Some things in life are worth bookmarking- and we think this is one of them. Recently a great friend of the site named Antonio Lulic, who just finished a world tour opening for Ed Sheeran got in touch, asking about how we go about every step of planning and booking flights. Since most travel involves booking flights- it occurred to us that pro tips for this exact thing could really come in handy. So here’s everything you should think about when booking flights…

The Planning Phase

Affordable Destination? The places that are the most affordable often aren’t the ones you’d think. Certain cities and destinations rarely ever see cheap fares, while places thousands of miles further away and more exotic may be a fraction of the price. Do some research about places that generally offer cheap flights. You may be amazed.

Any flexibility? Getting great deals is a battle, especially if you’re restricted to inflexible travel. If you have travel partners, conference with them early on about any flexibility. Beating the crowds by just a day can make all the difference.

The Search Phase

Have A Target $$$ In Mind? The true key to getting great deals is knowing one. Before you go searching, figure out what flights generally cost for your trip, historically. If you know that, and have a target price in mind- don’t sweat the “when” you book as much. Book when you feel confident that you’ve satisfied your personal requirements. There are also price guarantees.

Run A Calendar Month Search? What if that Monday is 10x cheaper than Tuesday? Google Flights offers an extremely easy to use search interface, which shows an entire calendar month of prices at a time. You can also do this on select airlines like Norwegian, and search engines like CheapOAir.

Compare Direct With Airline VS Online Travel Agencies? This is a biggie, but it pays off. It’s always good to see if the airline offers the same price as online travel agencies, since it’s always easier to upgrade and or make changes when you book direct. It’s important however to search at least two or three online travel agencies like Expedia, CheapOAir, SkyScanner, Orbitz  and Momondo before booking. You never know what you might miss, if you don’t!

Reconfirm Dates One More Time? Most tickets these days offer a 24 hour risk free cancellation period, which is great. Outside of that however- cancellation and change fees are higher than ever. Don’t book tickets before “hard” confirming your dates and plans. Even on a great deal, you’ll end up overpaying if you make changes or need to cancel and rebook. Do remember, sometimes it is cheaper to just cancel the ticket and rebook than pay change fees!

The Cash Back Phase

Did You Check For Cash Back? Getting cash back goes way beyond just using a credit card that earns points. Cash back sites like TopCashBack and eBates offer cash back on almost every travel purchase, even direct with airlines, just for clicking to the airline from their website. Don’t forget this crucial step to put (real cash) back into your pocket, on top of the miles and points you’ll earn.

Did You Cash Back Compare? Just like online travel booking sites, not all cash back sites are the same. One site may have triple points with a certain airline, while the other only offers one. Be sure to compare which cash back site has the best offers going and click through them!

The Purchasing Phase

Which Credit Card Gives The Most Points? It seems so basic, but in the heat of the excitement, so many people goof here. Some credit cards (U.S. Amex Platinum) offer 5X points on all flight bookings made directly with airlines, some offer 3X and others just 1X. Check what each of your cards offer and calculate which one will yield you the most perks.

And Delay Benefits? Sure, shiny card A may get you 1 more point per dollar spent, but does it have delay and baggage loss benefits? This is a trade off worth at least pondering. Certain credit cards (such as Citi Prestige) offer money for necessities during delays or baggage loss in just four hours. Others, six to 12, and other not at all! Though points are amazing, it’s good to compare benefits and protections.

Proactive Post Flight Monitoring

Are you checking for schedule changes? The further in advance you book- the greater chance that an airline will tinker with the scheduling of your flight. This can be as insignificant as five minutes, or as troublesome as multiple hours (or even a day). You should download MyFlights, CheckMyTrip or TripItPro (paid) to help you stay ahead of the airline when things change. They don’t always tell you.

If things change will you improve your reservation? When airlines mess with your flights, by changing the airplane, flight time or other important factors, you’re within your rights to ask to make changes to their changes that better suit you. Basically, you can ask to potentially fly to a different nearby airport, take the earlier or later flight or even depart a day earlier or later. Some airlines even observe the 500 mile rule.