Airplane and airline hacks

29 Airline Hacks You Need to Know

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Air travel can feel like a big joke when you’re hit with high prices for everything from checked bags to in-flight meals. As someone who remembers the days of dirt-cheap flights, it can be frustrating to pay premium prices for the same experience. But don’t despair – there are still ways to save money on flights and make your travel experience more enjoyable.

Having spent several years traveling the world, I’ve so many airport and flight stories to tell. Along the way, I’ve also picked up some airline hacks that saved me both time and money. It’s only fair that I share these travel tips with you, so you too can travel smarter and cheaper.

9 Tips for finding the cheapest flights

1. Best Days to Book Flights

It is commonly believed that booking flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays can lead to lower fares, but this is not always the case. In fact, the cheapest days to fly will vary mostly depending on the route and airline. Some experts suggest booking flights on Saturdays, while others recommend avoiding weekends.

Check prices frequently, but avoid excessive checking as websites may increase prices based on user behavior (e.g., if you check every two minutes). Being flexible with your travel dates will help you snag the best deals and find the optimal days to book flights.

2. Master Online Flight Search

When it comes to airline hacks and saving money on flights, there are several online travel agencies and flight aggregators that can assist you. Popular sites such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kiwi, Kayak, and Expedia offer comprehensive search options and help you compare prices across multiple airlines to find the best deals. These platforms also usually provide the option to track prices over time, allowing you to monitor fare fluctuations.

Kiwi flight search and price alert setup example

I usually begin my search on Kiwi for an initial overview and then proceed to the airline’s website for booking. Often, prices tend to be slightly cheaper on the airline’s website. Anyway, it is generally recommended to book directly with the airline to avoid any potential issues later on.

Besides, airlines frequently offer sales and promotions throughout the year. These can include airfare discounts on specific routes, seasonal sales, and flash sales that only last for a few hours. To stay informed about these deals and find cheap airline fares, you can sign up for airline newsletters and follow them on social media. This will help you save money on flights.

3. Consider Alternative Airports

When searching for flights, it can be beneficial to consider alternative airports in addition to major hubs. Flying into smaller or regional airports can sometimes result in cheaper fares. However, factor in the cost of transportation to and from the airport when making your decision.

Take the time to check the availability and reliability of buses and trains that connect the alternative airport to your final destination. Ensure that they operate during your flight’s arrival and departure times.

Fun story: once, I wanted to save on flights and decided to fly from Paris-Beauvais. The flight was super early in the morning, and we planned to arrive late at night and just wait. Well, that didn’t happen; the airport closed at night, and nobody was allowed to stay inside. So we ended spending more money on a hotel and taxi than if we had chosen a more expensive flight from the start.

Plane landing: what are the best airline hacks

4. Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates and Times

As mentioned earlier, being flexible with your travel dates can significantly help you save money on flights. Within the same week, prices can vary significantly, with one day being half the price of the following day.

Additionally, considering off-peak times such as early morning, late at night, or midweek flights can often lead to lower fares. Also, it might be a no-brainer, but avoid booking flights during school holidays when prices tend to be higher due to increased demand.

5. Book Connecting Flights

Direct flights are often more expensive compared to connecting flights. If you are willing to take a longer journey with layovers, you can save a significant amount of money on your airfare.

When searching for flights, consider the option of booking connecting flights instead of solely focusing on direct routes. But be mindful of any visa requirements or entry restrictions in the countries where your layovers occur.

6. Book Early

While I am a last-minute booking person, there are advantages to booking in advance as well. One of the benefits is the potential to save money on flights, especially when it comes to popular destinations and peak travel times.

Booking early allows you to take advantage of lower fares before they potentially increase as the travel date approaches. Airlines often release their tickets in advance, and as the demand increases, prices tend to rise accordingly. By booking early, you can secure lower fares and have a better chance of getting the flights and accommodations you want.

7. Use Travel Rewards Programs

Many airlines offer rewards programs that allow you to earn points or miles for every flight you take. These points can then be redeemed for free flights or upgrades. Simply sign up for these programs and use them consistently to maximize your rewards.

British airways reward program "Executive Club"

For example, let’s say you frequently fly with British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates or American Airlines and you’re a member of their rewards program. Over time, as you accumulate points for your flights, you can eventually redeem them for a free ticket to your dream destination or enjoy an upgrade to a higher class of service.

8. Avoid Checked Baggage Fees

It’s common for airlines to impose additional fees for checked baggage. To steer clear of these fees and save money, consider packing light and opting for a carry-on bag instead.

While it can be challenging for some (like me!), many people have successfully mastered the art of traveling with just a carry-on.

Carry-on picture

9. Be Open to Flying with Budget Airlines

It’s a no-brainer, but budget airlines often have lower prices compared to traditional airlines. Just keep in mind that they might offer fewer amenities and charge extra fees for things like checked baggage and seat selection. So, be sure to read the fine print and consider any additional fees when comparing prices.

5 Tips for saving on luggage

1. Know Your Airline’s Baggage Policy

Familiarize yourself with your airline’s specific baggage policy before you start packing. Each airline may have different rules and restrictions, so take the time to check the guidelines provided by your airline to avoid any surprises or extra fees.

