After days (read: weeks) of biting nails and pulling hair, I finally bought airline tickets to Britain.
My husband and I are planning a trip in October, and needless to say, I’m very excited to be going to the UK again. 15 days of travel…stepping on Irish soil for the first time…reuniting with dear friends…taking Cameron on his first intercontinental flight…it will be amazing.
So I am excited, but I’m also apprehensive about costs.
Newlyweds + big plans = questionable financial outcome
Buying airfare to Britain was a big hurdle for me. With just the click of a touchpad, I made the single largest purchase of our trip. Gulp. But that’s not the worst of it. What if I bought at the wrong time? What if I overspent? What if I missed some great travel hack that could make a $1,000 difference?
I read the articles about buying with foreign currencies, choosing the right days of the week, using different airlines, etc. I googled until my eyes went bloodshot and I started to sweat. Lovely.
In the end, I didn’t use any fancy tips or tricks, yet I still got a great deal. Was it the cheapest airfare possible? Maybe not. But my itinerary provides me with just the right amount of time, comfort, and extra money for my needs.
Here are some factors to consider when buying airfare to Britain from the US, or any other international origin.
1. Which airport?
Your destination might seem obvious to you, but it isn’t necessarily a given. I don’t know how many people I’ve spoken to who equate England with London. It is so much more!
Please don’t assume that you have to start your trip to Britain in London. In fact, since it’s a metropolis cram-packed with things to see and do, it’s probably best to save London for the end of your trip, when jet lag is far behind you and your travel savvy is at an all-time high.
We will be flying into Manchester since that’s near some friends and I’m familiar with the airport. I’ve always had good experiences there, and going through customs is a dream.
Sidenote: try flying “open-jaw” for maximum efficiency. If your travel plans include England, Scotland, and Ireland (as ours do), flying in and out of England could result in a lot of wasted time and money. If you’re taking a flight or ferry to Dublin or Belfast in the middle of your trip, you have to get back to your original airport to fly home. However, you could do what I’ll be doing: fly from home into England and back home out of Ireland. No doubling back, no extra travel hassles. And it’s not difficult to book this way. Just use Google Flights. It’s basic, but it’s my go-to website for buying airfare.
2. Flight Time
A similar consideration is your flight time. Sure, I can get a stellar deal round-trip to Manchester for just $816, except for one little caveat.
Keep a sharp eye on the “fine print” and avoid careless mistakes. If you’re not an early-riser, don’t book your international flight to leave at 6 AM (you’ll need to arrive about 2 hours early). Does your local airport often cancel flights? Make sure that a later connecting flight is available at your destination airport, just in case.
Flying to Britain doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. If I lived near a major airport like O’Hare, for example, I could have flown round trip for as little as $748 per person. However, I don’t live anywhere near a major airport, so that meant either hours of driving, possibly a stay at a hotel, and/or an extra flight. A round trip flight through Atlanta or Chicago from where I am would cost about $317–$345/person by itself, and that’s no small change. However, for ease and convenience, I chose the extra flight.
When I first checked on flights, I was getting numbers just over $1,000 per person, comparable to what I’ve spent in the past. However, instead of buying right away, I waited. I checked prices the next day and good heavens—the price jump was gobsmacking. It had risen to about $2,600 for the two of us. I was appalled. I’d lost $600 literally overnight.
Or so I thought.
After drinking a cup of tea and calming down, I realized that I still had five months to buy tickets, and it was unlikely that prices had risen for good. So despite my anxiety and the ever-climbing numbers, I sat back for over a week and waited.
Thank goodness! One morning I found that the prices had plunged once more, and I snapped up two tickets that day. Final price tag: $1,066.86 each. My heart can finally stop pounding.
Take a deep breath
If you overspend on airfare by a little, it’s not the end of the world. Just try not to make the really big mistakes that you will later regret! Sometimes time and comfort are well worth some extra money.
If you have any tips or hints or questions about how to buy airfare to Britain, please leave a comment below!