The booking part of planning a trip is the most nerve wracking for me. Putting my money on something makes me sweat. I’m too tactile for online purchases- I want to look at the thing I’m buying, touch it- check it’s worth all this cash-money.
Spending upwards of a grand-and-a-half on flights induces a sort of sick feeling.
However, with this last trip, I do believe I’ve cracked the code for a good flight!
First of all- you have to compare. You just have to.
The best rates for a flight are rarely on the carrier’s website (unless they’re having a sale).
My favourite comparison site is Skyscanner.
I go on, pick my dates, and immediately start eliminating airlines I won’t fly.
Air China, Air India, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Garuda Indonesia, Jet Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Turkish Airlines, United, Vietnam Airlines, Airline Combinations.
Why? Well, I’ve either flown them and know they’re no good, or read reviews that suggest I shouldn’t trust them for a long-haul flight as far as I can throw them.
If you’re flying for 20+ hours, do you really want to be on a shoddy old aircraft that has small, uncomfortable seats; out-dated, dysfunctional entertainment systems (if any), gross food and rude staff? Hell no! That’s hours of your life you’re never getting back and will start your holiday on the wrong foot.
My favourite airline is Emirates. I’ve flown with them many times, and plan to only fly with them from now on. Their service is impeccable, their aircraft are clean and spacious, their entertainment systems are great- with good selections, their food is tasty (as tasty as aeroplane food can get), and did I mention their service is impeccable? ‘Cause that’s really important.
If I can’t fly Emirates (sad face) I go for Etihad, Qantas, Virgin or British Airways first; then Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways. I’ve never flown them, but I also hear KLM and Qatar Airways are quite good.
Emirates really does walk all over the rest, though.
The factors that weigh in a flight choice are cost, and time.
I know its obvious- but you need to book early. The closer you get to your departure time, the more expensive your flight will become; and not by a little bit- but hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Do everything you can to avoid booking closer than four months from your travel date.
At that point- if my ideal flight is anywhere from three/five hundred dollars more expensive than next best flight, I’ll take the second best.
The ideal flight is on the right day at the right time. A poorly timed flight can rob you of your precious hours overseas.
The best flights get you out of your home country early, and out of the foreign country late.
i.e. 6am flight out of Sydney to Rome, 5pm flight out of Rome to Sydney- GREAT!
You reach your destination faster and get a whole extra day overseas cause you’re not flying till late. Pick that flight!
So you have to get up insanely early on your departure day- who cares? You’re getting up early just so you can sit back down again; seriously- pick that flight.
There’s one more timing factor to consider- stopovers.
If you can’t have a non-stop flight (like anyone from Australia to Europe)- you have to get your stopover right. You’ll be stopping in Singapore, or Hong Kong, or Dubai, or Abu Dhabi… they’re all perfectly entertaining airports (I’m a particular fan of Singapore and Dubai), but there is such a thing as too long and too short.
Do not get a stop over shorter than 2 hours. All of these airports are enormous. If you’re in economy, it could take you 20-30 minutes to get off the plane- you will then have to sprint to your next flight and Lord knows how close- or far- the gate will be. Trust me, you don’t want to run the length of Dubai airport.
2 hours is pretty perfect. You can get off the plane, go to the loo, maybe look at a shop for a minor perusal, have a short bite to eat, find your gate, and board without breaking a sweat.
3-4 hours, you can do all of that at a more luxurious pace.
5 hours and above- holy hell will you be bored.
I once spent 16 hours in Changi airport. For the first 8 hours I made a friend and kicked about with them looking at shops and having dinner- then she got on her flight, all the shops closed, and I had 8 hours by myself. I have no shame, so I did yoga in a corner, had a foot massage, slept, read the whole of Facebook and WAS REALLY FREAKING BORED!!
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I might also point out that if you have kids, or are travelling with someone who has no patience- those hours are going to suck. Don’t do it to yourself.
Be discerning about what airline you fly. Know your price limit. Pick a time that gets you out of your home early and out of your travel destination late. Make sure your stopover isn’t your own personal hell, either because you’re running or bored.
Also, be brave. I know booking stuff is intense, but you have to do it sometime! And your holiday starts when you press, “buy ticket”.