It feels like half of New Zealand is on holiday somewhere exotic. Photos from my friends are popping up on social media from Europe, Asia and even Africa. After so many years with no travel, there is a lot of pent-up demand. So here are some thoughts about saving money while booking a big trip.
First up, flights: The cost of flights jumped 87 per cent over the Covid-19 pandemic, from the end of 2019 to 2022. But there are ways to save. Start by searching Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak.com and Hopper to identify good flight options. These sites often have grid patterns, which are fantastic for tracking down bargains, and allow you to save and track itineraries.
The “but” or disclaimer is that I don’t book through these overseas booking sites. Not since the pandemic. I just use them to identify good deals/routes/dates.
Once I identify the flight in question I then search it on locally based booking sites such as House of Travel (Mixandmatch.co.nz), Flight Centre, Jettzy or Webjet that specifically mention that their terms and conditions are governed by New Zealand law. Or I book directly with the airline.
Personally, I avoid the likes of Gotogate, Kiwi.com (which is based in the Czech Republic despite its name) and Trip.com. It’s too much of a risk dealing with overseas-based websites if something goes wrong.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that you won’t have problems with NZ-based booking sites. A friend of mine had a terrible time with Webjet recently, and we’ve all heard the nightmare experiences with Air New Zealand’s call centre.
With actual flights we’ve booked recently to Southeast Asia, it cost us an acceptable $150 per person more to book locally. I opened windows for all the above New Zealand websites, and one proved cheaper than the others once credit card surcharges were added in.
One warning is that some of the flights that come up on international comparison sites involve separate ticketing for each leg of the journey. If you miss a connecting flight you could be in trouble. That’s not somewhere I would go to save a few bucks.
For the purposes of this article I’ve been tracking October return trips for Auckland/Bogota on Google Flights, and Auckland/Sydney for a few different dates.
The Bogota flights have been steadily dropping and in my latest email from Google Flights were down to $1923 return on Qantas/American Airlines, via JFK airport, which was way cheaper than the $4871 quoted for the more obvious route via Santiago, Chile. I wouldn’t have known of these options if I’d only searched local sites.
Before anyone asks, the prices on Google Flights were in NZ dollars and I went all the way through to the booking window on American Airlines to check there were no eye-watering catches.
As for Sydney, at the time of writing, Google Flights tracker was emailing me return flights on AirAsiaX for $356 for December 1 to 8, albeit with extra charges if you need bags and meals. I didn’t trust the booking sites on offer from Google Flights for that one, but the price was $405 when booked direct with the airline.
I quite like long stopovers in obscure locations. I made some lifelong memories during a 14-hour stopover in Houston on one trip back to New Zealand. But some people would rather not stop somewhere for that long.
Not everyone books flights online. There are good reasons to use travel agents. They can be helpful in finding good deals, and reduce the hassle and risk of booking by yourself.
Tracey Edgecombe, owner-operator of House of Travel New Plymouth, points out that travel agents will know when airlines have specials and tell you whether it’s best to wait or book now. She also points out that stopovers like the ones I love can lead to additional expense.
Tanya Aitken, owner-operator of House of Travel Tauranga Crossing, Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and Rotorua, adds: “Flights are available up to 11 months prior and if you know what you want to do then lock it in, especially if it’s a bucket list travel experience you are wanting.”
Aitken recommends avoiding peak times such as school holidays and special events if you can, and attending travel expos for deals.
Next week: Accommodation, internal travel, insurance and more tips.