Tips for booking travel online: The best ways to book flights

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Bryan Smith - November, 28 2022

5 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

What do I need to know about using international flight booking websites?

While many travelers may still choose to rely on a travel agency to manage their bookings and flights, it’s now possible - and popular - to elect to book flights yourself using an online booking service.

What’s the best way to book flights?

If you haven’t used an international booking service before, don’t worry - the process is straightforward and is designed to help you book flights at your convenience. While the costs of the flights listed can vary, you are not reliant on a single service and can elect to shop for the best deal.

Generally, most major international flight booking websites function in a similar way. Before booking your flights, you’ll need to have a couple of things in hand:

  • A valid passport
  • The funds to cover your travel costs
  • A valid national identity document

When using most travel booking websites, you’ll be required to follow a standard set of steps. These can include:

  1. Selecting your departure and arrival cities, and travel datesBrowsing available flight options and then selecting your flights
  2. Providing your correct passenger details per your national identity document
  3. Selecting any add-on purchases, such as travel insurance or extra baggage
  4. Confirming your payment method, and then making payment
  5. Receiving your e-ticket to your email inbox

Prior to your flight, you’ll then need to have:

  • A valid visa, or passport
  • Your booking confirmation
  • A receipt of payment for your flights
  • Your national identity document
  • A valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate
  • A valid COVID-19 test result

What are add-on purchases when booking flights online?

When you book a flight online, you’ll often be asked as to whether you’d like to make one of several add-on purchases.

While most travel agencies would invite you to select a First Class, Business Class, or Economy seat, you’re now also able to configure which value-added services you’d like to purchase ahead of your trip.

Extra baggage

While most airlines will allow you to take one small piece of carry-on baggage, some airlines will require you to pay for either the ability to take one checked-in bag (which travels in the cargo compartment) or take multiple.

Generally, it is preferential to take less baggage to reduce your overall costs, if possible. If you plan on taking an additional item such as a pram, sporting gear, or musical instrument, you may be able to take this as carry-on baggage and then leave it in the hands of the flight crew before you are due to depart. Check with your airline before you travel to see if this is an option.

Extra legroom

Certain flights may also enable you to purchase seats with extra legroom if you find standard Economy travel uncomfortable.

If you’d prefer to avoid this expense and would still like to pursue extra legroom, you might instead prefer to sit on an aisle seat where your legs can stretch outward.

If you are prepared to accept the responsibility of doing so, you may also try and seat yourself on an emergency exit aisle at the point of check in at the airport (as doing so online is not allowed). These seats typically have larger spaces for seating. Note that if you choose to do this, you will be required to accept the responsibility of opening an exit and helping your fellow passengers to exit in the event of an emergency.

Cancellation insurance

When booking online, certain services may require that you forego travel costs and payment should you elect to cancel or change your booking, or instead pay a penalty fee to receive either a refund or to select a new booking instead.

Cancellation insurance, which is paid upfront, can allow you to change your flights or receive a refund - usually without penalty.

While this can be an additional cost and can make your overall travel experience more expensive, it is often a good idea as it will provide you with the surety you need to change your flight dates without penalty or cancel if an emergency occurs.

Flight tracking sites

If you’re considering a certain flight along an established route, it can be a good idea to monitor flight tracking sites over a period of time so that you can develop an understanding if your chosen route is frequently delayed, canceled, or otherwise adjusted. This in turn can enable you to change your travel plans more flexibly.

Flightradar24

Flightradar24 is a Swedish internet-based service which enables you to view real-time aircraft tracking information on a map.

Google Flights

In addition to enabling you to see and compare flight costs, Google Flights can also enable you to track common flight routes.

Booking.com

A popular service for booking flights is the aptly-named Booking.com, which is a Dutch company based in Amsterdam and founded in 1996.

Booking.com not only catalogues vacations, flights, and vehicle rentals to visit, but also lists airport taxis and attractions to visit.

Expedia

Expedia is a US-based online travel shopping company that’s aimed at consumers as well as small businesses. Expedia not only allows users to select flights for travel, but also enables visitors to select vehicle rental, cruise, and package holiday options.

Priceline

Priceline is a US-based online travel agency that enables travelers to browse discounted holiday rates to select hotels, flights, cars, as well as cruises. Priceline notably offers bundle discounts for customers who select a combination of flights or vehicle rental.

Kayak

Kayak is a US-based travel aggregation service that enables users to search for the best travel deals based on their intended departure and arrival dates.

Travelocity

Owned by Expedia, Travelocity is an online travel agency which, similarly to Expedia, offers the ability for travelers to find both vacation stays, packages, car rental, and pursue online flight options.

Cheapoair

Based in New York, Cheapoair enables travelers to compare and book affordable flights between round trip, one way, and multi-city destinations. The service also enables visitors to book flight and hotel reservation bundles.

Skyscanner

Based in Scotland, Skyscanner is a search engine and travel agency which enables visitors to secure flight, hotels, and car hire. Skyscanner is available in more than 30 languages.

Momondo

Based in Denmark and today owned by Kayak, Momondo is an online travel fare aggregator which enables viewers to directly compare and book flights.

Agoda

Agoda is a Singapore-based online travel agency for flights, rentals, and airport transfers. Agoda frequently offers location-based promotions for travel and rental deals.

Hotwire

Hotwire is an online travel service that’s based in San Francisco, and offers airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental vehicles, and vacation packages at discount rates by selling unsold travel inventory.

Google Flights

Google Flights can enable you to select flights and common routes to track online price changes, and receive alerts directly to your email inbox. You can also create holidays and stay memories using Google Travel, and create themed photo albums when using Google Photos.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any service mentioned.

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