Did you know there is such a thing as booking your holiday flights and accommodation too early? According to research, prices begin to drop from 105 days in advance and are at their lowest approximately 70 days ahead of departure before rising again as the dates draw nearer.
That said, earlier is always better when booking for peak periods, such as school holidays or the festive season – especially considering the South African travel market’s unique, ever-changing landscape.
Planning a hard-earned and much-needed getaway? Whether local or international, read on for the tools, insights, and guidance you need to make informed, empowered, and saving-savvy travel decisions courtesy of Antionette Turner, General Manager, Flight Centre South Africa.
If possible, travel during the ‘shoulder season’ to enjoy reduced costs and fewer crowds.
Understand payment terms
Know whether the travel supplier requires full payment upfront or if a deposit can secure your booking. Travel booking isn’t just about when to book, but also how to pay.
Some suppliers allow customers to secure bookings with a deposit, particularly for larger packages although this doesn’t usually apply to flights. The flexibility is especially helpful for travellers on a budget who can’t afford a significant once-off payment (and a big reason why advance booking for cruises is such a popular option!)
Stay aware of currency changes
“Just remember to keep an eye on the currency for payments,” Turner cautions. “If the invoice is in a foreign currency, each payment will be charged at the current rate of exchange (ROE) which will obviously fluctuate over time,” she explains.
Choose the right booking channel
While online tools offer speed and convenience for straightforward bookings, personalised assistance can be invaluable for complex fares and package bookings.
Packages comprising flights and accommodation can offer better value and simplify planning.
Unless booking a package deal, don’t restrict yourself to one airline for round trips. Sometimes, booking two one-way tickets on different airlines can work out cheaper. You should also consider using alternative airports.
Major airports may be more convenient, but flights to and from smaller airports can be cheaper. Consider all your airport options within the region. Finally taking advantage of longer layovers can save you money because longer layovers can often lead to cheaper flights.
Be aware of hidden costs
Look out for hidden costs while booking. For instance, some budget airlines might offer low fares but charge extra for luggage and meals. This is where a knowledgeable travel expert can be invaluable!
Think about travel insurance
It’s crucial to have travel insurance that covers not just health emergencies but also trip cancellations or delays. Make sure you understand what’s covered when investing.
Use a travel agent for complex itineraries
Travel agents are the way to go when planning multi-city tours, cruises, and bespoke travel. Their expertise could save you time, and they often have access to special deals.
Book activities in advance
It’s not just flights and accommodation that require early booking. Popular tourist attractions can sell out quickly during peak seasons. If there’s something you absolutely don’t want to miss, consider booking it in advance.
Don’t forget about transfers
Look into how you will get from the airport to your accommodation. Sometimes, pre-booking your transfer can save you time and help you avoid scams (note that transfers are often included in package deals).
It’s essential to research the climate of your destination. While off-season travel can be cheaper, it may also mean harsh weather conditions. The goal should be to save without negatively impacting your experience.
Turner sums it up perfectly: “Informed travellers make the best travel decisions. A knowledge of the landscape, understanding the patterns, and knowing how to work the system are all key to creating a travel experience that is as rewarding as it is unforgettable.”