It takes a long time to plan a trip but more often than not it’s worth its while. Obviously (for me) the purpose of planning is to find the best value (flight, accommodation, food) and get the best experience and culture out of the places visited. If my memory serves me right, the only time I was on a ‘package holiday’ I was probably 18. It was in Greece, where there was nothing Greek about the place, nor there were any local people living there as they vacated the whole town after the summer season. Nice. Since then I tried to plan everything ahead myself, research and choose the best places to stay and try to find the ‘local flavours’. For some it might take the element of surprise away, but I keep being surprised (in a bad and in a good way) anyway.
Assuming that I have a destination in mind I look for flights first. I start with Skyscanner http://www.skyscanner.net and Kayak http://www.kayak.com to get a rough idea what airlines fly there and what are the possible connections. Mind you, low-cost airlines (I.e. Ryanair, Norwegian, WizzAir) are not always displayed there.
I always compare the prices directly on the airlines’ websites (and I usually book directly too). Prices often differ between airlines on the same flight on the co-shared flights. For example, the same return flight from Dublin to San Francisco on American Airlines was cheaper on their partner airline Iberia, even though it was operated by American Airlines…
I also check the website of the destination airport. It shows what airlines actually operate there and gives you the idea where to look next. The airport’s website is also a great source of practical information how to get to/from the airport into town..
When it comes to low-cost airlines I try not to book connecting flights to avoid missing the next flight and ending the trip there and then… With commercial airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways and Scandinavian Airlines the are more chances to get to your destination eventually. Sometimes 24 hours later flying through 4 different airports but getting there (it really happened). Speaking from experience, there are more chances to get to your destination on-time together with your luggage when flying Ryanair than any other airline (last year the Christmas gifts arrived 2 days after me…).
Usually the price is the main factor. When looking for a flight I need to know whether I need luggage. For example if I’m flying home for two weeks during Christmas then I need stuff, a lot of stuff . This year, as every year during Christmas, for this very reason I chose commercial airline over low-cost one as there was 23kg included in the ticket price and the overall ticket with luggage worked out much cheaper this way. I chose a flight with a stopover (and extra legroom, comfy seat, free coffee and Euro Bonus Miles) over a direct one, hoping that this year the gifts and clothes will arrive at the same time as me. If I go for a city break or a short trip I put priority on the duration of the flight or the most suitable time of the day over the price (within reason…) and I don’t check-in the bag anyway.
Any suggestions on finding the best value flights (without being too flexible on dates)?
To be continued.