For instance, budget airlines like Ryanair often have strict weight and size limits for both checked and carry-on baggage. And I promise, they love checking the size and weight… So, especially if you’re traveling with a budget airline, consider packing only a carry-on bag.

2. Try this Ryanair Hack

Ryanair, quite well-known in the airline industry, has had its fair share of complaints. However, if you’ve chosen to fly with them, I’ve got a sneaky trick for you. When you’re on the Ryanair website selecting your flight, you’ll encounter options for hand luggage, checked baggage, and more. Now, here’s where the magic happens—don’t choose your luggage option here. Instead, opt for the ‘no luggage’/basic option and proceed to the next steps.

Screenshot of Ryanair page

Once you’ve selected your seat, keep a keen eye out because Ryanair has a surprise in store. They’ll later offer you (again) luggage options but this time, at a lower price! These will be the same luggage options, but at a cheaper rate than what was initially presented.

3. Use a Pillowcase as a Carry-On Bag

Here is another of these beloved airline hacks. If you want to save space in your luggage or dodge those annoying baggage fees, here’s another of these airline hacks: try using a pillowcase as a ‘disguised’ carry-on bag. It’s a clever way to make the most of your packing without raising any eyebrows.

Instead of a regular bag, grab a pillowcase and stuff it with your clothes and personal items. Then, when it’s time to board the plane, carry it on like it’s just your favorite pillow. This trick helps you maximize your carry-on allowance and avoid extra charges for additional bags.

Note: Double-check your airline’s rules on carry-on sizes to ensure that your filled pillowcase fits within their guidelines and that they don’t have any specific restrictions regarding unconventional carry-on items. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

4. Test these Packing Tips

To pack smartly and make the most of your luggage space, here are a few handy airline hacks:

  1. Roll your clothes instead of folding them. Rolling your clothes not only saves space but also helps reduce wrinkles, giving you more room for other essentials.
  2. Place heavier items at the bottom of your luggage. Lighter items can go on top.
  3. Utilize packing cubes or compression bags. These nifty organizers help keep your belongings neat and compact. They not only maximize space but also make it easier to find specific items when you need them.
  4. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane. If you’re traveling with bulky items like jackets or boots, wearing them during your journey can free up precious space in your luggage. Personally, I do that all the time.

5. Choose the Perfect Luggage

When it comes to picking the ideal luggage, it can make a world of difference in how much you can pack and how comfortable you’ll be during your travels.

  1. Go for lightweight and durable options. Look for suitcases or backpacks made from lightweight yet tough materials. That way, you won’t be weighed down by your luggage. Also, make sure to check for sturdy wheels and handles for easy maneuvering.
  2. Look for plenty of compartments and pockets. It’s a game-changer when your luggage has multiple compartments and pockets to keep you organized. You can separate your stuff and find what you need without digging through everything.
  3. Consider your needs and travel style. Think about what kind of trips you usually take. Until now, I’ve had a 60L backpack for my long-term travels and a small carry-on for my European trips. But now, I’m eyeing a big backpack with wheels! It’ll give me the best of both worlds.

Backpack with wheels from Osprey

4 Tips for saving at the airport

1. BYOS: Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks

Let’s face it, airport food and beverages can drain your wallet faster than you can say boarding pass. To avoid overspending and starving, here’s another of my fav airline hacks: pack your own snacks and drinks for the flight.

Instead of splurging on pricey airport treats, bring along your favorite non-liquid goodies. Think granola bars, nuts, fruit, or any other snacks that can withstand the journey. If you’re in need of some snack inspiration, check out this article for more travel snack ideas.

Almonds as travel snacks and airline hacks

2. Lounge Access: Relax and Enjoy

One of the best airline hacks: If you’re a frequent flyer or hold certain credit cards, you may be fortunate enough to have access to airport lounges (either for free or for a small fee). These exclusive spaces provide a host of amenities to enhance your airport experience. For instance, Revolut, a popular digital banking company, offers lounge access as a perk for certain premium account holders.

Airport lounges offer a haven amidst the hustle and bustle of the airport. You can enjoy a range of benefits, including complimentary food and drinks, reliable Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and convenient charging stations.

Whether you’re looking to relax, catch up on work, or enjoy some refreshments before your flight, it’s worth exploring these options to upgrade your airport experience and indulge in the perks and comforts of a lounge.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Fees

There are several fees that you can avoid to save money at the airport. For example, if you’re checking a bag, make sure it’s within the weight and size restrictions to avoid extra fees.

Additionally, if you’re traveling with a pet, make sure you understand the airline’s pet policies and fees beforehand.

Also, some airlines charge extra fees for selecting a seat or printing a boarding pass at the airport, so try to do these things online before you arrive.

4. Transportation to and from the Airport

If you’re taking a taxi or ride-share service to and from the airport, it’s a good idea to compare prices and look for discounts or promotions. Some ride-share services offer special deals for first-time users or for using their service during off-peak hours. Additionally, some bus lines like Flixbus can be a cost-effective alternative to trains or shuttles.

