Though not quite on par for my 12 countries in 12 months feat in 2015, we’re two months in and my travel plans for this year are already shaping up quite nicely.
A month ago, in an attempt to cure my “January Blues”, I booked a trip for mum and I to Naples, Italy. Using some money-saving hacks, it’s cost us just £101 each for flights and three nights bed and breakfast in Ercolano. Not bad, hey? Unfortunately it’s not until mid-March, so still a few weeks away. But as it’s been nine years since I was last in Italy, I’m really looking forward to heading back to “The Boot” and having some proper Italian food. As well as lots of pizza and pasta, we’ll be visiting the ruins of Pompeii, so I can’t wait to finally tick the UNESCO World Heritage site off my bucket list.
Then after Naples, I am heading off on a (semi-) solo adventure to Paris and Montreal…
I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly looking forward to the Paris part of the trip. I have never liked the French capital, and would even go as far as to say that it’s actually the worst city I’ve ever visited. Yes, shock horror: I hate Paris.
I previously ventured to Paris in August 2010, April 2013 and June 2015. Each time I’ve been, I’ve silently vowed never to return, as I end up detesting the place more and more with every visit. But when I saw super cheap flights to Canada from Paris, I couldn’t resist. I could put my hatred of the supposed City of Love aside in exchange for an affordable trip to a country I’ve yet to set foot on, plus the chance to catch-up with Jessika, a friend I made while in Berlin back in 2017.
And ‘affordable’ is definitely the right adjective here: I managed to get £88 return flights from Paris to Montreal. Yes, that’s right: return flights from France to Canada for less than £100. But how did I get such cheap flights?
How to get cheap flights.
I should start by saying it was by complete chance that I got these amazingly cheap flights; the low-cost fares disappeared as quickly as they appeared. So if you want to get discounted flights like these, sorry but you’re too late. Early bird catches the worm – or in this case, early bird bags the cheap flights to Canada. There’s no knowing if the price will drop that low again, but if you’re savvy you just might bag yourself some in the future – they may even be cheaper, or to somewhere else you’d like to go.
Much like the time I booked a 5-star holiday in the Dominican Republic for under £500, one Sunday morning, while I was minding my own business and not doing a lot (ie, snuggled up in bed with my cats and a coffee, scrolling through Instagram), I received a WhatsApp message from one of my favourite travel-booking websites, Holiday Pirates, alerting me to the bargain airfare:
I thought it was too good to be true. But clicking through to the site, I quickly scanned the details, hardly believing what I was reading. It was an error fare, of course – not even low-cost carrier Ryanair could manage flights across the pond for this little. As a comparison, when I’d previously looked at making a trip to Toronto to visit Jessika, return flights were around £600.
Getting more and more excited by the second, I rapidly skim-read the small print. But I saw no glaring obvious reason for the insanely priced flights, no disclaimers stating I’d have to donate my liver before take off or forgo air on the plane just to get a seat. So I typed in my details (or I should say, thankfully, Google autofilled them) and clicked “confirm”. Without more than a minute’s hesitation.
Though not quite as cheap as the headline price, they came in at just under £88:
Flying with Corsair, I leave Paris on Sunday 21 April (which I only discovered after booking, is actually Easter Sunday), and arrive back on Monday 29 April.
Obviously I have to get to Paris Orly first, and that has pushed up the cost of the trip – but only marginally. I’ve also managed to get Eurostar return tickets, from London King’s Cross St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, for just £55. So all in, the transport for this trip has cost me £143. That’s a total of 7,429 miles covered, for less than the cost of return train ticket from London to Edinburgh. Mind-blowing.
If you’re looking for more cheap flights, there’ll be a full how-to guide coming soon – follow me on Twitter to get it as soon as it’s published!
Extra brownie points.
If all that wasn’t enough, the cherry on top of my very cheap cake (or perhaps maple syrup on my pancakes, as I am going to Canada?) is that because I’m going over the Easter bank holiday weekend, I’ll only be using five days of my work annual holiday allowance for 11 days of travel. Jammy or what?
Timing a trip so it coincides with a national holiday is a great way to maximise your annual leave allowance, letting you travel the world while still working full-time. The downside is that flights, train tickets and car hire prices usually increase around national holidays like Christmas, Easter and the August Bank Holiday.
But if you’re flexible with your plans, you can usually nab some pretty good deals. Weigh up the pros and cons before booking; an extra day somewhere means more time to explore, but travelling over a national holiday may mean higher fares. This is what I did before booking my Eurostar tickets – as much as I hate Paris, it worked out a lot cheaper to travel on the Friday evening rather than on the day of my Montreal flight. And having to spend a few days in Paris seemed a small price (£55 to be exact) to pay before jetting off on a dirt cheap trip to Montreal.
So, have you ever managed to book a flight as cheap as this? If so, where to, and how cheap was it?
And if you’ve ever been to Montreal before, I’d love some tips from you – drop me a comment below. Jessika and I are currently trying to find somewhere to stay in Montreal, so any recommendations would be great. And I’m also trying to prep myself for a trip back to dreaded Paris. Maybe fourth time around I’ll actually fall in love with the City of Love… Or not.