Flight booking mistakes even experienced travelers make

What are the most common flight booking mistakes even experience travelers make? Here’s the list of mistakes you’ll want to avoid the next time you book a flight.

31 December 2021
Flight booking mistakes even experienced travelers make

There’s a lot to think about when you’re booking a flight, and it’s not just about cost. You have to think about timing, seats, parking, people—the entire experience is in your hands. 

Even the most experienced travelers make mistakes when they’re booking flights. I remember booking a return flight that was one day before the day I thought I booked. Not only did I look ridiculous showing up a day late with two little kids in tow, I didn’t have lodging for the night! Luckily, the airline was able to put us all on standby that day but the anxiety was more than I’d like to experience again.

As you’re thinking about your trips for the coming year, here are the common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

Bad timing

The timing of your flight matters. Here are the most common flight booking mistakes travelers make:

  • Flying on Fridays or Sundays. You want to avoid these days for the simple reason that these are the most likely days that leisure travelers are going to be traveling. More travelers means more traffic in and around the airport and longer lines at security, not to mention packed flights.
  • Tight connections. An hour layover might sound like plenty of time, but it won’t be if your first flight arrives late. 
  • Flying at peak times. Flying at unpopular hours can often save you money, but you’ll also cash in on easy-to-find parking, short lines at security, and less traffic in general.
  • Not allowing time to acquire travel documents. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after your entry date. If you need to update your passport, or get a visa, or get a vaccine booster, you’ll need to plan time to handle those things.

Pro tip: check the visa and passport requirements and verify your passport expiration date before you start searching for flights.

Making poor airport choices

Don’t focus your flight searches solely on the airports that are in the places you’re flying from or into. These are the most common airport choices travelers make:

  • Failing to check nearby airports at your destination. Make sure that your flight search isn’t too narrow. Often the same city will have more than one airport, or there will be an airport that’s less busy in a nearby city.
  • Failing to check flights from airports near your home town. What if you could save hundreds of dollars just by driving a short distance and starting from another airport? Flying from an airport that’s near your hometown can often save you loads of cash.

Example: flying to or from Washington D.C., there are three separate airports, and yet, the airport not named Washington is the closest to the city. Tricky, right?

Making poor airline choices

Before you jump on that travel deal, make sure you take a few minutes to read up on the airline especially if you’re not familiar with it. Here are the most common mistakes travelers make when choosing an airline:

  • Booking with an unfamiliar airline. New airlines pop up all the time, particularly regional airlines. They can sell cheaper tickets often because they have more restrictive policies on refunds or changes. Take a little time to research their rules before you snap up that cheap deal.
  • Booking with a budget airline. There’s a reason budget airlines can sell their flights so cheap. They’re counting on making up the difference in fees. From baggage and seat selection to charges to print the boarding pass, these carriers are profitable thanks to the number of hidden fees they can charge.

Pro tip: Check sites like SeatGuru.com and TPG flight reviews to see what your onboard experience will be like.

Not-so-great flight buying practices

Often travelers are looking for the best-priced ticket, but that low price can come with some not-so-fun features. Here are the most common mistakes travelers make when buying their tickets::

  • Lured into basic economy. Unless you really must, try to avoid basic economy. These fares don’t let you choose your seat, or carry on full-sized luggage, and there are no ticket changes or refunds (critical in a time when airlines are honoring changes for COVID). You also don’t earn miles on basic economy.
  • Buying on a third-party site. Booking directly with the airline gives you a direct line to the airline’s customer service that can help if you have any issues like a delay or cancellation. Use websites like Google Flights and Momondo instead.
  • Not being flexible with dates. Unless you’re absolutely locked into certain dates, you can save quite a bit by flying on cheaper days like Tuesday and Thursday. You’ll also save on lodging costs when you arrive.
  • Forgetting to check flights after you purchase. Airlines typically give you 24 hours to cancel or change a booking without incurring a charge. If you, and a lot of other travelers, bought the same airfare the airline might discount the route afterward.
  • Booking on days when prices are higher. Travel experts know that the best time to book a US domestic flight is Tuesday at 3 pm Eastern time. Why? Many airlines release sales early in the week, just not on Sunday or Monday.

Pro tip: Master using Google Flights in just 5 steps.

Bonus!

Here are some other common mistakes travelers make when booking flights.

  • Booking the wrong airport. Double check the airport codes so you don’t book a flight to the wrong airport. It happens more often than you think.
  • Missing flight change emails. Watch your email for updates and make sure your spam filters don’t redirect the airline messages to trash — you might miss the flight change notices!
  • Confusing direct with nonstop. A nonstop flight is just what it sounds like, but a direct flight may include stops along the way to your destination. Nonstop flights are faster and direct flights are usually a little cheaper.
  • Misspelling passenger names. It can be very hard to get those updated after purchase and you could get blocked at security if the name isn’t correct.
  • Forgetting to add frequent flyer numbers. Even if you’re not earning points, you’ll be happier to hear your name if you have to contact customer service. 

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Damian Tysdal
Author
DamianTysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.