Everyone loves a holiday. But in tough financial times, even a short getaway can break the bank. It doesn’t have to with these five tips for nabbing the cheapest local and international travel deals.
1. Book flights early and shop aroundThe closer to the time you want to fly, the more expensive your airline seats will become. So, if you are planning to fly, schedule properly, save quickly and pay early. The difference could be thousands of Rands that could be better spent on your holiday itself.
But the price of tickets does not ALWAYS increase at the same rate, and every now and then, there’s a lucky special offer that could work in your favour. Travel agents also sometimes have block reservations with certain airlines and can offer tickets at cheaper rates than the airline offers to the general public. For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to visit a travel agent who can hunt out these deals, even though the cheapest flights are usually found online, using websites like Travelstart.co.za, Cheapflights, and Skyscanner.
For international flights, lesser-known airlines sometimes have really good deals, with stopovers in exotic places like Doha (Qatar Airways) or Angola (TAAG Angola Airlines). But always read reviews of others’ experiences to work out how much comfort and reliability you are willing to sacrifice for a discount. Always look at the bigger picture. For instance, flying a day earlier will mean that you have to stay an extra night in paid-for accommodation.
Usually, for local flights, people want to arrive at the exact time and on the exact day that they need to. But if there is any flexibility in your schedule, you can save quite a bit of money by flying on cheaper days – Tuesday is usually the cheapest – or by taking very early morning or late-night flights. It might not be ideal, timing-wise, but if savings are your priority, this is a good way to do it.
2. Book late – but be flexible
While the trick with buying airline tickets is to book early, the key to snagging cheaper holiday destinations is to book late
While the trick with buying airline tickets is to book early, the key to snagging cheaper holiday destinations is to book late – but then you can’t be too fussy about where you go and exactly when. Hotels, guesthouses and resorts will often discount a room or holiday package that hasn’t sold close to the time of stay. Here, the internet is your friend, and you can visit sites like mtbeds.co.za for local options, Bush Breaks for discounted luxury game lodges, or Amazing Holidays’ last-minute pages for international trips to see what you can find.
TripAdvisor also scans its listed hotels and resorts for discounted, last-minute bookings in every region, so check them out too.
3. Use group booking specials – but do your researchGroupon may be gone but Hyperli and Daddy’s Deals are still going strong with special deals on travels and just about anything else. If you’d like a weekend break – or even sometimes an overseas trip – it’s worth watching their offers as they come out for something that piques your fancy.
Before you book, it’s a good idea to phone the offering resort, hotel or agency to find out how much the trip would really cost if you just went ahead and booked it through them. The special offer sites sometimes claim “50% off” but are actually comparing the special offer with high season holiday rates, rather than the rate for the low-season mid-week “special offer” they are promoting.
And don’t forget to factor in the cost of petrol when booking local trips. Saving a couple of hours of driving time can save you hundreds of Rands in petrol.
4. Work the rewards programmesIf you travel often for business or pleasure, make sure that you are signed up to the best frequent flyer programme for the airlines you use most often. Most of the international airlines have banded together so that you earn points for flights to and from many different destinations. For instance, oneworld offers points and rewards for flyers on a wide range of international airlines, including American Airways, British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. And SAA is part of the Star Alliance, along with airlines such as Air Canada, Air India, Air China, SWISS and TAP.
Diners Club’s Clubmiles programme also offers exceptional rewards for travellers, and incorporates a range of airlines, hotels, tour companies and restaurants worldwide.
Your bank or medical aid provider may also offer you discounted flights, so always sign up for any rewards programme, make sure you’ve done the groundwork to improve your status (for instance, doing your annual health check-up), and double check the costs of flights through their partners before you book.
Everyone’s also talking about Avios, which allows you to earn points by spending at a range of retail stores and also convert points from other rewards programmes and spend them on travel.
5. Budget – and stick to itFinally, although this seems like an obvious point, it’s important to budget for any holiday or business trip. When you’re away from home and your usual routine, it’s easy to fall into the spending trap. If you were at home, you might have made yourself a sandwich or salad for lunch, but if you’re on holiday, you’ll eat out more often than necessary.
Before you go, work out how much you want to or are able to spend on holiday, and then divide that up into a daily budget – allowing for special treats on certain days – and then spend ONLY that each day. Without this important savings step, you will burn through your money while you’re on your trip and cancel out all the savings you made getting yourself there.
Budget Your Trip is a great website with daily and weekly average costs for global destinations, including South Africa.
Happy travels!Nabbing the best holiday savings might require a bit more planning, or a little flexibility on your part, but in the end, there’s nothing nicer than enjoying a fantastic holiday and knowing you paid less for it.