How to get cheap flights and package holidays: expert tips including ‘Monday method’ and clearing cookies

Travel costs are now much more expensive than before the Covid pandemic

The cost of living crisis is taking its toll on UK households, with families facing huge energy bills, rising mortgage costs and soaring inflation.

To add to the money woes the cost of going abroad is also on the up, with flights for half-term holidays now 42% more expensive on average than before the coronavirus pandemic, new analysis shows.

Consumer group Which? found the typical price of a one-way ticket for the week-long school holiday in October booked six months, three months and six weeks in advance was £212. By comparison, a ticket for the same period cost just £150 in 2019 - a price difference of £62.

Which? analysed prices from data company Skytra for flights from six of England’s busiest airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted, Luton and Birmingham – to six popular destinations, including Alicante, Antalya, Dubai, Dublin, Malaga and Tenerife.

Travel costs are now much more expensive than before the Covid pandemic (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)

The largest price increase was seen on flights from Heathrow to Tenerife. Passengers booking six weeks before departure paid an average of £262 more each way than in 2019, adding £2,096 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four, Which? said.

The rising ticket prices has been blamed on rising fuel costs, a surge in demand for travel after Covid restrictions eased, and airport passenger caps.

Soaring travel costs may have deterred many families from booking a holiday this year, but for those hoping to get away on a half-term break it is possible to minimise the costs.

NationalWorld asked the travel experts for the best money-saving tips to land a cheap deal and save on the pennies. Listed are six golden rules to keep in mind before you book.

Book package deals on a Monday

Booking flights or a package holiday on certain days of the week can help to save you money, travel experts suggest.

Andrea Knowles, personal finance expert at vouchers.co.uk, recommends always booking a package holiday on a Monday to land the cheapest deals.

Ms Knowles said: “A former Thomas Cook insider revealed that they always give their best deals on a Monday, as the prices are sometimes dropped to try and entice customers who’ve had a quote at the weekend, but not completed a booking.”

Meanwhile, experts at Travel Lens said weekends should be avoided when booking a holiday as deals are typically more expensive, so it is better to book online midweek.

Travel costs are now much more expensive than before the Covid pandemic (Photo: Adobe)

Don’t book last-minute

Mercedes Zach, travel expert at ASAP Tickets, part of Trevolution Group, said there is “nothing better” than booking flights well in advance, particularly during high-demand periods like school holidays.

Seeking help from a travel agent and being flexible on travel dates can also help reduce costs.

Mercedes said: “It is always worth exploring travel bundles, as they may offer a better deal. To find the best deals, I would suggest either relying on a travel agent’s help or trying to be more flexible on flight days – there might be a much better deal available if you fly out a day earlier or later than planned.”

Last-minute deals can sometimes be cheaper but it means you have to pay the full amount in one go, whereas if you book in advance you have the option of paying smaller amounts in instalments.

A spokesperson at Travel Lens said: “If you book a holiday in advance, you’ll have the option of paying smaller amounts each month, so it’s worth keeping this in mind when choosing the best month for your holiday and maybe putting some money aside if a last minute holiday is a preferred option.

“A few simple tips include being flexible on the date and opting to fly at the start of the week instead of towards the end, book a year or even longer in advance so you can budget and manage your finances and see if you can get cheaper flights from other UK airports and not just your local one, as this can often save you money.”

Clear browser cookies or turn search mode to ‘private’

Clearing cookies on your browser before booking a holiday could save you from sneaky charges, according to Ms Knowles.

She explained: “If you’ve been searching for a holiday for a while, you should definitely clear your browser cookies before booking.

“Cookies are bits of data stored in your browser that store data of the websites that you’ve visited. Travel websites can then use this information to hike up prices simply because they know that you’ve visited their site and plan on booking.”

Nick Drewe, discount expert at WeThrift, agreed adding: “Turn your search mode to private or incognito.

“Booking sites will often track your browsing habits, to see how many times you check rates for particular dates and may increase the price of holiday packages so you feel the urgency to book.”

Consider flying non-direct

Not taking a direct flight to your destination may be a little more inconvenient, but making an extra stop in another country could actually save you money on flight costs.

Mr Drewe, discount expert at WeThrift, said: “The great thing about choosing this option is that flights are normally a lot cheaper and you have the chance to see another country on the way to your destination.”

Check comparison sites

Booking flights, hotels and transfers as a package may feel like the easier option when arranging a holiday, but it is worth investing time in checking comparison sites and a few different airlines to find the best deals.

Mr Drewe explained: “Checking comparison websites like SkyScanner you may find you can secure a better deal on your flights.

“Top tip - download the Chrome extension ‘CheaperThere’. When booking online through comparison sites, click on the extension, this will find you the best price for the flight or hotel.”

Visit destinations at cheap times of the year

Destinations can be cheaper to visit depending on the time of year, so it is worth bearing this in mind when choosing what to book.

Jon Callahan, founder and CEO of SkiJunket, said: “Some popular choices include Iceland in winter, Thailand during school holidays, and Puerto Rico during springtime.

“With regards to Europe, Spain is often considered affordable during the summer months while Italy can be quite affordable in the fall and winter.

“Asia tends to be more expensive during the warmer seasons but offers some great deals during colder months like December and January.

Mr Callahan said the Mediterranean coast offers good value for money in October if you are seeking sun and sand, while Africa has many beautiful destinations that are relatively affordable to visit.

Experts at Travel Lens added: “Demand for holidays during the summer months means prices can increase drastically, so it’s worth carrying out some research to discover destinations which are still appealing during the final months of the year.

“During the October half term, destinations such as Lanzarote and Tenerife will still experience temperatures of up to 26°C, so there are ways around going abroad but avoiding the most popular months.”