Nine mistakes to avoid when booking flights

Here’s how you can be more travel savvy

Booking a flight can be stressful. There are dates to keep track of, payments to juggle and details to remember. While it’s not possible to avoid these things altogether, there are several mistakes to avoid when booking flights that can make your life harder.

Before you begin, you need to think carefully about how you fill out the online booking form, how you go about providing details, and how you choose to make payments. It can also be useful to learn about the best ways to reduce airfares to help bring your travel expenses down. For example, if you purchased travel insurance when booking tickets with your credit card, this coverage could be used to protect you in the event of a maintenance delay or flight cancellation.

Plane taking off at sunset

The mistakes to avoid when booking flights

When you are in a hurry to book a flight, there are many things that can go wrong. Foolish mistakes can ultimately prevent you from boarding a flight, or cost you a lot of money to reverse. From failing to check the baggage allowance in advance, to booking too early, here are nine mistakes to avoid when booking flights.

Not checking the date before you buy

This is one of the easiest mistakes to make when booking a flight. Often, when you are moving back and forth between pages, the date you selected can change without you even realising it. If you’re not careful, you can end up with a ticket for a flight leaving on the same day you booked it. Always take the time to check the date on the payment page before you proceed with your purchase.

Two passports sit atop an old fashioned world map

Forgetting to check your passport’s expiration date

We can’t emphasise this one enough: check your passport’s expiration date before you fly. If you’re not someone who travels frequently, it is easy to forget about checking the validity of your passport. Nowadays, lots of countries require that your passport be valid for six months from the date of your arrival. Without this, you might be refused entry altogether.

Booking too far in advance

Booking too far in advance is a rookie mistake. When you’re in a rush to get the best deal, you risk booking a ticket too early and ultimately end up paying a higher fare. For the best priced tickets, try and book your flight 45 days in advance for a local journey, or 60 days in advance for an international one. Your patience will pay off. Need more convincing? Check out Andrew Fraser’s book, Tripping the Flight Fantastic, and discover how he travelled to ten European cities for just £144.

Getting your personal details wrong

It might sound like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people get their personal details wrong when booking a flight. Prior to making a payment, check that the details you typed into the form are exactly the same as what is in your passport. Even small errors – such as a typo in your name or the wrong date of birth – can cause you serious problems with airport authorities. So much so that you may even have your booking cancelled, particularly if your passport number is incorrect.

Suitcases on a baggage carousel at the airport

Not understanding the baggage policy

Make sure you research how much baggage is allowed on the airline you’re flying with. Every airline will have its own policy on how much luggage can be carried by each person. Any excess weight will cost you extra at the airport. So, if you’re someone who struggles to pack light, check the airline’s baggage allowance in advance – otherwise, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.

Only flying from your hometown

It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes it works out cheaper to fly from somewhere other than your hometown. When researching your next trip, consider widening your search and look for flights departing from other cities near you. Google Flights lists comparative ticket prices for airlines close to you, so you can pick the one that offers the lowest rates.

Not considering additional costs

It isn’t just the flight ticket itself that you’ll have to pay for. Depending on the airline, you might be charged extra for baggage, meals or seat selection. These things add up quickly and can be a nasty hidden expense if you haven’t done your research in advance. When you’re booking for more than one person, these extra costs can become quite significant. Before booking, it is always worth considering all your options – even if your flight only lasts 48 seconds!

View of a plane wing from a window seat

Ignoring the OTA cancellation policy

Sometimes, you might end up booking a flight with an OTA that does not have a 24-hour cancellation policy, simply because their pricing was really great. You might think you’ve clinched a deal, but if you’re no longer able to make the flight, this can come back to haunt you later on. Avoid this issue by setting aside time for travel before booking tickets (ensuring you never miss a flight!) and checking the OTA cancellation policy in advance.

More information

When you book flight tickets online, it is vital to avoid the mistakes outlined above. Note that the prime booking window for most trips is usually between three weeks and three months prior to your intended departure date. For the best ticket fares, book through Google Flights or another flight aggregator, rather than relying solely on the airline’s website.