How To Book Your International Flights

You’ve booked your tour. Congrats! Now, it’s time to book your flights. If you’re a newbie or feeling a bit overwhelmed with the international flight booking process, we’ve got you covered. What follows is a step-by-step guide to the entire process, from where to even begin searching for flights to what considerations are worth factoring into your final flight decision.

First Things First: When to Book

Once you receive the a-ok from our team to book your flights, look at the calendar and see how long you have until you depart. In general, the best window of time to book international flights is about two to three months before your departure date, and even earlier (five months ahead) if you know that you’ll be traveling to a destination during its peak tourist season. 

The Flight Booking Process

When you are ready to book, keep these steps nearby and use them as a guide as you move through the booking process. 

Step 1: Decide Your Dates and Departure Cities

Before you can even begin searching for flights, you’re going to need to know your dates of arrival and departure and the airports from which you want to fly into and out of your destination. For some of you, it’s as simple as plugging in the start and end dates of your Meetup Tour and booking a roundtrip ticket between the same two airports. For others, you may want to tack on a few days to the trip or fly out of a different airport than you flew into. Determine what you’d like to do, set your dates, and then proceed to Step 2. 

If you would like to extend your stay beyond the dates of the Meetup Tour, our team can arrange a stay at the same hotel and airport transfers. Email us at meetuptours@sofetravel.com.

Step 2: Explore Flights and Fares
Now that you have your dates and departure cities decided, it’s time to get a sense of the flight fares and airlines that fly to and from your destination. A good place to begin is Google Flights, though keep in mind that not all carriers or region-specific airlines may be included in the results. For example, the American carrier Southwest Airlines and several large Asian carriers like Air China, China Eastern, Thai Airways, and Philippine Airlines will not appear in your Google Flights results while others like Aeromexico, Oman Air, and Interjet will only show some of their available flights on Google Flights. That’s okay for this first step in the booking process. We’ll go into some alternative flight search tools that encompass a wider breadth of carriers later in this guide.  On the Google Flights page, enter your departure city, arrival city, and exact dates. The default setting on Google Flights is for roundtrip tickets. If you’d prefer to search for one-way tickets, be sure to adjust that setting. When you have everything set the way you want it, click “Search.” You should now see a screen full of flight options. The flights at the top of the Google Flights results are usually the cheapest and most direct. If you scroll further down, you’ll find more options that increase in price down the page.  At first glance, get a sense of the airlines that fly between your home city and your destination and the range of prices. Take note of the airlines with the cheapest fares, the total flight time and/or number of stops, and the departure and arrival times. Keep in mind that these times are listed in local time, meaning the departure time is the time it leaves your city and the arrival time is the local time in your final destination.  
Optional Step: Check for an Even Better Deal

As we mentioned before, Google Flights doesn’t account for all carriers, especially some budget or regional airlines. If you’d like to save money and be sure that you’re paying the cheapest fare, you can extend your flight search to include a few other platforms. We recommend Skyscanner and Momondo, both are flight aggregator tools that include additional airlines in their results. Kayak, CheapOAir, Expedia, and Priceline are also good tertiary flight search options.

For a step-by-step guide to finding and booking the cheapest flight, check out our blog post here.

Egypt Female Tour Network
Step 3: Select Your Flight Itinerary

As you scroll through the flight options and decide your final flight itinerary, pay close attention to the length of any layovers and whenever possible book the most direct flight. As a general rule, don’t book a flight with a tight connection. Any layovers under two hours between the time the plane lands and the time your next flight takes off is risky and could result in a missed connecting flight. 

Also, if you see a “+1” next to some flights, this means that it is an overnight flight, also known as a red-eye flight. If you do decide to take a red-eye flight, double check that arriving the next day in your destination still fits with your Meetup Tour itinerary. If not, be sure to adjust the departure date in the Google Flights field and search again. 

With all of this in mind, make your flight selection and move on to Step 4. 

Step 4: Decide How You’ll Book

Once you’ve settled on the flight itinerary that both suits your travel preferences and fits with your Meetup Tour schedule (be sure to double check this!), it’s time to book. You can take a couple of different approaches here. There are pros and cons for each. 

