The chances are that you will at some point in your travels fly its becoming an increasingly cheap way of travel and the time savings are an obvious bonus. On the other hand its hard to beat the knowledge that you have travelled all the way from your own front door step to your final destination overland.
In most cases there are two criteria which the independent traveller will use when considering a flight these are time and cost. But it is also worth bearing in mind the safety record of airlines before finally booking your bargain flight. The safety records of airlines can broadly be categorised by continent.From good to bad:
This is a bit of generalisation due to several Asian air lines such as Cathay Pacific and Japanese airlines having good records.
The safest country is Australia while the ones to avoid are India, China, Columbia, Russia and its former countries. In general international flights are a safer bet than internal flights within these countries.
There are many different types of ticket available generally the more you pay the more flexible they are and therefore the cheaper they are they less flexible. It might be worth paying a bit more for added flexibility especially on return flights as you might want to return earlier or later and with the cheapest ticket you will not have this option. There are many different ticket options we'll skip first class as you probably can't afford it.
Completely flexible ticket which might allow you to make stop overs on route. The on board service is usually better and you get to fly separated by a curtain from the rest of the passengers. The ticket may also allow you access to executive lounges, priority check in and larger luggage allowance. Typically these prices are between 5% and 20% higher than the normal economy fare. So if you want to stop over on route its worth checking out.
These tickets are usually only valid between two points and don't allow stop overs. When booking check what the cancellation fee is it may be up to 100% of the ticket value so make sure you get booked on the right flight.
These ticket are not usually available for one way flights and must be booked in advance often upto a month before hand. There is usually a specified minimum period you have to be away for. Cancellation and alteration fees will vary and may be high so check before you book. These tickets can offer good reductions of upto 60% of the normal fare.
Student fares are available to students in full time study between the ages of 22 and 31. Youth fares are available for flights in Europe if you are between the ages 12 and 25. Both fares can be up to 25% cheaper than the normal fare but are becoming less widely available since you can usually get bigger reductions using another ticket type.
These are usually very good value and allow you multiple stop overs. You will have to make a minimum number of stops, stay at each destination for a period between limits set by the carrier usually between 2 weeks and 6 months and you are not allowed to back track. They need to be booked in advance and the first part of your itinerary will need to be booked when you buy the ticket after that you reserve you flights as you go.
Charter flights are available around Europe and often fly to airports not served by scheduled flights. They are essentially tourist flights to tourist destinations but can offer very good deals. Especially worth checking out if you destination has just had some bad press which might put of tourists. The down side is that the tickets are not very flexible and you may only be able to fly out and back on a specific day of the week.
Its well worth checking out cheap holidays especially in early or late season often the cost of a package holiday out of season will be less than a scheduled flight. Your accommodation will be there when you arrive but you can then head of on your own for a couple of weeks travel before returning home. It also means you'll always have some where to sleep should you run out of cash. From the UK cheap holidays to Tunisia are a good example.
It is obviously tempting to buy a return ticket but if you are not returning from the same place as you are arriving and therefore need to buy two singles consider buying the return ticket abroad. In some countries you'll get the ticket cheaper and it is a much more flexible option as you are not restricted. The down side is that you might not be able to get a flight back when you need it so not an option if you are on a tight schedule.