Planning an overseas trip can feel extremely daunting; there are flights and accommodation to book, local travel and activities to organise as well a myriad of other matters to arrange. Add to that a foreign language and different currency and it can seem like the odds are stacked against you.
Fear not though as the process can actually be enjoyable once you have strategies in place.
I am currently organising a five-week trip to Spain, France, the UK and Singapore with my husband and two children. I will offer my experience, strategies and tips in order for you to accomplish a wonderful itinerary. I will break the information into several sections so that it is easier to follow and won’t feel like an overload of information in one go. I will start with the process of booking flights as without flights you won’t get anywhere!
Searching the Internet
Of course, some people still like to arrange their trip through a travel agent and that is fine if you are happy to pay a little extra for this convenience. However, most people nowadays are confident enough to book their own flights on the Internet. The first step is to decide which search engines you will use to find the best deals. I personally like to use the following websites (please note, I am not affiliated to any of these sites) they are just my preference:
I will be honest and say that I have never booked through any of the above websites. I only use the sites to provide a comparison as to which airline is offering the best deals. I then search on the airline’s website with the identical search criteria. I know many people who have booked through the above websites companies and everything has gone to plan. Personally, I feel more confident booking directly with the airline as I like the security that if anything in the booking goes wrong then you are dealing directly with the airline and not a third-party. In the majority of cases the airlines’ price is comparable to that of the above sites.
The key to finding excellent deals is searching regularly and as early as possible once you know your dates. In days gone by airlines would sell seats for bargain basement prices at the last minute. Sadly those days are over and airlines put the prices up as the departure date gets nearer. I learnt this when I had to fly to Spain unexpectedly at the last minute.
I have read so many articles claiming that six weeks prior to departure is the ultimate time but in my opinion it’s a good idea to keep an eye on flights as early as possible and to continual monitor prices.
My family has found amazing deals for flights just because we happened to search at the right time.
Date of Travel
If possible be flexible with your dates as this can drastically reduce the cost of a flight. There are many articles on the Internet claiming that a Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly and in contrast Friday or Sunday are the most expensive.
If you can be flexible most comparison websites allow you to tick a box that will produce results for 3 days before and after your selected date of travel. The majority of the time I do not have the luxury of adjusting our dates as we have to give a long period of notice for holiday leave and of course we want to make the most of every day we have off work. Having said that I have always been happy with the deals we have managed to find.
Origin and Arrival Airport
I will always search alternative origin and arrival airports as this can make a huge difference in the cost of travel. For example, when we fly to Spain to visit family I always compare flying to either Madrid or Barcelona. The distance to our final destination is roughly the same to each of these airports. I also go one step ahead and check train prices from each airport as that can sometimes cancel out any savings on the flights.
If you are contemplating a stopover it is also worth exploring different places as part of your search. For example our flights to return to Melbourne from Madrid worked out cheaper with a stopover at Singapore as opposed to Dubai with Emirates.
No I don’t mean that you are going to become a spy! Have you ever noticed the adverts that pop up based on what you have been looking for on the internet. This is called behavioural targeting. It is a technique used by online advertisers to increase the effectiveness of their advertisements based on information collectedon an individual’s Web-browsing habits, such as the pages they have visited or the searches they have made. It is also claimed that these companies will alter pricing based on your search history. I have never noticed this myself, however, I always turn on incognito mode just in case.
Signing up to several airlines will give you the latest news regarding their sales. I have an email address set up just for such correspondence. That way it doesn’t clog up your everyday email with numerous offers and bulletins.
It is worth checking to see what is included in your fare before pressing the purchase button. Many budget airlines add
on exorbitant fess for luggage, seat selection and meal plans. It is also worth noting that some ‘all inclusive’ airlines are venturing down this path. For example some ‘all inclusive’ airlines now charge a fee for seat selection if you purchase a saver/economy fare. Of course if you don’t care where you sit then these fares are excellent choices.
What..Not More Charges!
It matters a great deal how you pay for your flights. Paying by credit is very convenient, however, most airlines will add an extra fee for this payment method. Personally I am happy to pay the extra fee as we get the added benefit of free travel insurance from our credit card provider. The credit card provider may also add an international transaction fee to the total amount if the payment is made in a different currency.
Other ways to pay to avoid extra fees can be by debit card, BPay (although you may still be charged if it is linked to a credit card) and POLi (an Australian based payment company). It is always advisable to check on the airline’s website to find out the best and cheapest way to pay.
It’s an amazing, somewhat exhilarating feeling once the flights are booked and the foundation for your trip has been created.
Now the fun begins…bon voyage!