Airports and plane trips can be stressful experiences, especially if you haven’t prepared beforehand. By following these simple tips you can avoid travel mishaps and ensure you have the most relaxing experience possible.
Least Busy Times To Fly
Before you book, look at the least busy times to fly to your destination. Based on my flying experience, I’ve written down the best and worst times to fly:
Worst: Summer holidays, bank holidays, half terms and any other time children aren’t at school. Sorry teachers! These times aren’t just exceptionally expensive, they’re also very busy. Avoid at all costs unless you absolutely have to travel during this time.
Also, avoid Fridays and Sundays. They are Gatwick Airport’s busiest days and I would imagine that’s similar in a lot of airports around the UK.
Best: There are a few, so I’m going to bullet point them here:
- Just before high-season. You don’t want to compromise your holiday weather by going completely out of season, but there’s a sweet spot just before your destination’s high-season begins. For Thailand, as an example, that perfect time is October; great weather, cheaper prices and the benefit of SO MUCH SPACE on the plane; I’m talking 4 seats each, aka the dream.
- Tuesdays & Thursdays. I don’t know why, but it’s largely agreed in the travelling community that these are the least busy times to fly. It’s probably because they’re midweek and people don’t want to fly midweek. Why not Wednesday? Because Wednesday was traditionally the ‘change over day’ for a lot of resorts in Europe, and so package holidays often leave and return on Wednesdays.
- For Europe, May is a good month to travel, with June and December being peak travel months. Flight loadings from September to October drop 20%, too.
When Am I Least Likely To Get Delayed?
You’ve done your homework, but you end up getting to the airport only to be faced with a huge delay. Some delays are unavoidable, but an hour here or there can mostly be sidestepped.
Firstly, I’d recommend travelling in the morning (between 6-7am). Most airports in the UK have a very quiet period between around 2-5am, so you’ll likely be on the first flight of the day. As the day goes on, there is more chance of a delay and air traffic gets busier, too.
You also need to take weather into consideration, especially if you’re flying long haul. The weather might be perfectly fine in the UK in July, but it’s the wet season for a lot of Asia. This sort of weather can cause delays.
And When Can I Get The Cheapest Tickets?
Ok, so you’ve planned when you’d like to fly, and now you want to grab yourself the best deals. I mostly use Skyscanner to browse for flights. You might think booking last minute is the way to go, but in fact, it isn’t anymore. Europe-based flight companies have realised that business travellers are willing to pay a lot for last-minute flights and so they’ve hiked up their prices. The best time to book for short haul is seven weeks before, and 18 weeks before for long haul.
If you’re keen to do something last minute, sign up to airlines flying out of your preferred airport. It’s widely reported that by Tuesday afternoon, airlines will start to slash their prices if they’ve got empty seats for the weekend.
And, if you’re not set on a location, click the ‘everywhere’ option Skyscanner and let the website inspire you! It brings up a whole list of options and then you can pick from there.
Finding The Best Seats
After I’ve booked my tickets, particularly if I’m flying long haul, I check Seat Guru so I have all of the information I need to select the best seats. You simply put in your airline name, flight number and date of your flight and it will tell you the best and worst seats on the plane. It’ll tell you where the toilets are and where it’s likely to be noisy. It’s a great resource.
If you’re flying with a budget airline like EasyJet, you will have the option to pay for a particular seat, but it’s worth noting that if you book together, you will always be given seats next to each other. For RyanAir (aka the worst airline known to man), however, even if you book your seats together, they’ll take pleasure in selecting your seats as far away from each other as humanly possible to try to force you into paying for seats next to each other.
Research Before You Leave
Everybody knows their own airport (Gatwick: Jamie’s for breakfast, Wagamamas for lunch and dinner!) but when you’re in an unfamiliar airport, you can end up making bad food decisions. Gate Guru (same company as Seat Guru – funnily enough!) tells you everything you need to know about the airport you’re travelling from or having a pitstop at. It’ll also give you loads of information about the weather, gate numbers and time to gates. It’s a very useful app!
Take A Picture Of Your Parking Spot
I’d also like to stress the importance of buying your parking ahead of getting to the airport (£45 per day in the short stay at Gatwick vs. £40 for three days pre-paid, it’s a no-brainer).
When you do get into your hopefully pre-purchased parking space, take a picture of where you’re parked. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve seen wandering around post-holiday with loads of bags and miserable looks on their faces as they try to navigate back to their car.
Act Like You’re Meant To Be There
Jim and I never walk through the main security line, we go through the VIP one. I can’t vouch for every airport but there is never anybody there to check. Even if there is, it’s a very minor inconvenience to walk back to the other one.
Also – we always queue in the speedy boarding line, whoever we’re with. Both Jim and I have speedy boarding with EasyJet, but we’ve blagged my entire family on with us before. At the end of the day, the people checking your ticket just want to get you on the flight. 9/10 times they don’t even check our EasyJet Plus cards, and when they do, we always say ‘we booked their tickets so they can come through with us’. Some people might be thinking ‘why don’t they just queue?’ and my answer to that is simple; because queuing is a huge waste of time and if you’re in that queue waiting for a budget airline, it’s 50-50 whether your bag will have to go in the hold or not.
Do You Have Any Tricks?
I’d love to hear your tricks. I’ve built these up over the past three or so years and I find them all very handy!