Looking to escape to sunnier climes without forking out a fortune? If you want to get more than you paid for, you need to do your homework writes Kaye Holland. Paris Hilton travel at Paris Travelodge prices? Here’s how… Book in advance It’s easy and obvious - so why do so few of us do it?! With a bit of forward planning, substantial savings can be made. Daniel Green, senior travel consultant at Africa Travel, suggests “booking up to nine months in advance to obtain the lowest fare possible.” Booked one month ahead, a flight from London to Capetown at Crimbo will set you back in excess of a whopping £1,000. Book that flight eight months earlier and you could find a fare for half of that…
Timely matters Cash conscious travellers take to the skies when everyone is staying put. See how high that ceiling is? If you insist on going away at Christmas, New Year and Easter, you will pay prices to match. Other times to avoid are half term and as a rule any school holiday. June and September can also be quite pricey as people who want to catch the last of the sun’s rays without having to witness little Johnny’s temper tantrums, tend to travel during this period. For the best possible price, think about travelling during the months of October, November, February and March - not that we’re advocating skipping seminars or anything!
Flexibility pays If you’re not adverse to early mornings or late nights and are flexible with regards to airports, there are some rich pickings to be had. Avoid flying out Friday nights or week-ends whenever possible.
Charter and non direct flights Charter flights can often be cheaper than scheduled flights - but bear in mind that the rules for charter flights are v strict. Once booked, flights can’t be amended or cancelled without a charge or cancellation charge of up to 100 per cent.
Consider taking a non direct route to your destination. It might be more time consuming, but it pays in the long run. A few years back, I bagged a bargain break in Vegas by plumping for a flight that involved a six hour stop off in Minneapolis. (Admittedly any bucks saved on flights, ended up being blown on Abercrombie and Fitch gear in Minneapolis’ mega Mall of America…) A couple of years ago, my friend and I made for Marrakech - albeit via Casablanca and Fez - but when prices are this low who gives a damn?
Second hand tickets If you’re a spontaneous type, try snapping up standby flights which can cost as little as one third of the original price. Simply show up at the airport of your choice and if a seat is free, it’s yours for a snip of the real retail price. Result! That said, if a seat is expensive in the first place it’s probably because it is in high demand and therefore likely to be booked out.
Alternatively try shopping for second hand flight tickets on everyone’s friend- eBay (www.ebay.co.uk.) The savvy traveller will find that often it’s the case that people are no longer able to travel and want to recoup some of their initial outlay. For a small fee, companies like Easyjet and Ryanair allow passengers to change the name on the ticket.
Stay on the beaten track Contrary to popular belief, flights to popular destinations such as Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Prague et al are affordable. Prices can be competitive due to the sheer number of airlines competing for your custom. Conversely, venturing off the well worn path is likely to cost you a fair whack. Unusual destinations often mean fewer options and therefore higher prices as the airlines that do take you there are at liberty to charge what they want…
Shop around The super smiley travel agent behind the desk might sound sincere when they say that you’re not going to find a fairer fare than theirs, but don’t just take their word for it. Shop around! Forget BA - it’s time to think outside the box. Easyjet (www.easyjet.com), Ryanair (www.ryanair.com), BMI Baby (www.bmibaby.com) and Air Berlin (www.airberlin.com) are worth checking out when it comes to cheap flights within Europe. Flying further afield? Try www.lastminute.com, www.ebookers.com, www.expedia.co.uk, www.opodo.co.uk and www.flightcentre.co.uk. Book abroad - for example Thomas Cook’s German website (www.thomascook.de) lets you book more cheaply than its UK counterpart.
Flight prices fluctuate daily so if you spot a great deal, reach out and grab it with both hands! Tomorrow it could be lost in cyber space…
The world’s worst flying companions Booked that flight? Flying can be fun- unless that is you’re sat next to the flight neighbour from hell. KH gives you 10 to avoid at all costs…
The moaner Planes aren’t the world’s most comfortable environment, but the conditions are the same for everyone (unless you’re the privileged little rich student who can afford first class.) So why then is your neighbour so upset that he doesn’t have a pillow on a two hour flight? You can bet that the seat will be too uncomfortable for sitting or sleeping and that the easyKiosk will have run out of his first choice of sarnie. What to do: Tell him to have a drink and lighten up.
The chatterbox You’ll recognise this person as soon as they sit down. They’ll make a remark about the weather/delay/seating arrangements and wait for your reply. Staring intensely at your book/magazine/lifejacket instructions won’t help. It’s inevitable that you'll be drawn into a long conversation which will last the whole flight so don’t even try to fight it. What to do: Avoid catching his eye in the hope that he will assume you're deaf.
The stinker They may have bad BO or be a frequent farter - both of which you will find difficult to ignore. It can be embarrassing too - especially when the cabin crew view you as a potential suspect for the foul odours stinking out the aircraft. What to do: Try and trade places with another traveller.
The space invader Space invaders encroach on what little space you have. Some hog the armrest while others invade your leg room by sitting with their legs wide apart. The worst offenders will go to sleep on your shoulder where they will dribble and snore. Not a pleasant prospect! What to do: In extreme cases leapfrog over him to freedom.
The toddler Love children? Try being trapped next to one on a long flight. Unlike babies, toddlers are too big to lie passively in their mothers’ arms and will spend the whole flight flinging away baby toys and hurling their carton juice in a temper. By the time you have mopped the juice off your skinny jeans, the toddler’s mood will have changed and you will be expected to play dull games with him. What to do: Face facts. There’s no way that you will be passing this journey in peace.
The seasoned traveller Spot them a mile off by their guide books bulging with post it notes. No matter where you’re headed, he will have been there so expect to be regaled with stories. Before you land, he’ll have picked your dream holiday - on which the last remaints of your loan are going - to pieces. What to do: Don’t tell him where you’re staying as no doubt he’ll know somewhere better (or even worse will visit.)
The nervous flyer Spot him by his sweaty forehead and wringing hands. Once airborne, other signs include the stiff whisky, continuous muttering and white knuckle grip on the arm rest. Every slight hint of turbulence will send him into a spin. He will also insist on regularly calling the cabin crew for confirmation that the engine isn’t actually on fire. What to do: Talk to him soothingly to calm him down. If that fails, ply him with alcohol.
The flirt There is nothing the flirt likes more than captive prey. Expect inappropriate questions and be prepared for them to cuddle up close when the film comes on the screen. What to do: Feign sleep or try flirting back so outrageously that they are frightened off. NB Success isn’t guaranteed.
Other contenders include:
The joker Incessant – but tragically unfunny joke-teller.
The footie fan His team have just won/lost and you too will share in the ecstasy/agony.
The fiddler Will insist on playing with everything; think seat belt, window blind, travel documents etc
The homesick traveller Want to see pics of their family, friends, dog, cat, campus?
The messy eater “Did that mayo get on your top?”
The music lover Oblivious to the fact that everyone can hear what’s on their iPod...