After officially selecting the departure and return flights you’d like to book on Google Flights, you should arrive at a page that lists both of your selected departure and return flights. Scroll down on this page to see your booking options. Here is where you get to decide if you will book directly with the airline via their website or if you’d like to book via an OTA, like Priceline, Expedia, or CheapOAir. Often the price difference between a direct booking with the airline and an OTA is small. 

Booking with an OTA can sometimes save you a few dollars, but it’s often a headache if anything does go wrong on travel day (i.e. flight delays, cancellations, or changes to your route). For this reason, we always recommend booking directly with the airline you’ll be traveling on (especially if you’re a first-time international flyer), that way you can deal directly with the gate agent or airline’s customer service if something does go wrong. Additionally, if there are any ticket price changes between the time you book and the time your flight departs, you can usually have that difference refunded with a quick call to customer service instead of having to first go through the OTA you booked through. 

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to officially book your flight (directly with the airline or with an OTA), click over to that site using the button in the “Booking Options” list on Google Flights to complete your purchase. 

Step 5: Choose Your Fare Option & Read the Fine Print

Flying nowadays involves a bit more decision-making than in the past. Once you get to the booking page, you’ll likely see a few different fare options with a list of what’s included or not included in each fare. The main difference between the “basic” fare and the upgraded fares is usually in regard to refundability or adjustment of your ticket after purchase, number of carry-on and checked bags included in your fare, the ability to select your seat or be assigned one, meals, and your boarding group. 

It’s worth taking a second to read the fine print under each fare so that you know exactly what you’re getting before clicking over to the payment page. If you’ll be checking bags, it can occasionally be cheaper to purchase a slightly upgraded fare that includes a checked bag and/or carry-on. Run the math and see if it’s cheaper to upgrade or if it’s better to add your bags later as add-ons to the basic fare.  

Morocco desert women tour
Step 6: Review Your Flight Details and Pay

On the review and payment page, you’ll be asked to fill in your information, typically including your full name as it appears on your passport, date of birth, gender, passport number and expiration date, contact information, and payment information. You’ll also have a chance to make any upgrades to your ticket. Sometimes, not always, you can add bags at this stage if they’re not already included in your fare option. Otherwise, you’ll see that option when you check-in online before your date of departure. A word of warning, some basic fare options may not allow you to check a bag or bring a carry-on, so be sure that you’ve read the fine print for your fare option before purchase.

Before completing your purchase, it’s also smart to triple check your itinerary. Make sure that all dates of departure and arrival are correct and work with your Meetup Tour itinerary. When you feel confident with your itinerary and selections, click the “complete purchase” button. 

Step 7: Set an Alarm and Take Advantage of the “24-hour Rule”

Most airlines do allow you to cancel and receive a full refund within 24 hours of booking, so there is still a buffer if you do later realize that you made a mistake. We suggest setting an alarm on your phone at the time of booking for 23 hours later. This will give you a chance to quadruple check that what you’ve booked still works and it gives you some wiggle room to make adjustments to your flight if necessary. 

How to Score a Cheap Flight

Whether this is your first time traveling or you’re a seasoned traveler, this information will prove helpful as you begin to book your flights. Purchasing the cheapest and most direct roundtrip ticket from your nearest airport to the starting point of your Meetup Tour is obviously the easiest way to do it, but it isn’t always the cheapest. If you’re looking to potentially save hundreds on your flights, consider the following tips and process for booking.

When to Book

Depending on how far in advance you’ve confirmed your Meetup Tour, a good rule of thumb is to book as soon as you know you’re going. Rarely do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches. In general, the best window of time to book international flights is about two to three months before your departure date, and even earlier (five months ahead) if you know that you’ll be traveling to a destination during its peak tourist season. The reason for this is that budget airlines typically offer their lowest rates as a baseline price. As these tickets sell out, the remaining tickets increase in cost.

The Flight Booking Process

When you are ready to book, follow these steps to find the best fare and combination of flights to and from your destination.

Step 1: Perform a Broad Search

A good starting point for this broad flight search is Google Flights. Just keep in mind that not all carriers or region-specific airlines may be included in the results. That’s okay. This initial search is simply meant to give you an idea of the prices and possibilities for getting to and from your final destination. It’s also a chance to experiment with alternative departure and arrival airports that may be offering cheaper fares. We recommend having a pen and paper nearby or your Notes app open as you explore fares so that you can jot down and keep track of all possibilities for later review.

