If you’ve set your heart on a specific destination, the early booker gets the deals. 18 weeks in advance is best for long-haul, seven weeks in advance for short-haul according to Skyscanner.
The site has an interactive tool showing the best time to book along with an option to track prices as well. Or download the Hopper app which also shows when flights tend to be cheapest.
Unpopular days and times are unsurprisingly better for a bargain — starting a holiday on Tuesday can be a third cheaper than a Friday, according to Which?, while returning on Sundays can be almost twice as pricy.
Mixing and matching airlines or airports can pay off too and the same goes for non-direct flights. Make the most of stopovers on longer flights with airline deals; Icelandair and Singapore Airlines have short stay offers so you get an extra mini break.
Even the day you book can make a difference: weekends and Tuesdays are both tipped as the best time to search, while Fridays are worst for finding good fares.
Always switch on private browsing when you make the booking, as cookies will register that you’re a return visitor and prices could jump in response.
Places to stay
A mix of loyalty and opportunism pays off for accommodation. Sign up for hotel chains’ newsletters or social media to get early booking information and special discounts, while loyalty schemes could turn into upgrades as well as cutting the cost of your stay.
Sites like BeTheFirst let you stay at luxury hotels during their soft launch period, before officially opening; there may be occasional teething troubles, but you can enjoy five-star for less.
Or if you’re planning a weekend break, check out hotels focused on business travellers. They may not be boutique style but you can find budget prices for decent quality as demand drops outside weekdays.
Cut the costs
There are savings to be made on the rest of the trip too — book your airport parking as soon as the flight is confirmed, for example, for the best rates.
Don’t pay over the odds for currency either. Choose a prepaid currency card which you can load up when exchange rates are good, and buy money in advance rather than at the airport. Or consider a credit card with no overseas charges to use once you arrive too.
If you use any card abroad, always pay in local currency if you’re given the option as you’ll get better rates than picking sterling.
There are great discounts to find on city break tours in particular. Research city passes before you go — depending on your plans, these could save a fortune plus you may get to skip queues.
Many cities run free walking tours, for an optional tip at the end or the Global Greeter Network arranges tailored tours from locals, in exchange for transport/food expenses — as well as a unique insight into your destination.
Wherever you’re going, whatever activities you’re booking, it’s worth using one of the major cashback sites. You might not save money on this trip, but at least there’s a payout to put towards the next one.