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Beginner’s guide to flying: Booking your ticket

An aeroplane on the runway

Booking your ticket

Want to book a flight, but don’t know where to start? There’s a wide array of options and avenues for the budding flight buyer, and it can be bamboozling. Not to worry though… With a bit of guidance from your friendly Confused.com team, you’ll be finding awesome deals and taking off like a pro in no time.

First and foremost - shop around!

Rather than paying travel agents to organise their holidays and flights for them, savvy shoppers are increasingly using sites that do the shopping around for them – such as ExpediaKayak or Skyscanner. Once you’ve entered where you want to fly from, your destination and the dates you want, the sites will search a variety of airlines and travel providers for your best fares. You can experiment with flexible dates or different airports to find the price and itinerary that suits you best.

Don’t commit until you’re sure you’ve got a good deal, as airlines can impose cancellation fees, and tickets are often non-refundable. You’ll kick yourself if you buy the first ticket you see, and then you find it much cheaper ten minutes later! Flights can be an expensive purchase, so take your time and don’t shell out until you’re sure.

Where to go

Perhaps you’re not already set on a destination? If not, we’d like to humbly suggest a few ideas:
Confused.com’s Top Ten Holiday Destinations for 2009
Confused.com's Favourite City Breaks
Going to the USA? Then Don’t Forget ESTA
How to Choose a Winter Sports Resort

Your kids

If you have very young children, then you may not have to pay for them to come on the flight with you. Some airlines will allow children under two to fly for free, so check this on the airline’s website before committing to book. If you’re also shopping around for hotels, it’s a good idea to ensure they have facilities for young kids before you book.

close up of a credit card chipPayment

You’ll need a credit card or a debit card with credit capabilities (such as a Visa debit) before you book. You may find that a credit card will incur a percentage handling fee which a debit card may not, but don’t pay by debit solely on the basis of this. Paying by credit card will ensure greater consumer rights protections – such as if the airline went bust between the time you paid for your tickets and were scheduled to travel. To learn more about this, read our article Section 75 – How Using a Credit Card Gives you Extra Consumer Protection.

Tickets

The vast majority of flights nowadays are controlled by electronic ticketing systems, so don’t expect to get them in the post. You will either have to print them out or make note of a reference number, which will be checked by the airline when you get to the airport. We’ll cover this in more detail in the section titled ‘Check-in’ in part two of our Beginner’s Guide to Flying.

Travel insurance

Here at Confused.com, we consider travel insurance to be absolutely essential, and not just an optional extra. And as luck would have it, you can compare a range of travel policies here and you could be able to undercut high street prices by a good few quid. And if you suspect that you might get bitten by the travel bug, then it’s worth considering taking out an annual multi-trip policy rather than just  a single policy – as if you travel twice or more in a year, then it’s very likely to work out better for your pocket. Plus it covers you for domestic trips, not just jaunts abroad.

Now you’re ready to fly!

Your tickets are booked, you’ve got your currency and travel insurance and you’re raring to go… But what happens on the day? Well, in part two of our Beginner’s Guide to Flying, we cover the flight itself – so read on!




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Owe Carter

Owe Carter

Owe Carter has been a consumer interest writer for Confused.com since 2007. His career as a scribe began in local press, which saw him hunting ghosts, taking challenges from readers, living as B.A. Baracus for a week, and seeking out Pembrokeshire’s happiest dog.

Twitter: @ConfusedOwe
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