I scored an extra £250 in holiday spending money by cancelling and rebooking my flight, writes EMILIA SHOVELIN – here’s how you could too
It’s been two years, six months, and four days since I stepped off my short-haul flight back from Lanzarote in 2019, in what would be my last holiday for the foreseeable future.
When 2022 arrived – and brought with it more relaxed Covid restrictions – I was excited to get planning my first holiday in what felt like aeons.
I wasn’t alone. Eight million sun-starved Britons have already booked their holidays for this summer, with another 10million expected to follow.
But the rising cost of living and energy bills came knocking shortly after, and I found myself doubting whether I could justify my trip at all.
That was until I received an alert on my mobile phone, decided to take a risk and bagged myself a bargain.
I’ve been subscribed to alerts from the Jack’s Flight Club app for more than five years and prior to lockdown it was my go-to when in need of a holiday.
Each day, I receive a message featuring cheap deals for flights all around the world.
I have previously benefitted from return flights to Rome for £25, Iceland for £40, and aforementioned Lanzarote for £50.
When I came to book a flight to Dubai to visit family members – and with no deals to be found – I was forced to splash out £395 on a flight from Birmingham Airport.
I thought to myself, ‘I did what had to be done,’ and tried to ignore a hole in where my savings used to be.
That was until weeks later when I had my regular prompt from Jack.
Rebooking saved us cash – but it’s a risky business
I saw that there were much cheaper deals on flights to Dubai, and thought I’d made a huge mistake by rushing into booking my first holiday in more than two years.
That was, until my partner joked that we should cancel our flights and rebook them for the cheaper price.
After a quick check to ensure that our tickets were completely refundable if we cancelled, I decided to check the new price of the flights, for the exact time and day we had originally planned to leave.
Lo and behold! The price had dropped from £395 per person, to £270 per person.
Before I knew it, we had cancelled our old flights and booked the new ones, saving us £250 on our upcoming holiday.
Luckily, this paid off for us, but we risked paying double for our flights in the process. Prices can change at any moment, so this approach isn’t for the faint-hearted.
I decided to ask the experts if more travellers should consider cancelling their flight to get a better deal closer to the departure date, or if the move was simply too risky.
‘It’s rare for better deals to come up closer to the time of travel, but if you do see one then go for it,’ said Tristan Sire, the ‘chief flight finder’ at Jack’s Flight Club.
‘Be careful with airline terms and conditions – most of them will not refund you the difference if you change your flight to a cheaper one.
‘You can avoid this by cancelling for airline credit, but then you need to be sure you’re going to use the credit before it expires – most airlines give you around a year to use it.’
Did you get the best price on flights? How to check
With many holidaymakers feeling a bit out of practice, it can be hard to work out if you are getting a good price for your flights and accommodation.
What is Jack’s Flight Club?
Founded in 2016 by Jack Sheldon and Phil Wintermantle, Jack’s Flight Club started as an email newsletter and has since expanded into a mobile app focusing on helping subscribers find cheap flights.
Their team of ‘flight finders’ spend hours searching through online airfare systems and scouring for the absolute best flight deals out there.
There are currently more than 1 million members in the United Kingdom and Europe.
While their very best deals are reserved for paying subscribers, you can sign up for free and still get some good discounts.
On average, free members can expect 6-8 deals per month, while premium members can receive more than 40.
‘With short haul flights it’s easier to tell a bargain since you’re likely to already have a good idea of what a “standard fare” is for your country of choice,’ Sire said.
‘Long haul flights are a lot trickier, unless you’ve researched the route and airlines already. Plus, the prices can fluctuate much more.
‘Either way, Google Flights is a good tool to check if you’ve potentially found a bargain.
‘Most of the time you can see a chart of how the price for your flight has changed over the past few months.’
Meanwhile, apps like Jack’s Flight Club can also keep you updated on what types of bargains you can expect, when is the cheapest time for a holiday, last minute deals, from whichever airport is closest to you.
Sire added: ‘We share our deal history with members, so you can see what kind of fares our experts have shared in the past. Checking this will help you confidently book your holiday when you don’t know if the price is going to head up or down next.’
