11 things I wish I’d known before booking my last flight

They say travelling is a learning experience, and sometimes the lesson is how to be a more savvy traveller.

Every new flight is another chance to get better at hacking the system, saving money and finding the right flight for your trip. But it helps when you have insider tips for booking the best flight. Read on for tips to help you book that next flight and make it better than your last. Then let KAYAK help you find it.

Explore flights with our interactive price map

1. Think about your flight route when choosing a window seat

Hoping for a window seat with a view? Do some research before you choose your seat.
Hoping for a window seat with a view? Do some research before you choose your seat

The most exciting thing about a flight is the untold adventures awaiting you at your destination, but the flight itself is an experience to be enjoyed as well. When selecting your seat, think about where you’ll be flying and which side or section of the plane might offer the best in-flight experience. Flying on a hot and sunny summer afternoon? Opting for the side of the plane that’s not in direct sunlight might make for a more comfortable ride. On a night flight through skies with northern lights potential? Choosing the side of the plane that faces north for most of the trip might offer the greatest chance of aurora borealis spotting.

2. Many airlines offer short grace periods for correcting booking mistakes

Even pro travellers should check over their booking information, just to be sure. Sometimes, in your rush to book that perfect flight, overexcited fingers can misspell names, type incorrect dates, choose the wrong flights or the wrong destinations. But fear not. Many airlines and online booking sites will allow you to cancel, alter or correct your booking if you make the change right away, so it can pay to give your info one last read-through immediately after booking.

3. If you’re going to add extras, add them early

These days, many airlines are unbundling amenities and airfare costs, giving you more freedom to book only the features you want. This can mean travellers need to opt-in for things like checked luggage, in-flight meals and even carry-on luggage. This can happen during booking, at check-in, while boarding or in flight. If you know you’re going to want an in-flight pint en route to Dublin, or to check in a bag with full-sized sunscreen en route to Mallorca, opt-in as early in the booking process as possible for the best price.

4. Know your connection

With a little prep, you’ll navigate connecting flights with ease.
With a little prep, you’ll navigate connecting flights with ease

If you’ve booked a flight with a connection, take a minute to get to know your layover while you’re in the process of booking. Double check how much time you’ll have to get from gate to gate (factoring in any changes in time zone). When you’re in the process of booking, sites like KAYAK will tell you how long you’ll have between flights, but it can be helpful to know a little about the airport. And when you’re mid-flight, we’ve got you covered too. KAYAK Trips imports all of your travel documents, helping you track all the segments of your trip from anywhere.

5. Check out KAYAK Explore for destination inspiration

If you’ve got a budget in mind but are open to time of year and destination, the KAYAK Explore tool can be a good way to, erm, explore your options. The interactive map allows you to input your departure airport and set filters for length of stay, budget and flight time, and then shows you travel options that meet your needs.

Check out our Explore tool

6. Be confident you’ve booked your flight at the cheapest time possible

Flight prices fluctuate significantly depending on both when you’re booking and when you’re travelling. But there are tools to help you be certain you’re flying and buying at the most wallet-friendly time. When starting a search, KAYAK’s multiple flexible date search options allow you to pull up airfare calendars, showing you which dates around your desired travel period offer the lowest prices. KAYAK Price Forecast crunches the numbers to recommend whether or not now is the best time to book your flights, by analysing search data to suggest whether prices are likely to go up or down. It’ll nudge you to wait a bit if it’s likely that more affordable options could pop up in the coming days or weeks. Give it a try when you search for your next flight.

7. Not all hand luggage is the same

Always check hand-luggage rules before heading to the airport.

Size and weight allowances differ for each airline, and on some of the low-cost carriers, you might have to pay extra for hand-luggage beyond a small backpack or handbag. Be sure to double check the restrictions for your airline, and know the measurements and weight of any items you’re bringing with you in-flight. The last thing you want is to be stopped at the gate and either slapped with an extra charge for overweight or oversized carry-on or inconvenienced by having to check your bag.

8. Consider booking two one-way tickets

The more you save on a flight, the more you’re able to put your money towards other exciting experiences while travelling. One creative way to find opportunities to save is by booking two one-way flights with different airlines, rather than a return flight with the same airline. That way you can get the most affordable option for each route. KAYAK calls these flights Hacker Fares. When you run a search to say, Bucharest, we show you options with different airlines that may result in a lower overall return trip cost. And, voila! Your wallet-friendly city break just got even more affordable. It’s always smart to compare your options when trying to find a really great price.

9. Factor in the cost of getting to the airport

Know your quickest (and cheapest) route to the airport.
Know your quickest (and cheapest) route to the airport

Flying into or out of alternative airports can be a great way to save. This is particularly true in large cities with many airport options, like London. But when calculating the savings offered by flying from the smaller, farther away airport, consider how much it will cost you to get there. If you score a more affordable flight but have to pay an expensive taxi fare to get to the airport, the pricier flight with the quick and easy commute might be the better choice.

10. Book an early morning flight if you’re worried about getting delayed

Worried about delays? Consider the first flight of the day.
Worried about delays? Consider the first flight of the day

Flight delays aren’t easy to predict, but if you’re travelling on often delayed routes or during times of the year when the weather might be a factor, opt for an early morning flight, particularly if you have to make a connection. The additional time will act as a buffer in case of delays, and if all goes according to plan, you’ll appreciate the extra time in your destination.

11. If things go wrong, know what’s in the small print

Delays, cancellations and lost luggage aren’t the kind of thing you want to be focused on when daydreaming about your upcoming getaway, but they can happen. When they do, it’s important to know if you’re owed compensation. When booking a flight, you sign a contract of carriage that often lays out the airline’s plan for how to handle these troubling travel situations. But, let’s be honest, we don’t always read every word on the page (we’re too excited to book that flight). So we’ve created a handy guide to air travel rights so you can find the right information.

Now that you’re a pro at flight booking, it’s time to get travelling and KAYAK is here to help. Start searching for flights at kayak.co.uk to put your knowledge into practice.