10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Booking Airline Tickets

by Rich Jones

When it’s time to book airline tickets, most of us find a flight, an acceptable price, and dates that suit us, then book it without another thought. This isn’t best practice, though. Booking cheap flights without thinking through all the variables before we press that button can end up being quite costly. Although it might seem like we’re getting such a good deal that we have to book then and there, doing so can end up coming back to bite us. It’s always worth taking an extra few minutes to review the details, think things through, and not to act impulsively. To that end, we’ve put together a list of 10 common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets. All of us are likely guilty of at least one or two of these, and can do better, save money, and have a better airline experience as a result.

What are 10 common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets?

  1. Flying on Weekends
  2. Booking on Impulse
  3. Booking a Tight Connection
  4. Putting in the Wrong Passenger Details
  5. An Expiring Passport
  6. Not Checking the Baggage Allowance for Your Fare Class
  7. Not Having Your Booked Credit Card at the Airport
  8. Forgetting about Extra Charges
  9. Booking at the Last Minute
  10. Ignoring Nearby Airports

#1 – Flying on Weekends

One of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets is choosing to travel on weekends. Flying on Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays, when flights tend to be busier, can really push up the cost.  The lowest fare flights often tend to be mid-week due to decreased demand. If you drive on the interstate at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon compared with midnight on a Thursday, you’ll see the same principle play out. So, when people ask what are the cheapest days to fly, it’s usually Monday through Thursday. This doesn’t mean you can’t spend a weekend away, but if you can either extend or amend your travel dates, you can usually save some money.

#2 – Booking on Impulse

It can be extremely tempting to immediately take advantage of that incredibly cheap ticket price you see online. No one wants to pass up the chance to grab a good deal, but is it always the best deal? Seeing cheap flights can tempt you to make an impulse buy, but you might not actually be getting the best deal after all. One of the best tips is to hold off and set up a price alert on the route. That will allow you to keep an eye on it for a couple of days (at least) and, potentially, save some money. There’s no guarantee, but it’s not uncommon to log back on a day or two later to find out the price is even cheaper. That’s why booking on impulse is one of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets.

#3 – Booking A Tight Connection

If you book flights that include short layovers in specific airports, you must leave enough time to make your connection. It’s a common mistake to not leave at least 90 minutes between flights. It’s all very well thinking that it’ll just be a short dash through the airport, but it rarely works out like that. Something as simple as a 15-minute delay in your initial flight departure or arrival time can seriously jeopardize your chances of making that connection. And if you miss it due to your own miscalculations, you’ll be left paying for a new airline ticket. Many airlines offer connections of an hour or less, but these should be avoided if at all possible.

#4 – Putting in The Wrong Passenger Details

One of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets is entirely within your control, and that is putting in the wrong passenger details. It seems like a stupid mistake, but it’s very easy to do. It can also be a very costly mistake. I fly frequently and hate to admit to having made this mistake when traveling with my husband-to-be many years ago. When booking a flight ticket to Istanbul, I booked his ticket under ‘Les,’ which is what I call him. Unfortunately, the name on his passport is ‘Leslie’. I had to buy a whole other ticket so that he could still travel. The cost of changing his name was actually more than a new ticket, so it was easier to start again.  It wasn’t my finest moment.

Anyway, enough about my stupidity.  Suffice it to say, always be super careful with names and dates of birth when booking your flight, and ensure they match your identification documents.

ALSO READ: 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in the US

#5 – An Expiring Passport

You may well know what the expiration date on your passport is. However, did you know that some countries won’t permit you entry unless you have at least 6 months remaining? You may think that you’re getting your last trip out of that old passport, but you’d do well to double check the foreign passport rules at your destination. When you’re booking flights, always make sure you’ve got enough time left on your passport, or you risk getting stuck in the airport and transported straight back home. The costs of getting an emergency passport far outweighs the stress of not being permitted entry to your destination.

Another common mistake is not researching the visa requirements of the nation you’re traveling to. Always check well before you book your flights to make sure you have enough time to meet any conditions of traveling abroad. Not doing your homework with your passport and visa arrangements are some of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets.

#6 – Not Checking The Baggage Allowance for Your Fare Class

Not all airlines are made the same way, and they don’t all have the same rules. Although they all stick to the legal regulations, the baggage allowance can vary widely from airline to airline, and isn’t anything that is mandated by law. That means you have a wide range of policies by airline, and also by fare class, with cheaper tickets often having no checked baggage allowance at all on many airlines. This is particularly true for budget carriers, who often make money from baggage allowances. They often tend to work on the lower side of the scale, so they can force you to pay to take extra.

You must check your specific carrier to check their baggage allowance to save you rocking up at the airport and finding your case is too big or weighs too much. Paying for additional baggage at the last minute is a costly business. Checking the weight and dimensions of your luggage well before you travel is a sensible step and can stop you getting a nasty surprise from your carrier. Assuming all airlines have the same baggage allowance is a common mistake.

