Strategic thinking can let you stretch your legs a little more en route
Nothing dampens the early joy of going on holiday quicker than being squished between fellow travellers on an international flight.
But getting a little luxury in the air, including extra leg room, doesn't have to involve a ticket upgrade.
As thousands of families confirm plans to jet overseas in the upcoming school holidays, Flight Centre general manager of product Simon McKearney said smart thinking can go a long way to preventing long-haul discomfort.
"Asking about the seats you are getting is such a simple thing.
"You can go into any travel agent and ask for help and it won't cost anything," he told the Herald on Sunday.
McKearney said planning for a better in-flight experience included learning about different planes.
"If you could pay the same money to go on a Dreamliner or an Airbus, take the Dreamliner," he said.
Better lighting and cabin pressure on Dreamliners provide more comfort for "cattle class" travellers, he said.
Asking for seats at the back of the plane is a good idea for those with longer legs. It might take a few extra minutes to disembark, but you are more likely to have empty seats around you.
Exit rows and those at the front of some cabins also give you more room to stretch out.
Couples could also think tactically when they make their bookings.
McKearney recommended asking for a window and aisle seat on planes with a row of three.
It was unlikely people travelling alone would request a middle seat, so if it remained free, you would get more wriggle room.
Members of loyalty schemes, including Air New Zealand's Koru Club, were also more likely to get a spare seat "blocked out" next to them.
Another way to ensure extra space was to target traditionally undersubscribed flights.
Data from Aspire Aviation -- a Hong Kong-based consultancy that analyses the airline industry -- showed that the best options for transtasman flights were Emirates and China Airlines.
More than 26 per cent of seats on Emirates' flights to Australia last year were empty.
Emirates was willing to cross the Tasman with fewer passengers as it regarded it as a turning circle for long-haul flights.
China Airlines flew to Australia with 23 per cent free capacity, followed by Qantas (22.29), Virgin (21.5), Jetstar (20.56) and Air New Zealand, with 17.86.
For Kiwis heading to the sun and surf of Bali, Garuda and Virgin Airlines fill only two-thirds of seats from Australia to Bali and Jetstar fills three quarters.
And if you're planning to go to the Middle East via Australia, Thai Airways or Malaysia Airlines operated last year with 26 per cent empty seats. Flying at non-peak times was also a good idea, including Emirates' 6.30pm Auckland to Sydney flight.
Finally, your comfort can be guaranteed if you are prepared to spend more. McKearney said some airlines, including Air New Zealand, allowed passengers to buy the seat next to them on undersubscribed flights for up to half the regular price.
Travel insurance can save hefty bills
Kiwis have been warned to be fully insured before jetting off to popular holiday hotspots.
Local travel experts say New Zealanders risked being saddled with enormous bills if they needed hospital treatment and assumed they were covered by reciprocal health agreements.
Some common medical claims in the past 12 months have included ear infections in children, stomach bugs, broken bones, flu and sea sickness.
"New Zealanders are typically a little blase about booking travel insurance, particularly if they are planning to go somewhere close, such as Sydney or Fiji or other developed, English-speaking places," said House of Travel communications manager Jo Wedlock.
Insurers believed many Kiwis were unaware that even though a reciprocal health agreement existed between New Zealand, the UK and Australia, travellers could still be billed for related costs.
An ambulance in Australia could cost a traveller more than $1,000.
Wedlock said customers were also often shocked to learn how much medical care could cost in holiday hotspots including the South Pacific, Thailand and Bali.
"Because customers usually need to be repatriated for quality medical care, the costs of having a health emergency in these countries can be very high," she said.
Around a third of all claims occurred before travelling, so she recommended travellers buy insurance as soon as they put money on a trip.