If you prefer to drive yourself, consider parking at an off-site parking lot that offers cheaper rates than the airport’s own parking lot. Many off-site parking lots provide shuttle services to and from the airport, making it a convenient option for travelers.

6 Tips for navigating the airport efficiently

1. Use Mobile Boarding Passes

To streamline your airport experience, take advantage of the convenience of mobile boarding passes. Nowadays, almost all airlines offer the option to check in online and receive your boarding pass directly on your mobile device. This means you can skip the step of printing a physical copy, reduce paper waste and save time at the airport.

Simply check in for your flight through the airline’s website or mobile app, and your boarding pass will be sent to your phone. Ensure that you have the boarding pass readily accessible on your device, along with your identification, to present at the security checkpoint.

2. Choose the Right Seat

When booking your flight, consider selecting a seat that can offer you added convenience and efficiency.

Opting for a seat in the front or back of the plane (if it’s a large aircraft) can be advantageous. This allows for quicker disembarkation, ensuring you are among the first to leave the plane once it has landed. Plus, if available, you may consider booking a priority ticket, which grants you the privilege of boarding the plane first.

3. Use Airport Maps and Apps

To navigate the airport efficiently, use airport maps and apps to find your way around. Most airports have maps available on their websites or apps that show the location of gates, restaurants, shops, and restrooms. Some airports also have interactive maps that show real-time flight information and wait times at security checkpoints.

4. Stay Organized

Keep your travel documents, such as your passport and boarding pass, easily accessible in a secure location. Use a travel wallet or a designated compartment in your bag to stay organized and avoid scrambling to find important documents.

5. Arrive Early

I understand that arriving early is not always a preference for everyone, especially if you have experience and familiarity with airports. While I typically have a relaxed approach to airports, it’s a good thing to consider factors such as the time of day, airport congestion, and any specific requirements for your destination. By allowing yourself a comfortable buffer of time, you can navigate through check-in, security procedures, and unexpected delays without feeling rushed or anxious.

On one occasion, during a trip from Mexico to Europe, we arrived at the airport with over two hours to spare. However, the check-in desks were moving at a snail’s pace, resulting in frustratingly long delays. It felt like an eternity as we waited in line, uncertain if everyone would make it onto the plane. To this day, we still don’t know if we forgot some people…

Airport queues and airline hacks

6. Be Aware of Flight Updates

Stay informed about any changes or updates to your flight schedule. Sign up for flight notifications through the airline’s website or mobile app to receive real-time updates on gate changes, delays, or cancellations.

4 In-Flight Hacks

1. Bring your Own Entertainment

In-flight entertainment can be hit or miss, so it’s always a good idea to bring your own entertainment. I once flew with Condor, and there was literally nothing on the plane, not even a magazine to read (okay, we were still in the midst of the Covid pandemic, but still). It was a day flight from Germany to the American continent, and I was incredibly bored!

So, load up your phone, tablet, or e-reader with your favorite movies, TV shows, books, and music to keep yourself entertained throughout the flight. If you have noise-canceling headphones, even better!

2. Choose (Again) the Right Seat

Selecting the right seat can significantly impact your in-flight experience. If you want extra legroom, consider opting for a seat in the emergency exit row or the bulkhead row.

For those who are light sleepers, it’s advisable to choose a seat located away from the lavatories and galley to minimize noise and disturbances.

Let’s not forget window seats, which are amazing to nap ♥

Airplane seat

3. Avoid Jetlag

Jetlag can be a significant inconvenience when traveling across time zones, but there are several airline hacks and ways to minimize its impact. For example, before your flight, try adjusting your sleep schedule to align with the time zone of your destination. During the flight, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine. For additional tips and hacks, check out the third section of this healthy travel hacks article.

4. Airplane Sleeping Hacks

Getting quality sleep on a long flight can be difficult, but consider bringing a neck pillow and a blanket to make yourself more comfortable, invest in noise-cancellation earplugs and get yourself a seat next to the window so you can lean against it.

If you’re on a night flight, try to sleep through it to maximize rest. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, adapt your sleep to match the destination time as much as possible.

Bonus Tip: What to do when you have issues with an airline?

Last one of my airline hacks: if you experience problems such as lost luggage, delayed flights, or missed connections, there are options available to help you resolve the situation. Consider utilizing services like AirHelp, which can assist you in seeking compensation for inconveniences caused by the airline.

While it may take some time, they can help you navigate the process and potentially receive compensation that you may not have been expecting. Personally, I have been satisfied with their services.

Final Thoughts on Airline Hacks

Air travel doesn’t have to break the bank or be a stressful experience. By following these airline hacks, you can save money on flights and travel more efficiently. From finding the cheapest flights to packing smart and navigating the airport, these travel tips will help you make the most of your journey.

So, the next time you’re planning a trip, keep these airline hacks in mind and enjoy a stress-free travel experience.

Bon voyage! ♥

Little Disclaimer: While I make an effort to snap my own photos, some folks out there are just naturally better with a camera. So, in this “airline hacks” article, you’ll see that most of the pictures (except the screenshots) are thanks to the talented Unsplash community.

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