Driving (down the price) home for Christmas

Here’s a thing. We spent years umming about moving to Canada. And after less than 2 years we want to go home again. For Christmas of all things…

I’ve done a reasonable amount of flying around over the years. I’m also tight with money. So I thought I was a dab hand at finding cheap flights. I was wrong.

And let’s get one thing clear – it is not simple. We learned a lot getting it right, and saved literally $000s in the process. Here are few tips we picked up for our round trip from Vancouver to London for a family of 4.

1. Benchmark with skyscanner.ca. It doesn’t always find the cheapest flights, but it IS always closeish. And it’s flexible, so you can play with dates and routes.

2. If you’ve done this trip you may well be familiar with canadianaffair.com. You can get good deals on Air Transat ‘direct’ flights with them. But not always cheapest and watch out for the ‘direct’ flight that sometimes stops in Calgary: it takes nearly as long as some indirect flights. And never ever ever use their car rental options – they don’t work from a live database so may not actually be able to sell you what they promise.

3. Hammer the screenscraper websites like travelocity.ca. And while you’re at it check the boxes for them to search other sites at the same time. This can open a whole chain of tabs running the same search at the same time. A great time saver.

4. Wow and Norwegian Air are two transatlantic budget airlines. Wow will change you in Iceland, Norwegian will likely take you to a hub in Scandinavia. Neither fly straight to Vancouver but if you can get the connections right there are some killer deals (Wow sells itself on $99 one way transatlantic flights).

5. Don’t assume economy is cheapest. We found a few examples where an ‘economy plus’ ticket was cheaper than economy-not-plus.

6. POINTS. Use them. Aeroplan currently has a deal to convert other schemes’ points into Aeroplan miles and get bonus points while you’re at it. It could at least make Air Canada competitive! See here.

7. Don’t assume non-direct flights are a bad thing. A stop is Seattle is hardly exactly a long way out of the way. And if you’re heading to Manchester the fastest way is often an indirect flight through Amsterdam with KLM.

8. The big one… Check the big airlines. Air France does not just search their flights. The same goes for KLM. They also search their partners’ sites. We found very cheap options here that weren’t showing on scraping websites. Yes, you really can get a return flight to London at Christmas for $750 if you’re happy to put up with the notoriously horrible Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, something that won’t show up on your average site. It’s buried deep in the Air France site but is actually a combo of airlines.

So there we have it. Eight new things we learned / re-learned while figuring out our trip home. Hope it helps some others too!

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