine their ticket prices using something called 'yield management systems'. These systems allow airlines to predict the course of ticket bookings. If a flight is selling more quickly than anticipated, or if there are a lot of visitors searching for a particular flight, prices will rise. If ticket sales develop slower than expected, prices are sometimes lowered. The flight, after all, is not in demand, which forms a risk for the airline as they might end up with spare seats. So prices depend on how much the market is willing to pay.
In other words, determining when to make your move can be quite difficult. Fortunately, there are websites that can help you, for instance Bing Travel and Kayak.com. These sites offer predictions of rates for the largest cities, and the history of domestic and international flights. This helps you predict whether the price of your ticket is likely to go up or down. And did you also know the day of purchase of your ticket can affect the price? Most airlines publish their new rates and offers on Tuesday and Wednesday. So if you decide to buy on a Monday, chances are you could end up regretting not waiting 'til Tuesday..
One of the other ploys airlines use is this: if your return date is the same of the date of your outbound flight, the price of your ticket could be on the high side. That's because the system will be able to recognise that you are a business user. If you decide not to buy this ticket to, for instance, Barcelona that day but return to the website the next day to check the rates for a weekend away to Barcelona, the system will once again charge you the higher rate. After all, the system has already established that you are a business user, and will also be able to predict that you're desperate for a ticket based on the fact that you came back the very next day. So how can you avoid this? Clear the cookies from your browser before each new visit. Cookies allow a website to gain insight into you search behaviour, and save this date for any subsequent visits. Not sure how to remove your cookies? Follow wikiHow's easy guide.