If you’re travelling long-term, or even short-term, you’ll probably need to book at least one flight, and possibly several. Choosing the right flight can really make a difference, and there are several factors to take into consideration – but you must choose the balance that works for you.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 206 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

1. Price

Price is probably the number-one thing to think about. Flights can be expensive and you don’t want to spend more of your travel budget than is necessary. But the advertised price isn’t always the full story. Some airlines hit you with extra costs further down the booking process, for example extra charges for taking a bag, or for paying by credit card.

Also consider which airport you’re flying out of. Maybe a flight from a nearby city is worth considering if you can get there easily. Or perhaps your city has more than one airport: a cheap ticket might not seem so cheap when you factor in the cost of getting to and from an airport with bad connections. Can you even get to the airport by public transport at the time you need to? If not, how much is a taxi? Take all these factors into consideration to work out the true price of the ticket.

2. Airline

Next, think about what airline you’ll be flying with. Maybe the airline has a bad safety record? Maybe it’s always late – is the chance of delay worth the saved money? Choose an airline you’re happy to fly with.

3. Flight arrival/departure times

What time does the flight leave its starting point and arrive in its destination? Can you get to and from the airport at these times? And what about if the flight is delayed? Consider how you react to being up late or getting up early, and think about how you’ll accustom yourself to a new timezone. What time of day is the best to fly?

We’ve stopped taking early-morning flights as much as possible because for us, the pain of getting to the airport fuzzy-headed isn’t worth a small money saving. We’ll do it if we have to, but we’d prefer to take a flight on another day than a redeye.

4. Extra benefits

Perhaps there are extra benefits to choosing one flight over another. If you collect frequent flyer points, paying a little more to get more points might be worthwhile, but do the maths to make sure it works in your favour. Or perhaps you can use those points to get a free flight – make sure there aren’t any super-cheap options for that route though, and get value for your points.

Also think about what you get for free on some airlines but have to pay for on others: things like movies, food and beverages. What value does that have for you? Maybe you never watch movies on planes so not having the possibility to do so doesn’t bother you, or maybe getting a glass of wine “for free” is worth even more than the horrendous prices budget airlines tend to charge.

And sometimes, being able to book your tickets through a travel agent is worth it too. We chose our tickets to South America because they were the cheapest we’d found after considerable searching, and they happened to be booked through a travel agent – I found that to be a real added bonus. They did the work of finding the best flights for us, we just had to hand over the money, which was exactly what was advertised, no hidden fees. Brilliant.

There are other factors to consider, depending on your circumstances — perhaps you want an airline that’s good with children or has more legroom than normal — but just make sure that you are thinking. Don’t take a cheap ticket on face value, make sure you check that the flight meets your other requirements too.

You can search for flights using our own Indie Travel Podcast flight centre at https://indietravelpodcast.com/flights. To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Your thoughts on "Air travel podcast: how to choose the best flight"

  • Thanks for the shout-out. As you figured out, I spend A LOT of time (over?) engineering my flight selections. You did a good job of talking about the concept of "total cost" -- factoring in the non-ticket costs that many people forget, including the cost/value of their own time. Not only does this vary by person, it varies by situation. If I'm doing a day trip for business, I put a high value on my time, and so am very willing to pay a premium for a direct flight with a good on-time record. If I'm going on a two-week holiday with no firm plans for the first couple of days, I'm much more willing to absorb a 4-hour delay with a pizza and a couple of large beers.

    on August 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm Reply
    • Definitely that old problem of time vs. money, right? It's amazing the levels of service that manage to co-exist in quite a tough market.

      on August 24, 2011 at 9:41 am Reply

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