As school holidays approach, the cost of airfares and accommodation has increased exponentially, leaving many families questioning whether a holiday is worth it.
The price of international airfares has skyrocketed with return flights to Europe for the summer season starting at about $4500, while a direct return flight to Los Angeles could set you back at about $4000.
Domestic holidaymakers are also facing increasing costs with accommodation booking out faster and at much higher prices.
Combined with the general cost-of-living pressures of fuel, grocery bills and interest rate rises that winter escape or holiday with friends and family might seem far off.
But travel experts say that families can still travel on a pre-pandemic budget without making compromises by planning ahead and thinking outside the box.
The experts say look at booking travel as early as possible. Many travellers, this year, left booking flights and accommodation to the last minute, and the experts say this is when people paid a premium.
“Flight prices are primarily affected by supply and demand, much like the stock market,” said Brendan Walsh from Skyscanner. “With popular seasonal holiday periods like school holidays, we tend to see demand steadily increase.”
Air carriers, such as Emirates and Qantas, have signalled they will not return to full capacity until 2023.
Flight Centre’s Haydn Long said that it’s very rare to see a real last-minute special at the moment and the cheapest fares tend to sell out fast.
Skyscanner data reveals the cheapest time to book a trip to London on average is 18 weeks ahead of the scheduled departure date.
If you’re going international, fly at different times
The best time to book international flights is on a Tuesday and the best time to fly internationally is midweek. Ideally, you should depart between Monday and Wednesday and return between Tuesday and Thursday.
According to Flight Centre, the most economical flights are those flying between 7am and 11am.
If you’re travelling from the United States, then the worst time to fly is Fridays or Sundays. Skyscanner says that Saturdays are also expensive and confirms that flying midweek is your best option.
Stay close and stay midweek
The cost of fuel has made the humble road trip an expensive jaunt. Travel experts suggest staying close to home and considering activities near to your destination. On the NSW North Coast, places such as Coffs Harbour have hotel rooms on Wotif starting from $110 per night for a family of two adults and two kids.
Alternatively, book a flight to an Australian capital city. Jetstar and Virgin have special offers at the moment, with flights between Newcastle and Brisbane starting at $183. Otherwise, consider catching a fast train. The XPT service between Bathurst and Sydney costs from $159.
Sydney and Melbourne are popular destinations for school holidays, but there is an abundance of hotel rooms and packages. The Meriton Suites on Kent Street in the middle of Sydney’s CBD start from $282 per night, while a room at the Rydges Sydney Central starts from $214 per night.
Rates for weekend stays tend to skyrocket during the school holidays, so it’s best to book a stay during the week. Peppers Beach Club in Port Douglas, for example, is priced from $725 per night on weekends, while from Tuesday to Thursday, it costs from $549 per night.
Go to less popular places
For families looking for a warm getaway, there are still plenty of options for affordable getaways, such as Bali and Singapore.
“We’re seeing a mix of overseas destinations and places closer to home top the list as holidaymakers get back to the people and places they love these holidays. Bali, London, Singapore and Queenstown top the international bookings, with Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast the top destinations at home,” said Mr Walsh.
If you are looking for that warmer holiday, Scoot has fantastic air deals to Bangkok or Phuket starting from just $417. There are fabulous resorts in the capital – the Avani Resort starts from just $157 per night, while a room at Vali Villa Bangkok starts from just $42.
Rather than heading to the mountains and other typical winter holiday destinations, beachside properties are at their lowest prices. According to Wotif, accommodation at the Discovery Parks in Gerroa starts from $142 per night. There is a range of activities for the kids and the property is just a five-minute drive from Crooked River Winery and the Gerroa Boat Fisherman’s Golf Club.
If you can be a little flexible with dates, you can find some excellent savings. You can either search Skyscanner flights by a specific date or the whole month. For example, if you flew from Sydney to Manila on July 14 you would pay only $277, but flying on July 29 will cost you $1007. The cheapest return flight is on July 31 ($340) and the most expensive on July 17 ($2969).
“Being flexible with your destination and travel dates is the best way for families to bag a good deal. Families can use Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ search tool to find the cheapest destinations, along with Skyscanner’s month view to spot the cheapest date to travel over the school holiday period,” said Brendan Walsh.
Use activity coupons from comparison sites
Travel sites such as Booking.com and Wotif allow you to pre-book your activities and in doing so, you can save money. You can also take advantage of their loyalty programs for future discounts.
If you book a London pass on Expedia you will pay $125 compared with a regular price of $140. Expedia has many other activities listed and they normally come with free cancellation so you will not lose any money if your plans change.