I’m Jack Sheldon and in 2016, I founded Jack’s Flight Club Link opens in a new window to find the cheapest flights across the internet and help our members save money on travel.
Sadly, the last two years have been next-to-impossible for travelers everywhere. Between global uncertainty around COVID-19, and ever-changing travel restrictions, it’s understandable that many of us have been wary of going abroad at all.
But get ready. Things are going to change in 2022 - and fast.
There’s just one problem. We’re living through a cost-of-living crisis Link opens in a new window, which means we need to make every penny count.
So here are my top travel hacks for 2022. Make good use of them, and you’ll be able to spend your hard-earned cash on incredible experiences abroad - not on the price of a plane ticket.
Travel hacks you need to know
1. Get savvy with your searches
When you’re searching for a cheap flight, you’ll face a choice - you can use an airline’s website, Google Flights Link opens in a new window (which aggregates prices from all of the airline websites at once, as well as a few independent sites like Expedia Link opens in a new window), or you can use an Online Travel Agent (OTA) aggregator like Skyscanner Link opens in a new window, Momondo Link opens in a new window or Kayak Link opens in a new window.
These websites include prices directly from the airline *and* prices from smaller online travel companies.
Booking with one of these smaller companies can get you a decent discount, but it can also lead to potential problems down the line (for instance, they’ll usually charge you a pricey ‘service charge’ for any future changes to your flight). My advice is to do both at once: open up Google Flights and Skyscanner, do a thorough comparison of ticket price, including any extras like baggage, meals, etc. and then make your choice.
If the prices are about the same, go with the airline. If you can get a decent discount and you know you won’t change your mind about your flight dates, pick the travel agency.
2. Timing is everything
When is it cheapest to book your flights? Ask Google and you’ll find a million different articles, all disagreeing with each other. “Book on a Tuesday at midnight!” “Book at 12.45 on a Saturday!”
The truth is, airlines aren’t that predictable - the prices are changing according to their internal algorithms, not the day of the week - you also honestly don’t need to worry about clearing your cookies.
But thankfully, those algorithms are driven by passenger behavior, which means you can usually establish a good rule of thumb depending on the location. For instance, UK plane tickets to Las Vegas are cheapest six months in advance, and hen and stag parties begin driving up the price after that time. Meanwhile, flights to Los Angeles are cheapest five weeks in advance.
I’ve written up a full timings guide that covers different popular destinations here Link opens in a new window.
3. Get the most out of error fares
An error fare is exactly what it sounds like - somewhere in an airline’s creaking computer systems, a 1 becomes a 0 by accident, and suddenly a plane ticket is on sale online for far less than it should be.
These accidental savings can be ludicrous (we found a £39 ticket from London to LA last year for our members) and according to our calculations, airlines honour the price as shown in about 70% of cases.
Of course, 70% isn’t 100% - this isn’t a travel hack for anyone unwilling to take a risk. But you’ll be entitled to a full refund even in a worst-case scenario, So, if you’re feeling brave, make a flexible hotel booking and take a punt.
4. If you’re feeling really brave, wait until the last minute
But don’t expect prices to drop on every flight.
Most airlines can always rely on last-minute business travellers to fill their seats to major cities - which means they won’t bother dropping the price until they absolutely must.
But if you’re booking a flight with an airline like TUI Link opens in a new window which focuses solely on pre-booked holiday travel, you can usually rely on them to drop their ticket prices a few weeks ahead.
5. Won’t someone think of the children?
This is a niche one, but worth considering. Book a plane ticket during the school holidays and you’re going to get slaughtered on the price (and you’ll maybe have to sit next to some crying kids on the flight).
But those holidays take place at different times across the UK. This summer, Scotland schools will be breaking up for Summer at the end of June whereas England schools will break up at the end of July.
In other words, if you’re living in Northern England, see if you can catch a flight out of a Scotland airport in late August, when tickets will be cheaper again. Likewise, if you’re living in Scotland, consider heading south to an England airport during early July.
With a bit of careful planning and one extra connection you should still be able to end up with a nice little net saving in your bank account Link opens in a new window.
6. Shop savvy
Look for those handy discounts and offers and watch out for extra international costs.
If you’ve already got a Virgin Money current account Link opens in a new window, you’ve got this covered; M Plus Link opens in a new window and Club M account Link opens in a new window holders don’t pay any fees when spending on your card or withdrawing cash when abroad.
If you’re looking for ways to get more from your spending on the run up to your holiday, you can pick up cashback Link opens in a new window on everyday purchases with your current account. Not to mention the free Virgin Red rewards club Link opens in a new window that is available to everyone, whether you bank with Virgin Money or don't, that allows you to earn and spend points across the Virgin Family (including Virgin Atlantic) and beyond.
7. Protect yourself
Make sure you always check the cancellation policy before you book - hotels, flights, all of it. Book flexible every time; even if it costs you a little in the short term, it could save you a lot in an emergency.
Also, remember that the Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act Link opens in a new window is a way to make a claim against your credit card provider when a company that you’ve paid using your card has let you down.
And don’t forget to take out travel insurance when you book your trip, not the morning before you depart – as you’ll be covered from the day you take out a single-trip policy (or the date the policy starts, if you have an annual multi-trip policy). Look for policies that provide a level of cover for cancellation, emergency medical treatment and repatriation if you’re diagnosed with Covid-19 – you’ll get that as standard with Virgin Money Travel Insurance Link opens in a new window*.
That’s it! Best of luck with saving money on your travel in 2022 - and send me a postcard when you get to your dream destination.
*Please check the policy wording for full details and any exclusions.
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