With holidays back on the agenda, we can’t wait to get back to beach-hopping, city-exploring and nature-gazing in our favourite overseas destinations. Forgotten how to find cheap flights after nearly two years of UK-only holidays? We’ve got your back. We’ve brought together 14 top tips to help you find the cheapest flights and discounted airfares when flying from the UK in 2021, including error prices and other sneaky travel hacks!
1. Travel off-peak
There’s no magic trick to predicting flight prices in advance, but we know airlines adjust prices according to demand. Flights will almost always be more expensive around popular seasonal events—think school holidays, the week before Christmas, Bank holiday weekends—so it pays to skip the crowds and opt to fly at off-peak times. If you’re travelling within the UK and Europe, the cheapest months to travel are:
- September–early December
As well as skipping the most popular seasonal events, you’ll find cheaper airfares if you opt for midweek flights and those at less sociable hours. A late night departure might sound like a drag, but if you can get straight to your accommodation and sleep before your first proper day on holiday, it’s not a bad trade-off for a significantly cheaper flight.
Whether you’re searching for flights on TUI, Skyscanner or Expedia, check the calendar view to find the most affordable fares, and don’t discount flying on major holiday days like Christmas or New Year’s Eve if you’re on a tight budget.
2. Be flexible with flight locations
Check nearby departure airports and destinations to score the best deal. You could cut flight prices by up to 50% by selecting a different airport to fly to and from, leaving plenty of cash left over for an extra train or coach ticket. If you’ve got a European trip on the horizon, check out the options leaving from Manchester or Birmingham over London airports—you can bag super cheap travel to these destinations with Flixbus or National Express from anywhere in the UK.
3. Find airline error fares
Technical glitches and human error can lead to crazy-cheap flights with major airlines. These “error fares” can be tricky to find, but we’ve seen incredible offers like London to Los Angeles for £39 (one-way) and London to Tokyo for £248 (return) in the past. If you're in the know about where to find airline error fares, you can save yourself hundreds—or even thousands—on flights!
The easiest way to find these glitches is by signing up to a dedicated error fare newsletter like Jack’s Flight Club, which has a whole team of fare-finders searching for these slip ups. You can also search for error fares yourself using the “to everywhere” function in Skyscanner’s searchbar—the cheapest prices to each destination will show up automatically.
The golden rule with error fares? Book them ASAP. These are usually only live for a few hours before the mistake is realised, so act quickly if you find an error fare that fits your schedule.
4. Set up travel alerts
We’d also recommend setting up price alerts on Google Flights—you can do this with the “track prices” option for your favourite destinations. You'll be notified if an error fare or price drop comes up, or if a price is likely to increase in the coming days. You can add alerts for as many destinations as you’d like, which is useful if you’ve got a favourite holiday spot or overseas family you’d like to visit.
5. Browse in Incognito
You’ve been checking available flights for weeks; then, when you go to book, the price has skyrocketed. We’ve all been there—but this trick could save you from forking out for the inflated price.
By ticking the “accept all cookies'' popup on a booking website, you’re giving the website access to your browsing info. Airlines adjust prices based on demand, so if you visit the same page multiple times, the booking site may hike up the price you’re advertised to encourage you to book ASAP.
You can combat this by browsing in ‘Incognito’ or ‘Private’ mode, which block websites from accessing your cookies in the first place. In Google Chrome or Safari, this is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. In Mozilla Firefox, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”.
6. Book a package holiday
Online travel agents allow you to buy flights, hotels and car hire as a package deal, offering considerable discounts for booking it all together. It’s worth comparing the overall cost of a package holiday to the estimated price if you book each element of our trip separately—don’t forget to take booking fees and hire charges into account.
Package holidays also give greater protection if travel restrictions change due to the pandemic—TUI currently offers free changes on all bookings, so you won’t be out of pocket if you can’t fly. With plenty of all-inclusive beach holidays, city breaks and multi-destination trips to choose from, you’re bound to find a package deal that works for you! We've rounded up a few of our faves in our guide to TUI package holidays, if you're after some inspiration.
7. Check other currencies
The British Pound (£) is a relatively strong currency, so you can sometimes find cheaper fares just by swapping to euros or dollars to book a flight. Ryanair often advertises £39.99 return tickets in the UK while advertising the same routes as €39.99 in Europe, which would score you £6 back if you book in euros—enough for a pint at the airport! Most booking sites allow you to select your currency manually, and don’t forget to browse in ‘Incognito’ or ‘Private’ mode to block your location information.