And if something seems absurdly cheap? Sire says the airlines will be sure to get in touch with you after you book if the fare has been offered in error.
‘If a price really is too good to be true, the airline or booking agent would get in touch with you quickly to say that your ticket is cancelled,’ he said.
‘This can happen with elusive “error fares” – although most of the time they won’t cancel, even if it was a genuine mis-price.’
Are flights cheaper on comparison sites or direct?
Previously, booking flights through Google or Skyscanner got you the best prices out there, but this may no longer be the case.
‘It’s getting more common these days for airlines to reserve the best fares for themselves,’ Sire said.
‘Some online travel agents on sites like Skyscanner do still offer cheaper tickets than the airline. The catch is that they try to make it back in fees later on.
‘It’s better to use them if you know you’re not going to need to make changes to your flight. Make sure to check if their add-on fees are competitive with the airline too, for example, if you need to add luggage.’
What time of year is best to book a flight?
There is a plethora of questionable advice on the internet that suggests booking your flight on the second Thursday of the month during a full moon is how you find the best price available.
But the experts say it doesn’t need to be that complicated.
Sire advised travellers to consider booking their holidays in November or January if possible.
‘Many airlines are having sales and competing heavily with each other,’ he said. ‘The day of the week that you book doesn’t generally influence prices.’
‘Generally speaking it’s best to book three to seven months in advance of when you plan to travel.
‘The most important thing is that you monitor the flight pricing so you can book when it drops – the window could only last a couple of days.’
You can set up price alerts to your chosen destinations on sites such as Google or Skyscanner to receive daily price updates.
If you aren’t sure where you’d like to jet off to, apps like Jack’s can keep you in the loop for prices everywhere.
Sire added: ‘Travel confidence is already on the way up and it seems unlikely to go down again – fingers crossed – so booking earlier than the masses is more important than ever if you’re hoping to get a deal on your holiday.’
Can you get cheaper flights for kids or students?
While most airlines charge a set price for a seat no matter who is occupying it, there are some that still offer discounts for both children and students.
‘Virgin Atlantic is particularly good for families with kids as they offer discounts for children up to the age of 16,’ Sire said.
‘Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) also regularly do promotions where kids fly free, plus they offer a ‘youth ticket’ with discounts for people between the ages of 12 and 25.
‘Students can often get discounts depending on the airline, usually perks like a free luggage add-on or 10 per cent off the ticket price.’
For those travelling with young children, sitting them on a parents’ lap – if practical – can also save a packet.
‘If you’re happy to have your infant under two years old sit on your lap for the duration of the flight, many airlines will sell you their ticket for 10 per cent of the cost of an adult ticket,’ Sire said.
Are package holidays cheaper than flights and hotels?
For my trip to Dubai I already had my accommodation sorted – so even though cancelling my flight was a risk, I didn’t need to worry about my whole holiday going up in smoke.
But for most, Sire suggests that package holidays are likely to be the best value for money when it comes to a sunny summer break.
He said: ‘Usually it’s a bit cheaper to book a package holiday, but it’s best to check by comparing them manually.
‘The package cost doesn’t tend to fluctuate as much as a flight price does – so if you do find a great flight deal for your destination you could be better off booking separately.
I’m in the process of planning a world trip for 2028, which means I’m spending a lot of time looking at flights and gauging prices.
It’s too early to start booking anything yet, but when the times comes I will definitely be making use of these discount travel tips.
Bonus travel tip
I asked Tristan one more question before letting him get back to sourcing travel bargains, and he revealed one secret travel tip that most people don’t seem to know about.
‘Airlines don’t consider a shopping bag from the airport to be part of your luggage allowance,’ Tristan said.
‘So you can slip a small handbag or laptop in after you finish your meal deal and avoid paying extra luggage fees.’
So there is no need to wear 15 layers under your duffle coat if your suitcase is over the weight limit.
Simply slip your extra things into a duty-free carrier bag to bag yourself a little extra room on your next flight.
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