We’re all looking for the best deals when it comes to travel, so rather than scouring the interwebs, daily deal emails and social media for the right advice, we have tapped into the expert knowledge of those in the know. A panel of high-flyers, consisting of Mark Hodgson, general manager of Escape Travel; Tom Walley, executive general manager of Flight Centre; and Monique Van Gelder, national marketing manager of Cruiseabout, have shared some of their insider expertise:
Flights and accommodation:
• Choose a holiday package that combines flights with your accommodation. Not only are these more convenient, but the price is based on wholesale rates which work out to be a better value option, plus they often have a specially negotiated saving or added value attached.
• Earlybird offers. It is standard practice in the travel industry for airlines to release ‘earlybird’ fares in September for travel to Europe, so keep an eye out for these by signing up to travel agent newsletters to get the jump on the best deals.
• Visit a Travel Expo prepared to purchase. With the help of a travel expert onsite, you’ll get the best deal possible and a wealth of advice in the process. Flight Centre holds expos for key destinations such as Europe and USA/Canada/Alaska every year to coincide with earlybird season, and if you book on the spot, you’ll get the best price of the year.
• Choose alternative stopover airports when travelling long haul to avoid hefty airport taxes. Bangkok Airport is a cheaper stopover option than Singapore or Hong Kong when travelling on to Europe.
• When flying in and out of Europe, consider using alternative departure airports to save money on your return flight. Most return airfares include a multi-city option and your travel agent can help you choose the best route option to avoid paying excessive airport taxes. Airport taxes vary from city to city and London has one of the highest, so for the return journey consider flying out of Paris where the airport tax is far less and the overall price of your ticket, even with the inclusion of a cheap one-way Eurostar journey from London to Paris, will be less that a return flight departing from London.
• Pay it off. Escape Travel offers a flexible payment plan with its nine-month interest-free finance option which lets travellers book a holiday well in advance to secure the best price, but pay off their holiday in a series of easy payment.
• Work around the peak season by opting for the ‘shoulder’ period either side of peak travel times as these are generally cheaper, but still a desirable time of year to be travelling to your intended destination. For example, peak season for a Greek Islands holiday is July and August, but the shoulder season in June is much more affordable and the weather is just as good.
• Midweek is a great time to travel if you can be flexible with your dates. Flights are generally cheaper at this time as they are less popular that at the start and end of the week, plus you can often pick up a cheaper hotel deal with many properties offering discounts for stays during the week.
• Take note of the seasons for your holiday destination, as there are bargains to be had when avoiding peak travel times. For example, Thailand is a great year-round destination and travellers can pick up an excellent deal when travelling in the low season months from May to September when many resorts offer significant discounts and ‘stay-eight-nights-pay-four-nights’ type deals are standard.
• Book childcare upfront. For resort-bound families, make sure you consider what daycare facilities you will need on the ground before booking the cheapest upfront package price. Avoid additional expenses such as fee-based kids clubs and baby-sitter rates by reviewing the different complimentary in-resort child minding facilities and factoring this saving into your total holiday cost before making a decision.
• Don’t assume you are restricted to the airfare options listed online. Your travel agent has access to a host of deals unavailable to the general public and can advise on the best value route network for getting from point A to point B based on your budget, or create a custom built round-the-world airfare that may represent better value for a multi-stop holiday.
• ‘Double Dips’ are unique to Flight Centre and are a great way to double your holiday fun by visiting two places on one low fare. You can double up in Thailand with Phuket and Bangkok, double your beach time in Fiji and Hawaii or combine city stays in Los Angeles and New York or Hong Kong and Singapore. Visit in-store and ask your Flight Centre expert about double dips for more information.
• Steer clear of peak times. If you can, avoid school holidays and special event cruises, such as those over Christmas and New Years, as these cruises are priced at a premium.
• Take advantage of earlybird cruise offers for the season ahead as you can pick up discounted rates for travel in the following year, discounted or even free airfares or other bonus inclusions like extra onboard credit not offered outside these earlybird booking periods.
• Save money by asking your cruise consultant about special rates offered to seniors and military personnel. P&O and Princess often offer military benefits such as extra onboard credit for local cruises, while RCI and Celebrity Cruises have seniors’ rates that can be quite a bit cheaper.
• Sign up to agency newsletters and follow their activity on social media to see the latest deals the moment they are released.
• Try a one-way cruise. Travellers more interested in the cruise experience of life on the ship rather than sightseeing at different ports can pick up a cheaper cruise by opting for a repositioning cruise. These are one-way cruises designed to take the ship from one destination to another at the change of the cruise season and feature fewer stops on the itinerary, meaning passengers also save money by staying onboard.
• The ‘guaranteed cabin’ option is often the cheapest way to go if you know the category of cabin that you’re after, i.e. inside, outside, balcony, but are open to being located anywhere on the ship. Passengers pay more for their cabin when selecting its exact location on the ship – like the specific deck or away from the lifts – but those that choose the guarantee option receive at least that cabin type and can sometimes score an upgrade.