Timing can be key. The last-minute flight for buttons is the holy grail of travel, but waiting can prove costly. The general rule is prices go up incrementally as the date of departure nears. According to Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary, booking a flight six to eight weeks before departure is the way to get the best deal, and his claim is supported by data from independent travel companies. But there are other views out there too. There is one school of thought which suggests that airlines’ automated systems dump blocks of unsold seats on Wednesdays between midnight and 1am in the time zone of their home city. So if you’re flying Ryanair to Spain, be online at that time, or if you’re off to Australia with Qantas, look at lunchtime Irish time on the Tuesday. We can’t say if it works, but it is worth a try. It is also worth trawling the internet looking for insider info on whatever airline you are looking to book with.
Erase your browser history when starting your search. A persistent online rumour suggests that the more you visit an airline’s website and look up a particular fare, the higher the prices go. The conspiracy theorists blame cookies – the small pieces of computer code track us as we surf the web. Cookies can tell an airline how interested we are in a particular fare and how likely we might be to pay more. Airlines repeatedly rubbish this theory, but we have heard talk from too many readers over many years to dismiss it out of hand.
Whatever about cookie monsters pushing prices up, the day you fly will make a difference. Holidaymakers tend to fly at weekends and business travellers mostly fly on Mondays and Fridays, so the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The month you fly can also make a huge difference to the price. November is the cheapest month to travel from Ireland, while July is by far the most expensive, for obvious reasons.
When making a booking, bear in mind you don’t have to take the same airline to and from your destination. The days of getting cheaper flights when booking return are long gone, particularly if you are flying short haul, and it is quite possible that it will work out cheaper to fly out with Aer Lingus and home with Ryanair or vice versa.
Broaden your horizons. When flying long haul, most of us look at Irish and British airports. But Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt often have much better deals, and can be cheap to get to. Helsinki and Finnair are also worth a look, as there are a large number of connections from there – particular to the Far East. And look at travel-specific search engines such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo to see what deals they throw up.
Don’t blow your savings on sky-high parking charges. Always ask yourself if you would be financially better off taking a cab or a bus, and if you do drive, make sure you pay for your parking well in advance and pack like a ninja to avoid unnecessary charges on that score.