Consumer Watch: How to cut travel costs

By Susan Edmunds

Would you rather be lying on a beach than stoking the fire? Must be time for a winter holiday. Susan Edmunds asked the travel experts for their top tips to bag a bargain getaway
Flights to the Pacific Islands are usually cheaper between January and March as it's the wet season. Photo / Thinkstock
Flights to the Pacific Islands are usually cheaper between January and March as it's the wet season. Photo / Thinkstock

Flights

If you want to go on holiday soon, Australia is likely to be the cheapest option. Flight Centre's Mike Friend says transtasman flight deals come out every couple of weeks six weeks ahead. But airlines sometimes advertise specials to fly sooner when they have seats to fill. Flying at night can also be more affordable.

"That's generally because the cheaper fares haven't sold out at those times. The other ones sell out way in advance."

The cheapest time to visit Europe is in February and October. May to August is most expensive. If you want to go mid-year, watch for early-bird fares, which usually go on sale between September and November.

Flights to the Pacific Islands are usually cheaper between January and March because it's the wet season. Friend says it is a myth that you can nab last-minute deals for overseas flights.

"You can end up paying a lot more."

Hotels

Renee Piggott, New Zealand product manager at wotif.co.nz, says people can still get good deals for next month's school holidays in some of the country's big cities.

Bargains can be had in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton as well as coastal areas, particularly in the North Island.

"Hotels offer discounts at times when they are not as busy so if you take your beachside holiday during winter or head to the ski spots during summer you're likely to find some great discounts."

Bookings are up 122 per cent in Wanaka and 33 per cent in Queenstown for the July break, compared with last year. If you can take a few days off work you'll cut costs a lot.

"There's a wealth of midweek deals in plenty of locations and we often run special promotions for midweek stays.

"So if you're flexible enough to travel Sunday to Thursday you could nab a bargain. Sundays are usually the cheapest night of the week, so try to include one to help keep costs down."

House swapping

More New Zealanders are using house swapping to cut accommodation bills. The HomeExchange website has 351 Kiwi members who swap homes with people throughout the world.

Chief executive Ed Kushins says many New Zealanders use it as a way to reduce costs.

The company charges membership fees of US$120 ($138) a year, which allows unlimited exchanges. Kushins says it is best to arrange an international exchange a month or two ahead, although exchanges with Australia can be sorted more quickly. Sometimes the exchanges are fairly even but in others one property may be more classy than another.

"That's less important than the location and the experience, though. It's a great way to save money. There's no obligation. You could just post your listing and see what comes in."

Treasure the experience

Richard and Christine Amery have been using house swapping as a way to see the world for more than 13 years.

Christine, seen here with Richard in Cyprus, says it's not as much about saving money as it is about getting a different experience and a more relaxed environment.

The Amerys offer three homes on exchange.

"We might do four or five exchanges within a three-month period."

They offer their Rotorua home, a flat they own in Auckland and a Spanish property they co-own to exchange.

"It's not hard to find someone to swap with. If you're looking in England you might search for Brighton and Sussex and find quite a few places. Sometimes the properties you're swapping with are better than your own and sometimes worse. It doesn't matter."

- Herald on Sunday

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