Struggle to find affordable airfare to Edinburgh or Glasgow? Finding cheap flights can make or break your trip to Scotland. After all, it might free up some additional spending money if you manage to score a good deal on your plane tickets! In this practical how-to guide, frequent traveller and Scotland-lover Sara Bublitz shares her expert advice and pro tips on how to find cheap flights to Scotland. Let the hunt for affordable flights begin!
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Since I live in Scotland and thus rarely have to worry about expensive airfares to Scotland, I turned to my friend Sara Bublitz (@bubblesworldtravels), who is an avid traveller and loves Scotland even more than me – if that is even possible!
She visits Scotland on a regular basis and jet sets to Europe several times a year to explore different countries. I’ve always wondered how she does it, because last time I checked flights from the US to Europe can burn a hole in your wallet (or vice versa).
I asked Sara to write up her top tips for finding cheap or affordable flights to Scotland (and beyond), so that you can also follow your heart’s desire and visit Scotland without making your credit card weep.
Here are Sara’s expert tips for finding cheap airfare to Scotland.
I am an avid solo traveller. I love exploring the world at my own pace without having to consider the timeline of another person. Solo travel has allowed me to realise my own strength and independence.
Ironically, it has also shown me how much I love organised group tours. As a compulsive planner, booking a planned tour enables me to lean back and let someone else take care of the logistics. Plus it can be an affordable way of packing in more into my itinerary and making unique experiences without the price tag.
Hint: I love travelling with Rabbie’s which are the most affordable and fun tours ever. I have now been on four of their tours and loved them all. Highly recommend them!
One thing I don’t give up control over though is booking my flights.
I love travelling internationally and sticking to a moderate budget. If I am able to save money on flights and hotels that frees up budget for another trip later on.
This year, I have already planned one trip to Scotland and another trip to Switzerland and Italy.
International travel does NOT need to be expensive and there are many great deals out there if you just know where to look.
Here are my top tips for finding cheap airfare deals to Scotland – but of course, these tips also apply to other destinations overseas!
Tip 1: Use an Incognito Browser Window
Most commercial websites use something called Cookies to keep track of the web searches you make while visiting their websites.
This is usually very useful to enhance your online experience, but in the case of flight searches, it might mean that the website learns a bit too much about your habits.
If you search for a flight to Edinburgh today, the engine will remember this through Cookies and might never show you cheaper deals because it already knows that you want to go to Edinburgh.
The best way to avoid letting search engines know too much about your travel plans is to use an Incognito Browser. All web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc) allow you to open an Incognito window to search the web without Cookies registering your movements.
Tip 2: Start Looking for Flights Early and Plan Ahead
As I mentioned above, I am an über planner which works well for me, especially in the budgeting department. I tend to plan trips 9 months in advance which is very helpful in finding a flight and saves me several hundreds of dollars.
I bought a flight to Edinburgh 9 months in advance for only $650. Six months later (three months before travelling), this trip would cost a couple of hundred dollars more.
I knew that the Irish airline Aer Lingus releases cheaper flights far in advance and then slowly increases the prices – and took advantage of this knowledge!
Tip 3: Consider Other Airports
I was recently searching for a multi-trip flight flying into Rome and returning from Paris. When I first looked, it was going to cost me $1500 – yikes!
Normally, I fly out of Minneapolis, but those flights were simply too expensive. I took a long, hard look at the map and looked for two other options.
- Fly OUT OF another major city in the US, such as New York or Chicago.
- Fly INTO another major city abroad, such as London or Dublin.
With this easy trick, I found a multi-city flight from Chicago to Rome and from Paris to Chicago for just $500 and easily spent the extra $100 to choose my preferred seats.
A suitable flight from Minneapolis to Chicago cost me just $170. In total, I only spent $770 on a flight that would have cost me $1,500 otherwise.
I saved almost 50% on airfare by considering other airports! I also saved myself some stress by having a layover in the US instead of a random European airport.
Let’s say I had opted to buy a nonstop flight directly from Minneapolis to London, then I could easily have found a flight for $20-$70 from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow. European budget airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet have incredibly cheap deals.
One thing to keep in mind is that airlines prefer to book your flights and connections with their partner airlines.
If you book connecting flights separately and therefore have two tickets, it is important to plan in plenty of layover time just in case of delays.
You might have to re-check your bags or go through security checks again at our layover airport if connecting flights are not booked on the same itinerary/ticket.
If possible, I recommend booking separate flights with the same airline. It makes it easier to re-book you in case of delays or cancellations.
If you have separate tickets with two different airlines, airline 1 will not be much help if y they are delayed and you, therefore, miss your flight with airline 2 if the flights are not booked on the same itinerary.