#7 – Not Having Your Booked Credit Card At the Airport

This is one of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets, because you have to remember and plan ahead from the time you book to the day you go to the airport. Many of us don’t necessarily keep tight track on which credit card we use for booking a flight, especially if we have a separate travel card with better mile rewards plans. But it’s crucial to have that card with you when you to go the airport.

Any issues with your ticket payment will usually require you to present the card to airline staff at the service desk. If you don’t have your card with you, it might end up forcing you to pay extra for another booking. Almost no one wants to have two seats on the same flight when they can only actually use one, unless you’ve got plenty of money and just want the extra space.

ALSO READ: Top Considerations for Choosing the Right Credit Card

#8 – Forgetting about Extra Charges

You’re over the moon at grabbing that cheap flight, right? However, that joy might be short lived when you then realize you have to pay extra for your seat and your luggage, onboard Internet, a snack, and so on. Once you add on the extras, sometimes those cheap flights aren’t as cheap as they appear. A good tip for booking flights is to compare airlines and make sure you know what’s actually included in your flight price. It’s also a good reason to always have some cash on hand for emergency expenses on the day of your travel, and to keep your credit card or smart phone payment device with you, too.

#9 – Booking at The Last Minute

It’s a myth that flight prices go down as the date of travel gets closer. Unless the airline is having trouble filling seats, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a good deal by leaving it until the last minute. More often than not, as airlines know that many last-minute travelers are heading out on business, they will often hike the price. The few days leading up to travel is not when flights are the cheapest and buying plane tickets last minute is a false economy. In fact, it’s one of the most common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets. A good bet is to set up a price alert on your chosen route and keep an eye on it for a while before you book. This way, you can see if there are any fluctuations which will potentially know the cheapest day and best time to book.

In general terms, at least among US carriers, prices tend to be cheapest when you are at least 4 weeks out from the travel date. That’s not universally true, and some airlines may have different pricing strategies, as well as dynamic pricing that responds to demand. But in most cases, for a planned trip, your best bet is to book well in advance to get the lowest price, and have the largest number of options on flight times, connections, seat choice, and so on.

#10 – Ignoring Nearby Airports

Most of us live within fairly easy distance of several airports, including major internationals and smaller regional airports. However, often when we go to check for flights, we’ll only punch in the one we prefer, or the one that’s closest to us. This is a common mistake to avoid when booking airline tickets as it can be much cheaper to leave from another, nearby, airport.  The average plane ticket cost varies widely between airports, depending on the demand for a particular route. For example, you might find flying from Newark is cheaper than the same flight departing JFK, when there isn’t a massive distance between them. The same goes for your destination airport – you don’t have to immediately opt for a main city airport.

How far in advance can you book a flight?

How far ahead you can book a flight depends on the airline involved. Some airlines allow you to book up to a year in advance, while others are more restrictive. How far in advance you can book your airline ticket will depend on who you’re booking with, their policies, availability, and so on.

If I am booking an airline ticket Saturday, what is a 24-hour cancellation?

24-hour cancellation is something offered by the US Department of Transportation. It applies to all airlines offering flights to and from United States. 24-hour cancellation gives you the right to cancel your flights within the 24-hour period after booking without incurring any financial penalties. This includes weekends, since ticket booking is available 24/7, and a ticket booked Saturday will need to be cancelled by Sunday, not Monday.

What is the best way to book airline tickets offered in flash sale?

If an airline is offering a flash sale, it’s best to book directly with them, rather than through a travel agent or broker website. This way, you’re guaranteed the price on offer.  You can sign up to price alerts with the airline, or with a flight search engine, which will keep you in the loop about sales and prices. Try the Google Flight search app or similar for instant notification when flight prices drop.

What is the cheapest way to book an airline ticket within 1 to 2 days’ notice of travel?

The cheapest way to book the lowest fare flights within a few days of your travel is to use a flight search engine. As we mentioned above, you likely won’t get the best prices on flights if you are booking this late in the game. However, sometimes, that cannot be avoided, especially for emergency or business travel. Many airlines are aware that last minute travelers tend to be in one of these categories, but also expect you to pay a premium for the last-minute convenience. This means you’ll often pay a higher price. In addition, availability may be much more limited, which allows carriers to be more dynamic in pricing, a bit of the “highest bidder” effect for then-limited resources. The best tip for booking flights is to do so at least a few weeks beforehand.

Conclusion

There’s no worse feeling than pressing the BUY button on your laptop and then recoiling in horror when you realize you’ve made a huge mistake. It’s even worse when you feel like you got a great deal and then see the price has dropped on the same route a few days later. Most of the common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets are easy fixes, however. You mainly need to take your time and make sure you’re getting the best deal possible – taking into account all those pesky additional charges you might have to pay. We hope our list of 10 common mistakes to avoid when booking airline tickets gives you a good starting point, and helps you save some time, stress, and money on your next trip.

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