Everyone loves a bargain. Even the most ardent anti-capitalist campaigner, who abhors money and would, in an ideal world, live out their days on a commune with their fellow believers, is not going to turn down a buy one get one free offer on toothpaste. We’re only human. I still remember the electric feeling when I saw my local Sainsburys running a buy one get TWO free offer on Pringles, as they had to clear their stock before the new World Cup-related Pringoooals ones came in. What a Pringle-filled day that was.
And if you thought getting a Pringle-related bargain was good, then wait until you get a bargain on a flight – and there’s one man who knows more about that than most.
London-based American Jack Sheldon is the founder of Jack’s Flight Club, a newsletter which goes out to 72,000 subscribers, who receive one weekly deal if they sign up to the free service, or up to five (plus other perks) with a £35 annual membership. His eagle eye has found fares such as a £248 return trip from London to Tokyo, Edinburgh to Shanghai and back for £212, London to Reykjavik for £45 return and the daddy of them all – an £18 fare from London to Belize.
So how does he manage to find this stuff? Well, with a few tricks and a lot of work. Step this way for his best advice:
Set alerts for destinations and be flexible
Set up a Google alert for a particular route and be open to a range of dates that you could travel. “Put in particular dates and then you should see a button/switch that says ‘track prices’. Enter and track a few different dates for best results. Set an email alert for price changes on those dates. If you are flexible, I would enter 10 different dates and set an alert for each one. Try a vague search by continent on Google flights. Change the month of travel and see if anything strikes you as interesting.”
Look for mistakes
Sometimes, companies can make mistakes and put out accidentally cheap prices. “The best I've seen has been an £18 mistake fare to Belize. The best I've taken has been a £112 single-stop round trip fare to Bali. It's a special feeling walking onto a flight knowing most everyone else paid five to eight times more than my fare.”
However, airlines don’t always honour these mistakes – so Jack recommends waiting a week before booking your accommodation.
Do your research
“Once you find a cheap fare on Google there are a number of other places to look to make sure its genuinely the best deal. Momondo picks up fares from the cheapest agents. Another option for those that are very flexible with the amount of stop-overs is lesser-known kiwi.com. They search a lot more options for each route than even Google and Skyscanner does. The deals I send out tend to be a max of one stop unless it's a vastly discounted fare on a two-stop long-haul.”
Use local sites
“If you're booking with a foreign airline, always log into their local sites to see if you can get a cheaper price that way. They often will offer lower prices for locals, but it is perfectly legal to book using that method.”
You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as TunnelBear, to do this.
“Depending on how often your travel plans change, it may make more sense to always book directly with an airline.”
Find the booking sweet spot
“Last-minute deals aren't going to be very common as airlines try their best to take advantage of business travellers and hike up their last-minute rates. Six to 12 weeks in advance is the sweet spot, but it varies greatly. For peak and holiday seasons, I recommend looking just as the flights start showing up (typically 11-12 months in advance).”
However, if you can’t be bothered to do this yourself – get Jack to do it instead.
Oh, and keep an eye on Sainsbury’s next May – you can thank me later.