Booking a holiday: everything under the sun you need to know | Money

With the Christmas break fast becoming just a distant memory, thoughts are turning to the next substantial holiday during the summer, with travel companies getting ready for a booking blitz.

This weekend traditionally marks one of their busiest periods as people try and the decrease the gloom of returning to work by putting two weeks in the sun in the diary.

Dubbed “Sunshine Saturday”, it typically heralds the start of a surge in bookings – Tui has already said summer 2019 is ahead of last year and Thomas Cook expects this first weekend of the year to be its busiest online and in stores.

But are consumers right to join the crowds? Are there really deals to be had? Or should you hold off and fend off the post-festive gloom simply by breaking “dry January”?

Why the rush?

Christmas is a time to kick back and enjoy. After Christmas is a time to pay for the time before Christmas, whether settling a credit card bill or joining the gym you will never go to. So many people want a release and a holiday is something to look forward to and searches for holidays can start before the Queen’s speech is even over.

Emma Coulthurst from comparison site TravelSupermarket says today is likely to be the busiest as people dread going back to work on Monday. As a result, there is a rush for holidays at peak times.

“Getting in early and securing a 2019 break sooner rather than later, means you will find the best availability if you are restricted by school holidays or other commitments,” she says.

“Generally, the earlier you book, the better the choice and price. Flight prices tend to increase for peak dates whereas accommodation tends to stay fairly static. Leave it and prices are likely to rise overall. The peak summer getaway and the May bank holiday are the ones to particularly get organised for. You will also have time to save up.”

Where is popular this year?

Some holidaymakers see the Algarve as a cheaper destination than adjoining Spain, while the success of shows such as Game of Thrones have put Croatia into the sights of many, according to TravelSupermarket.

Bali in Indonesia has increased in popularity as a long-haul destination due to the cost of living. Tui, meanwhile, singles out Mexico as its most popular long-haul destination.

For those battling against the fall in value of the pound, South Africa is a possibility, says Rory Boland, travel editor of Which?. “While it has fallen significantly against all major currencies since Brexit and again in the last year, the rand has been struggling as well. Head to the lesser-explored Eastern Cape and Sunshine Coast for acres of beaches and five-star accommodation and food for half the price you’d pay in the States or Oz.”

Although visitor numbers to Turkey nosedived in 2016 following a series of terrorist attacks and a failed coup, bookings bounced back last year.

After years of British holidaymakers turning away from Egypt, bookings are also up following heavy marketing and a drop in hotel prices.

But is it all just hype?

Much like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”, be wary of any “deals” because, as Boland says, there is little incentive for travel agents to lower their prices. A study by Which? of 30 “time-limited deals” in 2017 found 16 were the same price, or cheaper, later in the year. “You’re better off shopping around over time to get the right price. Set up alerts on Skyscanner and Momondo for any drop in the price of flights, and use comparison websites.”

Package holidays are not always the cheapest way to book and holidaymakers should do their research before committing to a deal, he advises.

“Last year, Which? Travel found that, depending on the destination, DIY holidays – where you eat and drink in local restaurants and bars – could save you more than £300 per person,” he says. “But we also found instances where the opposite was true. In one example, a four-star all-inclusive deal beat the DIY price by more than £500. Sadly, there’s no easy answer, as it all depends on where you’re travelling to.”

What about Brexit?

Is your holiday even safe with the uncertainty? The Association of British Travel Agents believes it is. It says flights will continue between the UK and the EU and consumers should feel confident, particularly with package holidays, as those booking with a UK travel company have protection under the Package Travel Regulations, with a right to a full refund if a holiday can no longer be provided.

Where problems do remain is with currency, as the pound has plummeted against the euro since the 2016 vote. Thomas Cook suggests holidaymakers will try to lock into all-inclusive deals to avoid further fluctuations.

But, as Boland explains, buying now does not necessarily mean avoiding future increases. He says: “Brexit has the potential to cause disruption to holiday plans. Provided it’s in their terms and conditions, package holiday providers have the right to raise the price of a holiday you have booked and paid for by up to 8% if they incur additional costs due to new taxes or fees imposed by third parties, such as governments or airports, or the exchange rate relevant to the package increases. That means you might have already bought a £1,000 holiday, but the agent can still come back and ask for another £80.”

Timing tips

May is the cheapest month of the summer for short-haul package holidays.
The last week of August offers the best deals for those who are tied into organising their trip during school holidays.
Flying midweek, instead of weekends, offers cheaper opportunities, as does off-peak during the day.
If you decide to organise your own holiday, book flights and hotel or car hire together to get the same Atol protection given to all-inclusive package deals.
Destinations with new flight routes launching throw up the possibility of grabbing cheap introductory fares.
Most three-star or better hotels will either beat the price you have found online or at least match it if you approach them direct.
Sources: Which?, TravelSupermarket

Source link