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How to book the perfect package holiday

We’re as determined as ever to enjoy our holidays as one third of the country plans to go abroad twice this year despite the cost of living crisis. From hidden costs to airport strikes Simon Calder is here with his best tips and advice to make sure we don’t fall victim to the pitfalls of booking package holidays this summer.

This bank holiday weekend (Friday 26th - Monday 29th May) there will be approximately 11,356 flights scheduled to leave UK airports across the UK. This is equivalent to over two million seats, in what has been described as The Great Getaway. This will be the highest number of departures we've seen since 2019, with over 3,000 flights leaving today alone. The number of departures are expected to double in the half term. 

What happens if you book a holiday and then the price automatically goes up?

Online Travel agent - On The Beach - encountered an issue where one customer booked a holiday package, before the price had risen after confirmation. Simon says: "Online is not the safest or most reliable space and you are susceptible to these things. When I book travel I research the company and where it is based, otherwise you could be leaving yourself open to sudden hikes in price. That definitely shouldn't happen. All prices should be real time, and my eyebrows are raised by this"

Right of reply from ‘On The Beach': 

"This happened because suppliers like airlines or hotels have changed their prices. It's rare and affects a very small minority of bookings. Where it does occur, we will call the customer and give them the option to confirm their booking, help them to find an alternative within their budget, or cancel at no cost." 

Lot's of people look at comparison sites, but this can be a huge pitfall?

Simon believes you should ditch the comparison sites and speak to a travel agent in person. He says: "You don't want to go anywhere near holiday comparison sites, because that spells misery! I would urge people to go for a proper package holiday from a reputable company such as a travel agent who can help you on a personal level. The most common complaint that I get is about online travel agents or sites that just don't deliver."

And if anything goes wrong, your online agent can't help you?

Should your flight be cancelled, online travel agencies are less likely to guarantee you a refund. Simon says: "They won't have the slightest interest in refunding you that money, because they want to sit on it. I'm not saying don't visit an online travel agent, because I sometimes do, but they can present a whole heap of problems". 

Can we not just search ‘cheap holidays'?

It is often more tempting and seemingly quicker to search for 'cheap holidays', but the sites will likely be less reliable and you may even risk being scammed. Simon says: "There's all kinds of people out there who believe this is the best option, but it's better to go to someone you trust". 

Which destinations will be more expensive than others?

The following destinations will occupy the higher price range towards the summer: Croatia, Greece, Italy and Spain. 

What destinations will be cheaper?

The following destinations are likely to be better value for money: Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Portugal and Turkey.

By adding flight extras it can triple the cost of your flight?

Extras such as speedy boarding, cabin bags and hold luggage can increase the price of your trip. Fares can be up to triple the cost when extras are taken into account, for example: 

  • EasyJet: Offering flights from London to Paris for £57.99 (with add-ons - £151.96) 

  • EasyJet: Offering flights from London to Nice for £38.99 (with add-ons - £106.47) 

  • Ryan Air: Offering flights from London to Athens for £216 (with add-ons - £275.99) 

Simon says: "The most common add ons are extra baggage, but you could consider booking with popular flag carrying airlines such as British Airways, who include baggage add ons and other extras in the price of your ticket”. 

So we should consider costs of add ons when comparing prices?

When booking your holiday you should consider every possible aspect, including flights with luggage, transfers and finally accommodation. Simon says: "People might compare prices and see a better deal elsewhere, but forget to include all of those other things. They do this because they are enticed by a promise of a cheap holiday, and are further hit by unexpected costs. For some sites, it's within their interest to conceal the price until the very end - this is called drip pricing". 

What about alternatives to flying?

Popular alternatives include travelling by boat or train, however it's important to not get caught out with high Eurostar train fares. Simon says: "Eurostar will be taking advantage of the current climate by raising their prices, as people are always looking for other ways to travel. Instead, you should travel by ferry and bundle everyone in a car and go camping in Northern France". 

However we do need to watch out for rail and airport strikes?

Heathrow airport security staff will be on strike this weekend. Passengers have been told they will be limited to two pieces of hand luggage on strike days. RMT members will also strike on June 2, with around 20,000 members of staff across 14 train companies set to walk out.

There is a lot to consider when travelling with your kids?

Simon says: "It's more important than ever to go through every aspect of your journey when travelling with a family, and an in person travel agent can help you here. Online deals may include so-called "free child places", which aren't really free. Again, always book like for like and make sure all the extras are accounted for when it comes to your kids". 

All inclusive might not be the way to go?

Going all inclusive can limit your experience, and you might even end up spending more money. Simon says: "You can be incredibly limited in your hotel, and you could be missing out on all the exciting action elsewhere. You may be tempted to leave the hotel, meaning you're spending more money than included in your package”.

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