Trying to book a holiday and wondering what websites to use? Think you don’t need travel insurance ? Wonder how to get the best value when checking in luggage? Check out my top tips for booking holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.
1. Compare like with like
Regardless of whether we book holidays online or go to a travel agent, most of us will at least do our research and search prices online. It is important when we do this that we compare like with like. Package holidays with tour operators like TUI or Sunway include transfers and checked baggage and rarely have any hidden extras. If you book flights and hotels separately you will always have to add on transfers, baggage and sometimes hotel taxes too. Make sure the deal you think you are getting really is as good as it looks.
2. Ensure the company you are booking with is licensed and bonded.
If you do decide to book online, make sure the company is bonded and licensed with the Commission for Aviation Regulation. ALL travel agents require a license and bond to trade, a website selling accommodation only, doesn’t. I know this might seem crazy but its true! We only have to recall the nightmare last summer when 15,000 Irish people were stranded when low cost holidays went bust.
3. Read the small print.
If something looks to good to be true, then it usually is. If you see flights to the States for €199 its probably via two or even three different airports and may take you a day to get there. Always check the duration of the flight so you will instantly know if there are stops involved. The stopovers are often hidden in the small print at the end of the booking. Similarly with hotel rooms, if it states non refundable, they mean that. You will often see a hotel room cheaper on one website than an other but usually it is because the rate is non refundable. You will have to pay in full at the time of booking and under no circumstance will you be allowed change or cancel the room.
4. Get Travel Insurance
No one imagines that the horror story they have read about in the papers, could happen to them – it can! The E111 form only covers you in a public hospital, it will not cover an air ambulance ( average cost €50K) or if you have to curtail your holiday and fly home to a sick family member. You will need insurance. Likewise holiday disruption due to flight cancellations or ash cloud are only covered with travel insurance. Multitrip.com have annual policies from €15.95 so you really have no excuse…
5. Invest in lightweight luggage.
Invest in the lightest checked and hand luggage you can find. And buy hand luggage for all the family. Kids love to wheel their own case and if you buy good lightweight cases it will save you a fortune in the long run on baggage charges. Check the hand luggage allowance as some charter airlines only allow 7kg. Remember if travelling with children, Aer Lingus and Ryanair give half price checked baggage for kids but this is only available at the time of booking. If you wait to add on baggage later you will pay the full price.
6. Check passport and visa requirements.
It may seem obvious to check your passport, but some countries require that it is valid for 6 months after your stay, so make sure you double check this. There is a handy passport reminder service on the website where you put in the date your passport is due to expire and you receive a reminder 6 months before the expiry date, by email. Apply for your passport early. The so called ‘2 week passport express’ is only a guideline and in many cases it can take up to 6 weeks in peak season. If travelling to the USA you need to ensure you have filled out an ESTA online and if travelling to Canada an ETA is required. If unsure about visa requirements always check with visafirst, they have an office in Stephens Green and are contactable via phone or email.
7. Check out these travel websites.
To search for airfares & hotel separately:
Skyscanner combine all airlines in their searches. Although Aer Lingus and Ryanair are the main carriers to Europe there are many airlines flying to European and worldwide routes that you may not be aware of. SAS and Norwegian fly to Copenhagen as well as other Northern European countries. Vueling fly to Barcelona and Iberia Express fly to Madrid, these carriers are often much cheaper than Ryanair or Aer Lingus. Check flying outbound with one airline and flying home with another, this might save you money and sometimes flight times might be more suitable too. If looking for the best value on hotels, Trivago and tripadvisor are aggregators and will search numerous hotel sites to bring you back the lowest prices.
To search for package deals:
Sunway and TUI offer great package deals which include flights, accommodation, transfers and checked baggage. Loveholidays.ie are relatively new in Ireland but their searches are excellent. You can search by temperature, by slides in the pool, even disabled facilities.
To search for weather:
Wunderground, this has a historical weather tab so you can see what the weather was like at the same time last year, or for a few years. Loveholidays.ie have a temperature bar so you can drag the temperature up to 25 degrees and avoid pages of holidays to the Algarve in December.
8. Call a travel agent.
In many cases they will find lower prices for you. Even if they can only match the price you already have, at least you will have an expert at the other end of the phone in case of an emergency. Remember, many websites don’t offer the same service.
Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.