Once you’re on Google Flights, click on the “Explore” tab. There you can enter your departure city and your specific dates. You can also play around with one-way and round-trip flights as well to see which might save you more money for your dates. Oftentimes, it can be cheaper to buy two one-way flights, with your “to” flight being into or out of one airport and your return flight being into or out of a completely different airport. Keep in mind that some of our Meetup Tours do in fact start and end in different cities, so be sure to check your Meetup Tour itinerary before beginning your flight search. 

To start your fare exploring, keep the “where to?” field as broad as possible. For example, if ultimately you know that you need to fly into and out of Lima, Peru, start by searching with “Peru” or even “South America” in the “where to?” field. The reason being that there may be an even cheaper destination in Peru or South America that you could fly into. From there, you can book an often cheaper domestic or regional flight to Lima. The same goes for your departure city on the front end or your arrival city on the back end of your tour. It may be cheaper to fly into or out of another city in your home country and to book a cheap domestic flight to your final destination from there. The key here is to think creatively and explore all possibilities and prices.  

As you’re exploring on Google Flights, it’s smart to have a second or even third tab or window open for quickly plugging in those more domestic or regional flight itineraries. Specifically take note of how much that alternative route costs and if all of the flight times and legs align.

Step 2: Check for an Even Better Deal

Once you feel as though you’ve determined the cheapest flight path to get to and from your destination, it’s time to see if there’s an even better deal out there that Google Flights may have missed. To start, check out some other popular fare finder tools like Skyscanner and Momondo, both of which incorporate some of those budget airlines Google Flights tends to leave out. 

Another good idea is to check prices directly on the website of the airlines you’ve determined are the cheapest, as they may have an even lower fare listed than Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo are showing. 

Finally, it’s worth doing a quick Google search to see if there are any other well-rated domestic or regional airlines in your destination that you haven’t seen come back on Skyscanner or Momondo. If you do come across any airlines that you haven’t yet taken into account, throw in your dates and destinations on that airline’s website to see if they’re offering an even cheaper fare than what you’ve found already.

Step 3: Make Your Decision and Book

At this point in the process, you should have all of the information you need to pick your itinerary and book your flights. Be especially careful to verify the entire route. When it comes to mixing and matching airlines across many sites and tools, mistakes can be made. Run through the itinerary you’re thinking of booking one more time. Make sure all dates and times sequentially flow with enough time between flights in case there are any mishaps or delays en route. Also make sure that you’ve read all of the fine print, especially if you’ll be flying on budget airlines, so that there are no financial surprises later. Things like bag fees, airport check in fees, etc.

Once you feel confident that you have an itinerary that works, book it. Remember that most airlines do allow you to cancel within 24 hours of booking, so there is a bit of a buffer if you do later realize that you made a mistake. We suggest setting an alarm on your phone at the time of booking for 23 hours later. This will give you a chance to triple check that what you’ve booked still works and it gives you some wiggle room to make adjustments if necessary.

Countries with the Strictest Dress Codes for Women

Before traveling to any country, it’s important that you know their customs and rules, which include their dress codes. Yes, dress codes are still a thing even today. And to make sure you adhere to the rules, you’ll need to read about them prior to your trip so you can follow them. In this way, you can avoid dress code violations (which can lead to a fine or, worse, brief imprisonment) and steer clear of offending cultural and religious sensibilities.

So, check out the list below to get an idea of just how strict these countries are when it comes to dress codes for women. In this way, you’ll know what to wear in case you do visit them in the future.

women in modest clothing

Saudi Arabia

The Muslim nation of Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest dress codes in the world, especially for women. The new female dress code passed in 2019 is just as strict — even if it no longer requires female tourists to wear an abaya (essentially a cloak) and headscarf. According to Gulf News, the Public Decorum Code requires women visitors to dress modestly, with their shoulders and knees covered. The code also prohibits women from wearing sleeveless shirts and short dresses.

So, in case Saudi Arabia is part of your upcoming itinerary, it would be wise to buy some sleeved maxi dresses. Liveabout, describes maxi dresses as “typically form-fitting at the top and cut to flow loosely over the body at the bottom.” Even better, they are always fashionable, which is why they have become wardrobe staples for women. They are also available in a variety of fabrics, so you can choose one appropriate for Saudi Arabia’s scorching weather. By wearing these, you’re guaranteed to look stylish while still being respectful of Islamic laws.