If it’s the same airline, they might even check your bags through all the way even if you bought two separate flights.
Tip 4: Mix & Match Airplanes and Trains
If you fly into a different major European city than your actual destination, consider continuing your journey by train instead of flying.
Train travel can be much more relaxed and easier to manage with luggage than checking into a flight with a local budget airline.
For example, from London, there are direct trains to Edinburgh via York or to Glasgow via the Lake District. You could even build in another stop to see more of the country that way.
Train tickets are not necessarily cheaper than flight tickets, but if you book approx. 12 weeks in advance, you can score incredible deals on train tickets within the UK. You will also travel more sustainably and see more of the country along the route.
Tip 5: Be Flexible
By planning early, I can look at flight prices around a range of dates. I always have preferred dates in mind, but might find cheaper flights a week earlier or later. I’m flexible with my travel dates.
I also do not like to travel during peak season because flights and hotel costs are up and tourism can lead to big crowds, depending on the location.
I find the best days to fly out are on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Tip 6: Use Trusted Search Engines & Compare Prices
When searching for cheap flights to Scotland I use Expedia. I usually find the cheapest airfares there for international flights.
I also compare rates on other websites such as Google, Skyscanner and Momondo, just to ensure I got the best deal. This is a great way to get a ballpark range of prices.
Tip 7: Be a Loyal Customer
I prefer Expedia for airfares because whenever you book hotels, flights or car rentals you get points. With enough points, you unlock VIP access.
Expedia VIP access offers further discounts and room upgrades which is nice. When I was in Scotland last year, I had an amazingly magical time exploring the islands and highlands for two weeks but I was also exhausted and very ready to check into my hotel in Edinburgh.
With my Expedia VIP Access I was able to stay at a top hotel for a great price, was given complimentary wine, cookies and early check-in.
There are many other loyalty programmes like this.
Tip 8: Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card
I personally don’t do this, but know that many people swear by travel rewards credit cards.
You can sign up for a credit card that earns travel rewards (points or miles) and redeem those rewards for plane tickets or hotel nights instead of paying with cash.
To keep earning travel rewards, use that credit card as your primary source of payment for everything including your bills and living costs.
Some credit cards partner with specific airlines which is great if you have an airline preference but can be a bit limiting on flexibility. It is important to note that some airlines have “blackout dates” where travel rewards cannot be used to purchase plane tickets.
In the best case scenario, having a travel rewards credit card is like getting free money and if you use it enough it can be very beneficial to find cheap airfares.
Some of the top-rated travel rewards credit cards in 2019 were Chase Sapphire Preferred, Gold Delta SkyMiles, Wells Fargo Propel, Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and Capital One® Venture®.
Tip 9: Book with Budget-Friendly Airlines
If you are flying out of America and do not mind budget flights then I highly recommend the Irish airline Aer Lingus which, if you book early enough, offers flights to Dublin for $550 and Edinburgh for $650.
If you wait a few months these prices will go up $200-$300 or more.
I find it is best to purchase Aer Lingus flights directly from their website in case you run into any trouble with the flights. Whereas, other airlines you can book via Expedia no problem.
Otherwise, my favourite airline is Delta but their flights continue to increase in cost.
One thing I find very frustrating about budget flights is that you can no longer pick your own seat assignment.
If you book “basic economy” with Aer Lingus for example, you cannot choose where to sit, but seats are assigned by the airline. No one wants a middle seat but if you don’t mind where you sit then you can save some serious cash.
The privilege to pick your preferred seat is often $100-150, potentially more if you don’t get an early bird rate.
That said, I’m often happy to pay that extra because with my strategy I always score such cheap flights anyway!
Tip 10: Use Travel Alerts
Flight search engines like Expedia, Google Flights, Skyscanner and Momondo let you set up travel alerts.
You type in your travel dates (or a range) and preferred airports and the website sends you an email when the prices drop.
Using my strategies to find cheap flights, I have scored two flights to Europe for $1420 – less than the price I initially found for just one of these trips!
You see, international travel really does not have to be unaffordable. If you know how to look, it is easy to find cheap flights to Edinburgh, London, Rome or Paris – or any other European destination.
All you need to do is plan, play around with details and be smart about when and how to book.
Do you have any success stories to share or top tips to add? Let us know in the comments!
About Sara Bublitz
Sara is a solo world traveller, acupuncturist, cat cuddler, avid book reader, netflixer, photographer and spiritual seeker. On a day to day basis, she helps people who are suffering from cancer, chronic pain and rare conditions have a better quality of life. Her career has been her passion for over 15 years. However, over the past few years, world travelling has sparked an excitement that she’s never felt before. And the rest is history! You can follow Sara’s adventures on Instagram @bubblesworldtravels.
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Planning a trip to Scotland?
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.