Easter has been and gone and now is a good time to start planning your next adventure. One of the biggest costs of a working holiday is the flight and its important to get the best possible deal. We’ve put together some tips to help you understand why some tickets are more expensive than others, which is best for you, ways to keep costs down and places to shop.
When to travel?
Try to be flexible about when you start your trip. Airlines operate seasonal fares, normally identified as Low (cheapest), Shoulder (mid-price) and High (most expensive). By travelling in the Low season you will stand the best chance of getting the cheapest fare. The season is based on the location and date of your first flight.
Flexible or fixed tickets?
Within each season there are further variables relating to fares. Each class of ticket (economy, business, premium/first class etc) is sub-divided in to more fare classes. These aren’t promoted to the public but exist behind the scenes in the airline booking system and are identified by a letter. The cheapest Fare Class will be a restricted ticket (no refund and no changes allowed after booking and with only a few seats available – you’ll need to book early!) and as the fare class increases the ticket becomes more flexible, there are more seats available and the cost goes up.
If you will be away for a lengthy period, try to get a ticket that allows date/route changes. On a long trip you can never be certain of your plans and its nice to know you can switch things around if you need to.
Buying the absolute cheapest ticket may turn out to be a false economy.
Equally, don’t be complacent. Flexible tickets will always be subject to seat availability and changes will need to be in the same class/sub-class of ticket that you already have. There will normally be a fee for changing the ticket – check you are happy with it before finalising the booking.
Do you get your visa before booking?
You’ll always be recommended to get visas in place before booking flights. This will avoid the need to change flights if there are unexpected visa delays. However, in reality people prefer to firm up flights early to get the best price and arrange visas within the final weeks leading up to departure. If you do get your flight before your visa then a flexible ticket may be sensible just in case you experience visa delays.
If you know of a reason that could impact on your eligibility for a visa then make the visa application first.
If your flights are going to stop-off on the way to your final destination then check to see whether you’ll need a visa for the stop-off. This is especially important if you are travelling via America.
We’ve got some more information regarding working holiday visas here.
Where to buy your tickets
Most people will buy their tickets online and there are some great websites to choose from. However, the ticket conditions aren’t always obvious. As above, make sure that you check the fare class and ticket restrictions/conditions before you buy.
Different websites have access to different fares so you should always check more than one before choosing your flight. Do it the same day – good fares don’t hang around for long.
If you prefer to talk things through with someone there are some specialist travel agents that will be able to guide you through route options, fares, destinations and also to offer additional products.
Below are some useful websites and travel agencies:
skyscanner Relatively new, but increasingly popular and worth a look. They quote fares for budget airlines as well as schedule airlines which is useful.
Trailfinders Offices throughout the UK; bookings by phone or in person. Known for their excellent service and attention to detail.
STA Offices worldwide and offer some unique fares to students and those under 26. Book via their website, by phone or via one of their walk-in travel shops.
Flight Centre Useful online resources and booking system with a good choice of global offices for those that prefer to speak with someone.
Expedia One of the original online booking systems, but less fashionable. Can provide a good bench-mark for the most affordable airline/fares and will sometimes come up with a surprisingly good fare. Worth including in your search.
These are just a selection and other online services and stores exist.
Warning! In reality there isn’t much profit to be made in selling economy air-fares. As a result many agents try to encourage you to buy visa services, bus/coach tickets, tours and travel insurance. Many of the products will be well aligned to your trip and you may find it convenient to buy these extras. However, if you are on a budget you may want to check that these other products are a) necessary b) of benefit to you and c) represent good value. Some sales people can be quite persuasive!
Don’t forget to go direct to airline websites
Airlines often have sales and deals; particularly during the low season. In addition you may find their charges for date and route changes are more competitive than some agents. As with anything, the more research you do the more likely you are to get a good deal.
Don’t view the booking process as a chore. Planning a trip is part of the experience; do it well and you’ll be off to a flying start!
For more information about flights check out these pages.