The big summer getaway has begun! Today is forecast to be Heathrow's busiest day so far this summer, as schools across the country break up and put upon parents venture abroad with little Johnny and Jane for the three S’s - that's sun, sand and sea. Of course not everyone can escape the office this August: some of us have to stay and, y’know, actually do some work. But if, like me, you’ve been left behind in Blighty, panic not.
Britain is rather brilliant in August: think t-shirt temperatures, the chance to enjoy the country in a more relaxed manner and an almost empty office - meaning you can plan your winter break (and escape - at least for a little while - the big freeze) on work time. Huzzah!
But a great globe-trotting itinerary takes a certain kind of planning to ensure the best route - and price. Here are my tips for a top journey..
1. Do your homework
Homework can be fun. The first (and best) step is to make a list of all the places that you’d most like to visit. I like to divide them into three categories: short haul, mid haul and long haul.
2. Speak to an expert Now it’s time to talk... Online booking engines are a wonderful thing but I’m all about talking to a travel specialist. They can advise you on where might be both wallet draining and difficult to get to (the Galapagos Islands anyone?) and suggest destinations that might not previously have entered your head. Case in point? A friendly Flight Centre whom I was talking to about India, advised me that I would be mad - while in the area and all - to miss out on Bhutan.
3. Think about when to go
The cheapest time to set off during winter tends to be the months of October, November, February and March. Easter, July, August, Christmas and the New Year are most expensive. June and September can also be quite pricey as people who want to catch thelast of the sun’s rays without having to witness children's temper tantrums, tend to travel during this period.
4. Check the weather
That said, check the weather before confirming flights. Cheap is good, but being dry is better. I used to live in the Cayman Islands and met plenty of sad, soggy travellers who had snapped up cheap air tickets to visit the Caribbean island... during the ‘official’ hurricane season (June-Nov). As a rule of thumb, December through to April is a good time to visit the Caribbean while January is great for Thailand and Australia, but not Japan. Want to find out what the weather is like in other holiday hotspots? Check out: www.weather2travel.com
5. Money matters
It’s not just about forking out for the flight ticket: you’ll also need to pay for your food, accommodation and activities - and costs vary from country to country. There’s a reason why I sought out South East Asia in my impoverished early-mid twenties and only turned my attention to South America (much more expensive) when I was older and therefore in a better place financially. I like The Economist’s Big Mac Index - it shows you the cost of a burger in different countries and will help you decide where you will be able to travel and how long for.
6. Air miles
Lastly air miles: use them or lose them. If you’ve registered with a frequent flyer programme, you could have earned enough points for a free flight. Check (airlines rarely send our polite memos reminding you to use your miles) before handing over your credit card...
Got your passport? See you on the beach...