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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Nine ways to slash the cost of your last-minute summer flights

Booking on a Tuesday, clearing internet cookies, and choosing Amsterdam over Malaga could help cut the cost of your flights, writes Louise McBride

Visitors to Maya Bay in Thailand
Visitors to Maya Bay in Thailand
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

The peak summer travel season will kick off in a few weeks - so if you haven't yet booked your holiday and are hoping to travel in the next three months, you could find it too expensive to do so. Playing by a few rules however could boost your chances of getting a good deal. Getting the best price on flights is a good start.

Book early on

Many travel agents and airlines update their offers at the start of the week - and then advertise those offers on Mondays or Tuesdays. So these days are often the best day to grab the latest deals or discounts.

Research by Skyscanner.ie, the global flight search website, has found that Monday is the cheapest day to book flights on. A spokeswoman for Aer Lingus says it generally announces sales and special offers on Tuesdays. Avoid booking flights at weekends as it could work out more expensive than if you booked mid-week. "Weekends may be a dearer time to book a flight, as a lot of people are on websites and booking flights," said Sarah Slattery, founder of the travel website, thetravelexpert.ie.

Travel off peak

You could save hundreds, perhaps thousands, by travelling in early autumn - as this is typically an off-peak travel time. For those willing to sacrifice nice weather and long days, travelling during the winter months is also usually cheaper. Off-peak seasons vary depending on the destination. The cheapest month to fly from Dublin to Bangkok is September while March is the cheapest month to fly to New York - and January is the cheapest month for flights to Amsterdam and Faro, according to Skyscanner.

Beware baggage fees

Take the cost of baggage into account when comparing flights, as any savings you think you're making with a particular carrier could be eaten up by baggage charges.

With Ethiopian Airlines' economy fare, you can check in two 23kg pieces of luggage for free if flying to the United States. With Norwegian Airlines' cheapest fare (LowFare), there is no check-in baggage allowance included, so you must pay a fee if checking in luggage. If flying with Norwegian Airlines from Dublin to New York this summer, it will cost €160 to check in a bag for your return flight under its LowFare rate. The more expensive fares from Norwegian Airlines have a check-in baggage allowance. "Be careful with baggage and in-flight food if travelling with low-cost airlines," said Slattery. "Most people shop when they travel to the US so they usually need to check in a bag."

Tourists on Maya bay beach, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Krabi, Thailand
Tourists on Maya bay beach, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Krabi, Thailand

Don't group book

It may work out cheaper to split up a booking if travelling with a group of people, rather than to book the entire group at the same time. "If flying with four or five different people, check the price for one or two people," said Clare Dunne, managing director of The Travel Broker. "You could end up with a cheaper price if you book for three people first - and then two people."

Try your travel agent

Don't overlook your travel agent for flights, as many agents have flight-only deals. "Tour operators like TUI and Sunway have paid in advance for their flights and they often have to sell them off cheaply," said Slattery.

Travel agents can also have good last-minute deals on flights and packages - for those who have the freedom to book a holiday a week or two in advance and who are flexible on destination. "Typically with airlines, the nearer you get to the date, the more expensive the flight," said Dunne.

Remember, you could get your accommodation and flights through a travel agent for the same price that you would only get your flights for if you book directly with an airline. This could save you hundreds (or more) on accommodation.

Sunway recently advertised a special offer of three nights in Dubai in September for €525 per person sharing. That price included return flights to Dubai and three nights accommodation in a three-star hotel - based on two adults sharing. "You'd easily pay €500 per person for a return flight from Dublin to Dubai - if booking directly with an airline," said Slattery. Tropical Sky recently advertised a week's holiday in Thailand's Krabi province in August and September for €1,169 per person - based on two people sharing. That price included seven nights accommodation in a five-star resort, flights, transfers and checked baggage. You could pay more than €1,000 for a return flight to Bangkok from Dublin in August - if booking directly with an airline.

Try late August

You may still be able to get a good last-minute deal for a holiday in mid-June - or in the last week of August. "The last week of August is a great week for deals as a lot of schools start early -or else parents have that week off at home to prepare for back-to-school," said Slattery. "The first week of September is also good for deals."

Avoid the crowds

Being open to alternative or less traditional holiday spots could slash the cost of your trip. For example, holidaying in the Netherlands, Germany or Belgium this summer could save you a few hundred euro - because flights into those countries are often much cheaper than flights into tourist hotspots in Spain, France and Italy.

In Aer Lingus' latest summer sale, Amsterdam and Hamburg were the cheapest cities to fly to - with the price of one-way flights from Dublin starting from €35. Brussels and Munich were the second cheapest - from €40 one-way. However, flights to Spain, France and Italy were up to three times the price. A one-way flight from Dublin into Catania in Sicily started from €124, while one-way flights into Tenerife started from €122. One-way flights into Perpignan in the south of France started from €120. So being flexible with your destination could save you a few hundred euro (or more). Should you have your heart set on Spain, holidaying in northern Spain should work out much cheaper than southern Spain.

Clear cookies

Deleting the cookies on your computer after you're searched for flights could stop you losing out on a good deal. Internet cookies can track how people use a website - and that information can then be used to send targeted adverts to users of websites. Some travel experts believe that a number of airline websites track your cookies if you've searched multiple times for a flight - and then raise the price accordingly. "If you don't clear your cookies or don't log on as a different user, you could get different results [on price] than if you did," said Dunne.

Get price alerts

Price alert tools, such as those offered by Skyscanner, Kayak.ie and Google Flights, will send you an email when the price of a flight ticket goes up or down. So it's worth signing up to these tools to ensure you hear about a good deal the minute it comes on stream.

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