Even in today’s world of budget flights (which are pretty awesome and have allowed me to travel in a way that I never could in a pre-budget flight world), plane tickets can take quite a hefty bite out of your bank account. And they’re pretty hard – make that impossible – to refund. So to avoid any mishaps and ensure that your money goes where it’s supposed to (Fun Stuff to Do on Holiday), get this check list ticked off first:
Research your destination through the news: Do a quick read-up on the current affairs and economic conditions of your destination to try and gauge what situation the country will be in at the time of your holiday. Hint: if there are rumours of unrest brewing, you definitely don’t want to get caught in a riot while on vacation. Alternately, if your planned destination is doing well economically, cost of living prices will go up and so will tourist prices. For example, last year, due to market situation in Europe, many European countries suffered badly, especially Spain – but that meant their prices dropped and they were a good deal for the budget traveller. On the other end of the scale, Australia had just made it through the GFC pretty much unscathed, but that meant it just got pretty pricey to take a trip Down Under.
Double-check your leave time: Check with your boss to ensure that you’ve got enough leave time for your trip, and also (this is very important!) that your boss is willing to let you take the time off. You don’t want to have to shell out for flights, only to find out that the rest of the office have already booked their leave for the same month so your boss can’t just afford to let another staff member off. (This happens a lot around public holidays and school holidays.) You don’t have to put an official leave application in yet; just get a verbal okay from your boss on your tentative trip dates.
And if you run into problems? Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Haven’t got enough leave? Offer to work overtime and get paid in leave hours. Or ask the HR Department if you can either take some unpaid time off or rack up a few negative leave days which you can pay back after your holiday. Everyone at work has already booked their leave? See if you can do a trade with some of your workmates.
Triple-check your dates and places before you click ‘Pay’. It can get a little confusing when you’re planning a trip to a number of places, so make sure you haven’t double-booked flights on the same day for two different places. Also, allow yourself plenty of lee time between flights in case of plane delays. Finally, double-check the day, month and even the year of your flight! You do not want to be the schoolteacher who booked a trip for a wedding a year earlier than the actual date. True story!
Check your passport expiry date: Make sure your passport has at least six months before it expires from the time of your trip. Border security can be pretty strict about this and you don’t want to waste precious holiday time at a foreign airport, desperately trying to argue your way into the country – or worse, forbidden entry into the country.
Shop around for the cheapest flights: Visit a few travel agents to see what deals they can offer you, then check them against the budget and regular flights. Some airlines offer a number of promotions, including 24-hour only deals, so it can be worth your wallet doing a little extra research. Some good websites that will help you price compare – Webjets, Cheapflights, Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner.
Watch out for the festivities: Check if there are any major festivals on at the same time as your trip. Keep in mind that hotel prices go up by quite a fair bit whenever there are major events in town that are a big drawcard for visitors. For example, during Oktoberfest in Munich, hotel prices double and triple in the city.
Book on weekdays: Try to book your flights on weekdays because that’s when the flights are cheaper. Fridays and Saturdays tend to be more expensive.
Visa check: Check your visa requirements before you book your flights. You don’t want to get caught out having spent thousands on plane tickets and hotel reservations before realising your visa has been turned down.
Now you’re ready to book that flight! Happy flying!