How to book your own flights
You may have noticed that our packages do not include flights. (Unless we’re talking helicopters; helicopter transfers from Nice to Monaco are included in our Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters packages!) There are multiple explanations for this, but most notably our guests come from every corner of the globe and we are tennis experts, not airfare experts. (We do, of course, find ourselves booking our fair share of flights. We’re happy to recommend routes from Burlington, Vermont!) Furthermore, as a general rule of thumb, booking your flights yourself will be much cheaper and easier than having somebody else book them for you. It’s a win-win!
We’ve compiled this small guide to help you book flights for your tennis trip of a lifetime. These helpful hints will get you ready to take off, whether it be towards the palm trees of Indian Wells or the freshly-mowed lawns of London.
Booking flights online
First, outline your tentative travel plans. Think about where you might like to travel to, and which dates you would like to go. It may be helpful to peruse our package offerings and even book your tennis vacation before you start on flights. That way you’ll know what time to arrive and depart. For example, you may have a Welcome Dinner on the day of your arrival—those are usually at 7 PM. In addition, consider that you may want to get in a day early to get accustomed to a time change, or add on a non-tennis-related excursion to a nearby city or country.
Make a list of these plans and have them (or your Topnotch Tennis Tours Proposal Itinerary) handy and easily accessible while you book. Try to be as flexible as possible in your plans. The more flexible you are with everything from airlines and airports to travel dates and times, the more likely you are to get a great deal on your flight. Flying from alternative airports can sometimes be cheaper and offer better connection times than large airport hubs, so be sure to check places other than your usual go-to airport! Most search engines will offer up nearby airports as you search.
Next, begin to compare flight prices. How much a flight costs varies greatly depending on many variables, including the day you book, how far in advance you book, what airports you choose, and even the website you use to book. By comparing prices from different sites, you are likely to get the best flight deal. Try to book an international flight approximately four months in advance if you can, as this will generally give you the best flight options and prices. Wednesdays are the typically the cheapest day to fly, while “boring” weekdays like Monday and Tuesday are the cheapest time to book your flight. Check out SkyScanner’s annual report on the best times to book here.
Travel sites collate information on the best flight prices and available times. Examples of these websites include Google Flights, Kayak, Expedia, CheapTickets, Momondo, and Priceline. Travel sites automatically allow you to compare prices and factor in travel variables, and even provide helpful pricing graphs and visuals. One of our favorite tools is the table view, where you can compare departure and return date combinations at a glance.
Airline websites are also an excellent place to book tickets. It’s not uncommon to find cheaper and better flights directly on the airline’s website. Some airlines, on the other hand, will post crazy prices on their own websites—you’ll have to dig a little deeper to unlock the deals. Google Flights is an example of a website that links you directly to the airline’s website. Other search engines may use hundreds of foreign travel agencies; oftentimes, the price difference between Google and a site like Momondo is only a few dollars.
Be sure to note if the price includes items such as taxes and baggage fees. It’s becoming increasingly common for airlines to list “basic economy” fares—some, like United domestic flights, don’t even permit a carry-on bag without an added fee. Sometimes, you may be better off getting a slightly more expensive flight or fare class.
Buying your ticket
Once you decide on the right flight for your upcoming trip, it’s time to buy your ticket!
Follow the website’s prompts. Every system will ask you to fill in information such as your name, number of travelers, frequent flyer number, seat and meal preferences, and credit card information in order to book. You can usually pay baggage fees and select seats during the booking process. It’s a good idea to do this in advance to minimize your time checking in online or at the airport. (Plus, baggage fees are usually lower online than at the airport.) If you’re traveling internationally, you might need a passport to confirm the reservation. Now is also the time to decide if you are interested in paying for extras such as upgrades in seat class or travel insurance.
Print your booking confirmation and other relevant documents. (Many airlines now offer electronic or mobile tickets for domestic flights.) Make sure to take these documents to the airport with you on the day of your flight to avoid any questions or problems with your booking.
BONUS TIP: Try to book your flight with a credit card instead of a debit card if possible. Many credit cards come with built-in travel protections. These can be useful when the company you are flying with goes out of business moments before takeoff. Not that we’re speaking from experience or anything… Look into the benefits included with your card—you may be happy to find you already have travel insurance, rental car protections, free bags on specific airlines, and more.
Before you take off
Before you head to the airport, make sure you have all of your required documents. These might include boarding passes, itineraries, passports, and more. Check to see if your Driver’s License is an acceptable form of ID for domestic flights, as regulations have recently changed. (Don’t forget that adaptor, either!) Check to see if you’re able to check in for your flight online to save yourself time and hassle at the airport.