Travel insiders share their tips on everything from the best time to book flights to how to access the hottest deals first
Tricks for booking flights
The best day to book a domestic flight is on a Sunday, according to research by Expedia. The online travel agency says you could save up to 20 per cent compared to booking on a weekday. It also found it’s up to 30 per cent cheaper to fly on a Friday or Saturday than on a Monday. For destinations in the northern hemisphere, including the US, UK and Europe, high season is during their spring and summer, so snagging a seat or a discounted airfare through June, July and August might be tricky. Look for deals to these destinations during the months of March to May and September to November. Search Google Flights or ITA Matrix (a backend version of Google Flights) and try searching from multiple cities, as it may be cheaper to fly to another domestic destination first.
When to book accommodation
Booking early is key nowadays, according to Centara Hotels & Resorts spokesman Charlie Ridout. “We used to have last minute special offers, but with the way airfares are now, it’s best to get in early,” he says. “Hotels in Asia are also very busy, and with the Chinese market now open, it will get worse for the consumer from an availability point of view.” BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort marketing manager Tanya Cran also says booking early is the way to go. “We have annual repeat specials and deals which are listed on our website page and guests will often rebook upon checkout for the following year, so they don’t miss out,” she says. Searching for accommodation on Google Maps sometimes brings up accommodation you won’t find in a Google search, so it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal.
All-inclusive the way to go
Ridout also recommends booking all-inclusive hotels, especially when holidaying in Asia. “Although places like Bali and Thailand can be cheap, meals for the family can get expensive in tourist destinations and it’s actually cheaper to block book in advance,” he says. If you do your research, you will find some great all-inclusive packages on offer, either directly from hotels and resorts or via travel agencies such as My Fiji and My Queensland. They may include airfares, accommodation, transfers and bonus activities and excursions – with kids stay and/or eat free deals thrown in! Cruises are also a great option. When you book with Carnival Cruise Line, for example, accommodation, entertainment and meals taken in the main dining room, the buffet and a selection of restaurants are included, such as Guy’s Burger Joint, Pizzeria del Capitano and free ice-cream (specialty restaurants are extra).
Travel in the off-season – if you can
It’s no secret that it’s much more affordable (and less crowded) to travel outside school holidays. While campaigns like the Victorian Government’s Every Day Counts encourage parents to refrain from taking children out of the classroom during school term so they don’t fall behind, many parents, particularly those with primary school children, see the benefits of travel as an educational experience. If you have school-aged children, decisions like these come down to personal views. If you can, Expedia says the ideal day to begin a domestic stay is a Tuesday, when you can save more than 10 per cent versus staying on the most expensive day, which is (unsurprisingly) a Saturday. If your kids haven’t started school yet, it’s time to make hay while the sun shines!
Subscribe to e-newsletters
If your inbox can handle it, signing up to e-newsletters is a great way to stay on top of early-bird specials and sale fares. Low-cost airline Jetstar says sale fares are advertised throughout the year, including its Friday Fare Frenzy, and customers signed up to its Jetmail will be alerted to the latest deals, travel inspiration and new route launches. It also has a range of low-fares and holiday package offers available on the deals page of its website, which is updated every week.
The power of social media
Following your favourite hotels, resorts, holiday parks and airlines on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram is another great way to save. “We keep our followers up to date with upcoming campaigns, specials and value packages,” BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park sales and business development manager Candy Workman says. “We sometimes promote packages that include theme park tickets and free activities in our park, food and beverage credits and stay/pay deals.”
Workman also recommends joining BIG4’s Loyalty Club to get discounts on accommodation and freebies, such as food and beverage deal vouchers where kids eat free. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival VIFP loyalty program offers members-only fares, special offers and promotions and you can accumulate points each day you sail. If you sail enough, you could also be eligible for free brunches, exclusive event invitations and priority services. Accor Pacific chief commercial officer Renae Trimble said members of ALL-Accor Live Limitless automatically receive a five per cent discount on accommodation bookings for its hotels. And because Accor is a partner of Qantas, you can earn more loyalty points for both loyalty programs, which may unlock upgrades and cost-effective travel.
If you’re looking for cheap business class flights for the family, check online forums such as Premium Fare Deals – FlyerTalk Forums. You may find some good insights. For example, did you know business class flights to Europe are around 30 to 50 per cent from Indonesia than they are from Australia? You could consider a stopover in Jakarta (or combine your trip with a side holiday in Bali to make it more worth it!). Also look at flying lesser-known airlines, such as Turkish Airlines or China Southern. And if you are travelling for a long period in Europe, it’s substantially cheaper to lease a car than to hire one. These are just some of the tips and tricks you may discover!