Travel News

5 helpful tips for booking a trip

Come fly with me – I’ve learned a few canny tricks on my travels

I’ve done a horrendous number of online travel arrangements for myself and various others in recent weeks, so I thought I’d share some tips to help ease anyone else’s pain.

1. Pay peanuts…

As the biggest expense, the airfares are the most stressful to get right or wrong. I discovered a new website, CheapOair.com, when I was trying to get to Bulgaria to see the Ginger, who was working there. Flights were substantially cheaper than on other sites or from the airlines, so I took the plunge. However, the fares were non-refundable, they went up slightly while my credit card was being verified, and it was hard to access the bookings and choose seats. Would I recommend them again? Yes, for the savings, but it’s not a stress-free exercise. When I called their help desk after making a boo-boo, the operator said it’s better to book by phone, but it certainly isn’t quicker.

There’s some outta sight sites to get you to your happy place.

2. Cover all bases

Another trick I do with hotels and flights is to book the more expensive, refundable options while I get my ducks in a row. This means you’re covered if nothing better comes up, but if you find cheaper, you can cancel the original booking and save your spondoolies. I did this recently with a European puddle-jumper fare, rebooking on CheapOair for almost half the price. I use Booking.com the same way for hotels, paying the higher price for free cancellation, then rebooking closer to the time when my plans are firm and there are often better rates. Very important to keep track of what needs cancelling, though – I mark it all on my computer calendar.

3. There’s an app for that!

I have a whole screen dedicated to travel apps and my new favourite is TripCase, which stores all your upcoming trips, including flights and hotels in neat packages. All you do when you get your emailed booking confirmations is forward them to TripCase and they automatically appear so you can easily check your comings and goings, and even share your itinerary with friends or family.

If you’ve triple-checked your bookings and flights, taking off should be a breeze.

4. Check and re-check

I triple-check my bookings before I press the “Pay now” button and the mistakes I often nearly make are wrong dates, wrong destinations or wrong currency. Some websites change destinations when you play around with dates, for example, or revert to US dollars without you noticing. Also, don’t assume one-way flights will be half of returns – as I recently found out, they’re not. Check it both ways before committing. If you’re doing a lot of online booking, it’s easy to get confused, so resist that glass of wine while you’re at it. Tipsy tourism can be hard on the wallet!

Now you’re on your way to destination fabulous, I think you’ve earned that glass of wine!

5. Pack light

I should be better at this than I am, but I can now congratulate myself on my first four-day mini-break taking only hand luggage. I knew the weather was going to be good so wore all my layers on the plane and worked out my outfits in advance so nothing extra made its way in. Walking shoes are an absolute must. The only problem: I didn’t take sunscreen because all mine was over 100ml, so I had to buy expensive stuff when I got there. Also, I re-pack before getting on the plane, putting heavy stuff in my handbag, which goes under the seat, making it easier to lift the wheelie bag into the overhead locker.

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