Saturday 22 October 2016

Ten ways to get the best holiday deal

One-way flights, Tuesday travel and booking early could secure a cheap sun escape

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

'What tricks of the trade could drive you to a better holiday deal this year?'
'What tricks of the trade could drive you to a better holiday deal this year?'

January is one of the busiest times of the year for booking holidays - but you could spend thousands of euro more on your sun escape than you need to if you book for the wrong time and the wrong destination.

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So what tricks of the trade could drive you a better holiday deal this year?

The Sunday Independent asked travel industry experts for their tips.

Fly on a Tuesday

Flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, instead of the weekend, could save you a few hundred euro on flights if you're travelling alone - or more than a thousand euro on family flights.

Early last week, for example, a one-way Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Barcelona for the last week of April could have been snapped up for €40 - as long as you flew on the Tuesday.

Had you opted to fly to Barcelona on the Friday of that week instead, you could have paid €105 for the same flight. The savings you can make by flying mid-week are less pronounced at certain times of the year - so do your research.

Check one-way flights

"Sometimes it can be cheaper to travel out with Aer Lingus and home with Ryanair or vice versa - and flight times might be better too," said Sarah Slattery, founder of the travel website The Travel Expert.

Avoid the school holiday rush

Avoid travelling during July and August - if you don't have school-going children. Otherwise, you could pay at least a grand more for your holiday than you need to.

For example, a camping trip in Brittany, France could cost €1,045 if you travel in May - assuming you travel by ferry and stay in a three-bed mobile home for eight nights. The same trip could cost €2,550 in July. So book your family holiday in May, September or early June instead.

Book the rainy season

Families with schoolgoing children have little choice but to holiday in July and August. However, travelling to a destination that is off-peak during the Irish summer could save a few bob.

"July and August are considered the rainy season in the Caribbean - but the reality is this amounts to quick tropical showers," said Raphael Giacardi, senior producer with the travel deals website, Travelzoo. " You still get over eight hours of sunshine a day - and prices are up to 40pc cheaper than the cost of holidaying there between January and March."

Thailand is off-peak in May, the low season for travel to the US is between January and March, and November is off-season for Mediterranean cruises, according to Jonathan Bridge, a spokesman for the travel agents, Trailfinders.

Do your research though - a cut-price deal won't be much use if you're caught up in a hurricane when on holiday.

Don't bank on late discounts

Booking early can secure the best price and choice of holidays - particularly for family holidays, honeymoons or sought-after destinations and hotels. So while you might not get a discount as such by booking this month, the price you pay could be a fraction of that paid closer to summer.

"Last year, people were paying €600 for a last-minute deal in September that would have been half that price if it was booked at the start of the year," said Ms Slattery. "If the weather is poor again this year, I think there will be very few last-minute deals."

Eoghan Corry, editor of the monthly travel publication, Travel Extra, also believes this summer won't be a good one for late discounts.

"Every year, the holiday companies play a game where they try to guess how many people will go on holidays," said Mr Corry. "When they get the numbers wrong, they have to sell off many holidays at discounts later in the year.

"In the early Noughties, the holiday companies were often guessing wrong and consumers got a lot of late discounts as a result. However, that hasn't really been the case since 2010."

Honeymoon destinations often have good early-booking discounts, in particular Mauritius, the Maldives and Riviera Maya in Mexico, according to Mr Bridge.

"Depending on the time of year the couple are staying, it's not uncommon to see up to 50pc room discounts on some properties," said Mr Bridge. "That can equate to savings of as much as €3,000 per couple - depending on the type of room booked."

Remember, a discount is usually a way of tricking you into thinking you are getting a better deal than you actually are, so always look at the bottom line - that is, the overall price of the holiday.

Grab flash sales for DIY holidays

Those travelling independently - rather than through a travel agent - should watch out for flash sales from airlines. These sales normally last for about four days.

"Make sure you sign up to an airline's newsletter so that you get word of a flash sale - as airlines don't usually give any notice of them," said Mr Corry.

Haggle with your travel agent

Before booking a holiday independently, see if your travel agent can better the price of your DIY trip. You could knock more than a third off the price of your holiday by doing so.

"If you're slightly flexible with travel dates and your hotel, it often works out cheaper to book a package holiday, as holiday companies are able to negotiate lower prices to get you the best deal," Mr Giacardi. "This is particularly the case for spring and autumn dates, when the weather's still mild but the crowds are thinner. Package holidays at this time are often between 30pc and 40pc cheaper than booking the flights and accommodation together yourself."

Choose the Algarve over the Canaries

You can get good value on trips to the Algarve, Spain and Greece, according to Ms Slattery.

"There are daily flights to the Algarve and most of the Spanish resorts, so prices are very reasonable, even in peak season," she said. "Falcon Holidays are offering chartered flights to the Greek islands and their package deals are great value. Turkey with Sunway should prove reasonable this year too."

The appetite for Turkey is likely to be muted, given the unrest in Syria.

"You've a lot of empty luxury hotels in Antalya, Turkey - so if you're looking for a bargain, that's the place," said Mr Corry.

No matter how good the bargain, you may still be uncomfortable travelling to Turkey, given the threat of Isil attacks. A number of holiday destinations, such as Tunisia and Egypt, are no longer being offered by many travel agents due to the attacks. This has pushed up the price of holidays in places equidistant to North Africa, such as the Canary Islands, according to Mr Corry.

"The price of holidays in the Canary Islands has climbed by about 20pc this year," said Mr Corry. "People who used to go to North Africa for holidays are looking at the Canaries now. Prices go up with spikes in demand."

The Portuguese island of Madeira can be pricey. "Madeira is a resort that is more expensive in general as it is more upmarket - however it is still cheaper than Ireland," said Tanya Airey of Sunway.

Book early for long-haul

The start of the year is often the best time to book long-haul flights as airlines compete on price in the January sales, according to Mr Giacardi.

"Long-haul flights also tend to jump up in price as the travel date approaches," said Mr Giacardi. "Fares to countries such as South Africa, for example, can double in price over the course of a year."

Those interested in long-haul travel, such as to Thailand or Malaysia, could find such trips more affordable this year - because record low oil prices are feeding through to the cost of flights, according to Mr Corry.

Don't overlook on-the-ground costs

Accommodation, meals and transport are often cheap in Thailand and Malaysia - but can be pricey in the US and Canada.

"In Phuket, Thailand, the price of three-star hotels (including breakfast) starts from €55 per person per night," said Mr Bridge.

"You can buy a beer in a bar in the Patong Beach resort for about €2.50; dinner for two in a good restaurant, including wine and dessert, would cost about €50, while a five-mile taxi journey might cost you about €5."

Turkey and Bulgaria are some of the cheapest countries to visit, according to Ms Airey. A three-course meal for two costs €18 in Turkey and €20 in Bulgaria, she said.

A three-course meal for two in Madeira, by comparison, could cost about €30.

It has become more expensive to visit countries where the local currency has gained ground on the euro - such as the US and Britain.

"Although package deals to Orlando are quite reasonable, the exchange rate means that Florida will be an expensive holiday this year," said Ms Slattery. "Theme park passes are almost as expensive as the flights, so the overall cost will be high."

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