We all love a great deal when it comes to travel, such as a fluke flight deal that gets you to Istanbul for €5, or a hack for getting extra baggage on the plane for free. That’s why we’ve (selflessly) watched hundreds of hours of travel TikToks, to bring you the best kept secrets in travel from airhostesses, budget backpackers and jet-setting CEOs. Some work wonders, others are too good to be true. Here’s what we’ve learnt:
Buy points for cheaper flights
This is a little technical, but if you can get it right, you may find yourself saving hundreds on long-haul flights. Many airlines allow you to collect air-miles, which can be redeemed for flight upgrades or even free flights. What you might not know, however, is that these air miles can often be purchased directly – or given out for free when you sign up for a credit card/other services, which can be a way of getting a big discount. In theory, for example, an €800 business class flight might be purchasable with 100,000 air miles but purchasing these air miles directly might cost you €400 – saving you a lot of money.
Does it work? Sort-of. You have to be a serious loyalty points geek to figure out how to get these deals, but your best bet is to sign up for an air miles credit card – such as from American Express. Type in “collecting air miles in [your country]” for advice tailored to your own nation, since most online articles tend to be US-focused.
Cash incentives to give up your seat
This one is a bit more common knowledge, but it’s always worth keeping in mind if travelling with flexible plans. Airlines will generally overbook their flights, since cancellations and no-shows are so common. However, on rare occasions, everyone shows up for the flight, meaning the stewards have to ask if there are any passengers that wouldn’t mind giving up their seats. If no-one volunteers, they start offering incentives; from vouchers, to hotel stays to hundreds of euros in cash! The trick is to get there before someone else, as they’ll always give the reward to the first volunteer.
Does it work? …yes! Although every flight company has a different policy, and some tend to be more generous than others.
Book on Tuesdays at midnight for the cheapest seats
According to professional traveler, flights are the absolute cheapest to purchase on Tuesdays at midnight, and most expensive on Friday evenings. If looking to go away for a week, look for flights that depart on a Wednesday and return on a Tuesday for the best deals. Not only that, but most people agree that 6 weeks before the flight is the optimum time for booking the cheapest seats.
Does it work? Yes! You may not see a massive difference, but travellers have certainly seen reductions in prices when booking on Tuesdays late at night. Tuesday mornings are also a good time, since airlines often launch their weekly discounts on Monday nights.
Treat the Stewards
This advice comes from an air stewardess herself, who shared that bringing a small treat for the stewards, whether it be a snack, a voucher for coffee or a small gift, will instantly get you special treatment from all the staff on the plane – making you feel like a celebrity! Since being an air steward is so exhausting, small tokens of support from customers can be greatly appreciated, and the favour returned. Whether it be free snacks, drinks or even an upgrade, it’s always worth getting the staff in your good books.
Does it work? That will really depend on the staff you encounter, as well as the quality of your gifts! However, it is common knowledge that stewards have a lot of power when it comes to giving out extra snacks, upgrading passengers and giving out preferential treatment.
Hide oversized luggage in a pillow
Since low-cost airlines have started charging for every bag you bring, savvy travellers are getting clever with their tricks for hiding oversized luggage. One option is to hide clothes in a pillow case, since pillows are a free carry on item. Another option for the girls is to fake a pregnancy belly (don’t do this through security! Remember: only the plane boarding desk cares whether the number of bags you have matches those on your ticket). Alternatively, grab a shopping bag from the airport and hide your packing items inside, since airport purchases also count as free extra baggage.
Does it work? Provided you don’t actually lie to border security(!), surreptitiously disguising your oversized luggage as you sail past the boarding gate shouldn’t get you in trouble and can save you $$$ on extra bags.
Always use incognito mode to book flights
Another top tip from @professionaltraveler, this one is commonly known but so often forgotten. Airlines can be very sneaky and use an algorithm that increase the price of plane tickets after it has noticed you looking at them for a while. For that reason, always use incognito mode, or a VPN when browsing tickets.
Does it work? It’s important to mask your IP address – switching from safari to chrome just won’t cut it. That’s why incognito mode works, as well as a VPN. There is also some evidence that the price appears lower if your IP address appears to be in the country that you are taking the flight from, thus making the VPN useful.
Buy group tickets individually
Another technical hack when it comes to booking flights, this one from @jessandkellygo relates to group bookings. Say you were booking seats for six people – she argues that it is best to book them individually, since airlines will always charge the whole group by the highest seat cost. So, if three seats were €100 and three were €80, all six would be charged at the €100 rate.
Does it work? Yes, although it obviously takes longer to book individually. Alternatively, groups larger than ten can often use a group booking service, that will get fliers a better rate for all.