Oonagh Shiel, Travel Expert and Cheapflights.co.za, said: “It’s an expensive time of year, but making savings on family holidays is not impossible with a bit of planning; just make sure you do your homework and compare, compare, compare.
“There’s generally four areas we at Cheapflights.co.za advise looking at to help your rand go further and get some quality time away with the kids. Follow these simple tips, save on the flights – and you might just get a few more nights away.”
- Book smart
Booking in advance, to lock in handy extras such as free child meals (or places) and holiday clubs, is a sound policy. You’re looking at several months out. However, if you’re flexible and don’t really mind where you go, you could make big savings by swooping in on last-minute deals.
Scheduled carriers generally don’t offer last-minute flights, so it’s vital to pounce on a flight sale when they come up (as well as checking travel search and comparison sites like Cheapflights.co.za, keep up with the airlines on social media for announcements). Charter airlines will sell off seats more cheaply as the departure date nears and accommodation providers will also discount to avoid empty rooms.
To find last-minute availability, check out airlines, travel agents and hotel chains, sign up to their newsletters and follow their Facebook and Twitter feeds. Picking up the phone to speak to an agent is another great way to uncover hidden fares. And when you’re searching remember to clear the cookies on your browser to avoid “distressed purchaser” fares.
- Fly smart
In the midst of flight searching, factor in the pain points of family travel. Very early morning or late evening flights are generally cheaper, but may not suit your family given children’s ages – Cheapflights has a useful feature called Smart Value, which makes searching easier, enabling you to strike a balance between cost and convenience.
Don’t necessarily be swayed by a cheap headline price. If there’s no checked luggage allowance, in-flight meal or in-flight entertainment the costs – and effort – will be thrown back onto you. Cost out the price of the budget flight with luggage, meals alongside a legacy airline.
Even if there’s an in-flight meal, ensure you bring some of your children’s favourite snacks to alleviate hunger and avoid the “I don’t like that” wails at meal time. Having their favourite toys and books on hand will help fight boredom too – and might help them drop off on a late-night flight.
- Consider the alternatives
Yes, everyone wants to bask in Cape Town, Durban or Kruger during that very special Christmas / New Year week, but if you’re not seeing relatives or tied to a particular location, cast your net a little wider, select somewhere less popular and save. This could mean Marakele National Park in Limpopo rather than Kruger National Park – or Nature’s Valley rather than Plettenberg Bay.
- Play the family card
Properties with self-catering suites or apartments are a win-win for families. Food costs are lower, you dodge expensive extras – but still get the holiday vibe. Make sure all extras, such as WiFi (unlimited or 500mb free?), are covered to keep a lid on costs.
Look for free kids’ rooms or holiday clubs that’ll entertain the little ones and ensure Mum gets a rest too. Lots of safari parks will lay on ranger walks and classes such as spoor identification or bug catching. Home exchanges or home stays are another way to save on family holidays. And if the children are of a similar age there’ll likely be toys and equipment to play with.