Top travel tips for 2008
Despite the trend towards later bookings and last minute travel, most Irish people still book their holidays in January and February. In recent years one third of all holidays were booked in January, that has tapered off a little. But those who are expecting to rush back out to the travel agent, or click on the mouse, it is important to devise a strategy for getting the best holiday at the best price. Here are some top tips. By Eoghan Corry
TIME YOUR TRAVEL
If you want more choice, better service, lower bills, quieter sights and emptier beaches, all you have to do is time your travel carefully. Book during the shoulder seasons, easy to spot from the dip in the prices listed in the brochures. June and September in the Med., November and March in cities, November, January and May for many tropical destinations, January and March for skiers.
AVOID PEAK TIMES
You will do well to fly mid-week or to take your weekend breaks from Saturday until Tuesday rather than from Thursday to Sunday. If you have school-age children, it's still worth scouring the price grids: the last week in August is usually cheaper than the first, and Easter skiing (Mar 17-28) is far cheaper than at the February half term (Feb 11-15), for example.
PICK YOUR CURRENCY
The Euro has made Mediterranean travel much easier. For the best value, think about destinations where the euro is relatively strong and the cost of living relatively cheap. For example, Romania, Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia are good bets as alternatives – the same meal in Greece costs double what it does on the Black Sea. For warm winter beaches, Goa is superb value compared with the Caribbean or Maldives. With the dollar at about 1.47 to the euro, the US still appears to be a good financial bet for 2008, and transatlantic jouneys out of Ireland look a lot more attractive now with a wider range of direct flights.
Short-haul is cheapest booked direct.
You will nearly always get the cheapest fares to Europe by booking direct on an airline's website rather than through a travel agent. Ryanair and
Aer Lingus operate most flights out of Ireland but watch charter flights which often offer cheaper seat-only rates to sun destinations. The problem is finding out which airlines serve the destination you are interested in and from which airport. Get an overview on websites such as myholiday.ie, travelsupermarket.com and skyscanner.net.
Long-haul is cheaper through specialist
agents. Travel Agents offer better fares and more choice on some long-haul routes (those not run by Aer Lingus) than you will get from going direct to an airline.
Check out online agents such as trailfinders.com, ebookers.ie and expedia.ie
BOOK YOUR SEAT
With most good airlines you can book, or request, a seat on long-haul flights (those over five hours) well in advance, often simply by clicking on a plan of the plane on the website (about half the seats may be made available for this service). The alternative is to check the website the day before travel, when the rest of the seats are normally released for booking.
LOOK AT BOTTOM LINE
When you are trying to compare holiday prices, be extremely wary of what's highlighted in the brochure. Small-print extras -– fuel surcharges, airport charges, supplements on transfer night flights, supplements for sea views, air-conditioning, transfers, seat reservations on charter flights and so on - will add significantly to your price. Watch, too, for disappearing child discounts, where you find that the children concerned won't count towards the occupancy of an apartment. In effect, you end up losing some of the discount because you have to pay an under-occupancy supplement.
Sound complicated? It is. Ignore the headline price and get a final, bottom-line price for the whole party before making comparisons.
The great advantage of booking early is that you have the biggest choice. If you want a specific hotel in a particular week, or a flight at a certain time or date, or to visit a city during a big festival, book as far in advance as you can. You might miss out on a late-booking special deal, but at least you have got what you want.