8. Use multiple search engines
It pays to shop around if you’re looking for cheap flights—but this doesn’t have to be an arduous task. We’d recommend combining searches on Google Flights, a price aggregator like Skyscanner and a package holiday provider like TUI to make sure you’re getting the best deal—here’s why:
With Google Flights, you have the option to create unique searches with a range of different filters, using the map or calendar tool to identify the best destinations and cheapest travel dates. This is handy if you’re not set on a location yet—you’ll easily find the most affordable routes and dates currently available.
Price aggregator sites like Skyscanner list the prices offered by each airline and prices for the same flight offered by travel agents and smaller holiday providers. If you’ve found a great holiday through Google Flights, it pays to check Skyscanner to see if you can find the same route advertised cheaper through a different provider.
Package holiday providers like TUI offer both affordable flight-only fares and all-inclusive holiday deals: check here for budget-friendly options that won’t necessarily show up on Skyscanner.
9. Check for discount codes
As travel restrictions ease, plenty of airlines and holiday providers are offering money-off deals to sweeten the deal. Check out our flight vouchers to see some of the great deals on offer, including free gift cards and £30 off selected bookings.
10. Find free places for kids
After a cheap and cheerful family vacay? Shop savvy to find free or discounted flights, accommodation and activities for kids. With TUI’s free kids' places tool, you can find package deals which allow one child in your travel party to holiday for free! This includes the flight, hotel stay, food and drink and any transfers included in your booking. It’s not just for under 5s, either—TUI’s free places can be used for kids up to the age of 16.
11. Make the most of student and NHS discounts
Student and key worker discounts aren’t just for online shopping! Loads of airlines and travel companies have special offers or money-off deals to help you save. Student Universe and Etihad both offer special deals for students, and TUI offers £100 off for NHS workers through the ‘holidays for heroes’ scheme.
12. Book flexi fares
Looking for the cheapest possible flight? It may save you more in the long run to book with an airline that has a flexible booking policy, even if it’s a few pounds more expensive. With changing restrictions and pre-flight testing now commonplace, it’s worth the peace of mind that you won’t be out of pocket if your circumstances change!
Holidaymakers have a legal right to a full refund in the case of a cancelled flight—but this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to change your flight in the case of illness, or if the Government updates its Green, Amber and Red lists.
Look for flexible bookings so you easily change your flight date, time and location at no extra cost. We’d recommend TUI and British Airways for no-fuss flight change policies.
13. Don’t be afraid of stopovers
The most efficient and convenient flight routes are, naturally, more expensive. If you don’t mind taking your time, opt for longer or even multiple stopovers to bag a bargain on your airfare. It’s about the journey, not the destination, right? This is especially true of long haul flights: if you’re travelling from London to New York, you’ll save around £120 on average with a stopover in Europe, versus a non-stop direct flight. Opt out of filtering by ‘fastest first’ when browsing online to make sure you find these bargain options.
14. Look for a cheap holiday, not just cheap airfares
Cheap flights are only one part of the equation—if you’re looking for an affordable European getaway, it pays to do a bit of research about the average costs in your destination city, too. Airfares to Norway, Denmark and Sweden can be notoriously cheap, but the cost of accommodation, food and drink in these countries is significantly higher than Poland, Latvia or Estonia, for example! Websites like this city break price index can give a helpful overview of the average cost in different locations to help you make an informed decision about which cheap and cheerful holiday to go for.
Found your bargain flight? Save on holiday essentials with vouchercloud:
Use our comparison tool to find the cheapest travel insurance for overseas holidays. You’ll get a £5 Gift Card for Amazon, Tesco or Just Eat when you purchase a travel insurance policy through vouchercloud compare!
Check out our guide to countries with the cheapest Airbnbs to find affordable holiday destinations with great accommodation options.
Don’t forget to check our last minute holiday vouchers for some spontaneous savings.
Feeling fancy? Check out our guide to the best value wine & cheese in Europe (spoiler: it's not France)!
While you're at it, take a look at our roundup of the best luxury holidays on a budget to find your dream getaway for less!