Sudan

As Reuters reported, many of the strict social rules that once defined the African nation of Sudan are gradually being eased thanks to Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist regime being overthrown last year. That said, restrictive laws are still in place, and haven’t been scrapped just yet. This means women still can’t dress freely, as they are not allowed to wear skirts and are advised to dress modestly.

That said, consider wearing loose-fitting cotton T-shirts and jeans when you visit Sudan. This combination ticks the boxes in terms of following Islamic norms on how women should dress up: The T-shirt covers your top part, including your chest and shoulders, while the jeans cover your legs all the way past the knees. Equally important is that you’ll be super comfortable and able to move about freely — perfect for when you explore the country’s archaeological wonders. As a bonus, this simple get-up is just right for Sudan’s hot weather as well!

women in india

Cambodia

Home to some of the most breathtaking temples and ruins, Cambodia is a must-see for anyone traveling to Southeast Asia. It’s rich with heritage sites, warm people, and wonderful climate year-round — so pack your breathable clothes and sneakers. In fact, a visit to Cambodia would be akin to taking a trip in a past world. Considering the country’s tumultuous past, it’s a relatively young nation in the rapidly progressing modern world.

They’ve retained much of their traditional customs, including the women’s code called Chbab Srey, which promotes strict conservatism. This put them under fire, as senior government officials in Cambodia have proposed a law banning women from wearing clothes that are “too short” or “too see-through” and men from being “shirtless” in public. While the law hasn’t yet been passed, it’s gaining significant legal support. And seeing as most places you’ll be visiting are temples and places of worship anyway, it’s best to pack light clothes that aren’t too revealing, covering the knees and shoulders.

Maldives

Maldives, an island chain of 26 atolls, is a tourist paradise known for its pristine beaches. It is also known as being a 100% Muslim country, which means everyone is supposed to dress modestly in accordance with Islamic law. Unsurprisingly, revealing swimwear is banned in public places, but permitted in resorts and so-called bikini beaches.

So, if you’re unsure whether or not the beach you’re in allows revealing swimwear, just be prepared and wear your bikini under a wrap dress that is perfect for the beach. Wrap dresses, as explained in prettyme, are flattering for all body types, as they can highlight your best features. Just make sure to pick one that fits you just right, as anything too loose or too tight would just look awkward. Alternatively, you can wear your bikini under a tunic dress, which is also great for the beach. Tunic dresses are generally made of lightweight cotton or rayon, and they come in a variety of styles and color combinations. They also offer a relaxed fit and can be paired with matching flip-flops.

Ugandan women outfits

Uganda

While Uganda is among Africa’s most culturally diverse countries, it also has strict dress codes. This is particularly true for its female civil servants, who are required to wear sleeved blouses that should cover their cleavage, navel, and back. They are also prohibited from wearing short skirts (meaning, anything above the knee is a no-go). Female travelers like you need to take note of these restrictions, too, as they more or less apply to you as well if you visit the country.

Given this dress code, wearing the T-shirt and jeans combo would be a good idea if you’re exploring Uganda and its expansive national parks. Long trousers and long-sleeved tops, in particular, are highly recommended, as these are comfortable and will protect you from the sun’s scorching heat. Comfortable walking shoes or sandals are a must, too, as you’re likely to walk on dusty, uneven roads and fields. And consider using a pashmina or sarong as well for some style points, and an extra layer of protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Let this list remind you of something you must do before traveling to any country: Find out as much as you can about it! Research about it online, ask for input from your fellow travelers, and call that country’s tourism board or consulate. These steps will allow you to plan out your trip in fine detail, including the clothes you’ll need to pack. It will also help ensure that you’ll enjoy your trip without violating laws or traditions.

Sources :
Gulf News – https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/saudi-arabia-your-guide-to-new-dress-code-and-public-decency-code-1.1569829894170

Byrdie – https://www.byrdie.com/what-is-a-maxi-dress-how-to-style-it-4164690

Reuters – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-culture-idUSKBN2132I5

Pretty Me – https://www.prettyme.ph/guides/best-dresses-for-petites/

About the author

Author Photo

Erin Perez

Erin Perez is passionate about all things beauty and fashion. She is interested in the way the industry adapts to new trends and norms. When she’s not writing a new piece, you’ll find her tending to her indoor garden.