Eli Orzessek finds the answers to your travel questions.
When's the best time to book a cheap flight? A year out, six months, three months, etc? I know this varies but I'm wondering if there are some peak times for specials.
Getting the best deal involves a certain amount of wizardry. I experience quite a bit of paranoia — if I book now will flights go on sale next week? If I don't book now, will it cost me more next week? Is that grabaseat deal really worth it if I have to arrange everything with three weeks' notice?
According to research from Expedia, travellers can make up to 50 online searches before booking a flight — and I know I probably do.
If you're after a flight to Europe, keep an eye out for the sweet deals that pop up during the early-bird season. This is usually in August — and travel agents and airlines will go out of their way to undercut each other. There's also another early-bird season in February, where more promotional fares are released for other destinations.
A good way to catch these deals in advance is to subscribe to airline newsletters and follow them on social media — they'll often be offered to loyal subscribers first. Also, travel agents often know what sales are coming up - so it's worth talking to one as well.
I've also asked my contacts at Expedia to crunch some data around booking — here's what they discovered:
When it comes to international travel, book on Sunday and avoid Friday — broadly, the best day of the week for New Zealand-based travellers to book international economy airfares is Sunday. However, you shouldn't fly out on a Sunday — Thursday was found to be the best day to start an international journey.
As for the best time of year to book, New Zealand travellers paid the highest international economy airfares in September (based on date of booking) and the lowest in January.
Domestic flights are also best booked on a Sunday, while Monday should be avoided.
Again, Sunday is not the best day to fly out — with Saturday found to be a preferable day to leave for your domestic trip. We paid the highest domestic economy airfares in November and the lowest in January.
"Kiwis are born travellers who are happy to hunt a bargain. Booking early is one key way to save as is being flexible about when and where you travel. Shifting your departure date by one day may be an easy way to keep more money in your pocket," said Demi Kavaratzis, director of tours and transport for Expedia Australia and New Zealand.
Hopefully these tips can offer some assistance to your deal-hunting. But remember, flights are getting cheaper every year — we've seen $600 return flights to Hawaii that would have cost $2000 five years ago. It's almost impossible not to get a good deal if you book in advance and pay attention to sales — so get in there.
Sarah wrote to share her experiences travelling with her daughter, who wears the FreeStyle Libre for diabetes.
She says it's never set off the metal detector but recommends wearing something with short sleeves in case it needs to be examined.
"The only time we've not been waved through just like anyone else was coming back from Fiji in April — Grace had just started wearing an insulin pump, (which can go through the metal detector just fine, but not be x-rayed, and we were carrying a spare so I had to explain) — they took us into a side room for a quick pat down."
Wendy wrote in to describe Southwest Airlines boarding process in the States — which uses the "choose your own seat" method.
"Basically it's first-come, first-served, so the earlier you check in, the better.
"It works really well from the few times I have flown with them, but it's a real shock the first time — when you don't know the system and end up at the back of the queue with your husband and find you are scrabbling for two middle seats far away from each other."
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