24 January 2014

Posted by Discount Insurance on Friday, January 24, 2014
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As travel firms get well into their January sales, we here at Discount Insurance offer you advice on finding the best holidays at the best prices.

Despite a general trend towards later and later booking, January is still the peak booking time for summer holidays – especially for families. As a result, hundreds of tour operators, airline and travel agents are trying to grab your custom. Like all businesses, they know that the best way to get your attention is to promise incentives and discounts. They also hope that you won’t take the trouble to compare prices too carefully.  But if you do, you may well find a better deal.

Here are some points to watch out for:


When we see the words ‘discount’ or ‘special offer’: it always makes you feel better about the price you are paying. But a discount is worthy of the name only if it represents a true saving on the price that is normally charged.

The trouble with travel is that such “fixed” prices are now quite rare. Airline, ferry companies, hotels and tour operators charge whatever price they think they can get in the current market. And this month you will also find many travel agents promoting discount and deals.

To ensure savings here check the bottom line once all the extras have been added. And then only will you know if that represents the best value by getting quotes from several sources.

Added extras

Five nights for the price of four, a free extra week, upgrades – all these booking incentives can be worth having. As with a discount, however, you will only know what the ‘extra’ is worth, after you compare the deal as a whole with what is being offered by competitors.

Low deposits

During these ‘sale’ periods there is a clever ‘soft sell’ approach designed to reduce the amount you have to pay upfront and so tempt you into committing to book.

Particularly, just after Christmas, when money is low, they can seem an attractive way of securing the holiday you want without having to pay a full deposit. But you may still end up paying the balance a long time after departure.

Look at the small print on the Thomson website, for example: its low deposit is reasonably attractive - £150 for two adults. But you have to pay the rest of the deposit (another £250) eight weeks later - which is compulsory, regardless of cancellation. And pay the remaining balance in 14 weeks time which is still more than three months before departure!

Free child places

These are normally offered by big tour operators on family trips where a child will be sharing a room.  Since the two adults will cover the cost of the room in any case, the only things ‘free’ are meals included in the board basis, and the flight, but they can still represent a decent saving.

On some holidays, however, especially in self-catering apartments, the value of a ‘free’ place is seriously undermined, since the children concerned do not count towards the ‘occupancy’ of the apartment or room, so the adults in the party have to pay an extra ‘under-occupancy’ supplement that they would not have had to pay had the children not taken a ‘free’ place.

This is one of the most long-standing and unfair techniques of holiday marketing and it’s time the industry changed its practices. In the meantime, check the total cost of the holiday before comparing prices.

Villa extras

Typical extras include bed linen, pool-heating, electricity use, and a hefty fee for cleaning at the end- watch out for them in the small print; they can all make a big difference to the final price.

Hire car charges

From a customer’s point of view, the hire car market is in a mess. The extremes to which hire companies and brokers have been going to try to make their prices look cheaper are getting ridiculous, and there are several issues to be aware of before you book.

Most importantly, do not assume that the lowest price will lead you to the cheapest car. It probably won’t.

The additional costs of insurance, excess waivers and petrol really add up.

When at the dealership be sure to question the age and quality of the car you get and the service you receive at the local office will all make a huge difference to the true value of the deal.

Travel Insurance

Buy your insurance at the same time as you make a travel booking – then you will be insured if you are forced to cancel through illness or other eventualities covered by the policy.

Checked baggage

The difference that baggage charges can make to the cost of your flight has been well-publicised in recent years.

But if you can’t get by without a suitcase weighing more than 10kg, you will need to cost it into your price calculations. For example, although it has cut its rates recently, on some route in peak season Ryanair will charge you £45 return to check in a 20kg bag.

Credit card charge

This is another charge that can be added legitimately to an advertised price. It’s not just airlines that levy it; many tour operators are also adopting it, adding up to 2% to the cost of your holiday if you choose to pay be credit card.

Price-match promises

Firstly, not many people bother to check prices once they have booked a holiday – which is what you need to do in order to take advantage of the price promise. The chances of finding an identical holiday are also very limited.

For example, the Virgin Holidays Price Match Guarantee, will either match a lower price or offer the option of cancelling your holiday for a full refund ‘if, within 48 hours of booking with us, you can supply a copy of a brochure, or a written quote from any other ABTA Tour Operator holding an ATOL license, offering an identical holiday which is available at a lower price than you have paid us’.

But the holiday really does have to be identical – down to the same dates, flights and extras such as car hire, car size and insurance. Virgin also excludes a list of ‘special offers’ that it doesn't promise to match, and also excludes offers from companies which sell ‘primarily online’.

As a rule, don’t take a price match as a guarantee of low prices. You will do better to compare rates before you buy, and get the best deal that way.

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