Forecasting exchange rates is almost impossible, according to economists, but it’s safe to say that taking the family overseas in the next year or so is going to be expensive. Oh, for the days of parity!
Fortunately, there are still deals to be had if you get in early. Our friends at helloworld (which I can’t write without saying, “Hello World!” in a computer voice) have come up with the top 10 tips for taking the kids overseas, without breaking the piggy bank.
★ Book an early bird deal now, to save up to 15 per cent on international flights. “Our research shows that for every month you wait after the early bird sales period, the cost of an airfare to Europe climbs 3 per cent,” helloworld.com.au chief executive Jeremy Reitman says. The saving on economy-class tickets for a family of four can be up to $1400.
★ Avoid entering Europe via London; save 10 per cent by flying into Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris. Many airlines sweeten the deal with add-ons, like a $50 on-board duty free voucher with Etihad Airways, $1 Singapore stopover including accommodation and transfers with Singapore Airlines, and a free 72-hour tourist visa with China Southern.
★ Get a flight/accommodation package, for further savings. Travel search sites are your best bet. Remember, any discount per person is exponential, because of the multiplier effect of being in a family.
★ Base your trip in smaller cities, to avoid big costs. It’s also a more authentic cultural experience for the kids. For example, a flight to Bologna is $1517 with Emirates, ex Sydney.
★ Choose serviced apartments. You can live like locals, shopping at the markets, without having to eat out every night at expensive restaurants or unhealthy fast food outlets.
★ If your kids are at university, make sure they bring their IDs to receive student discounts, which are offered all over the world.
★ Exploit the value of travel and explorer passes: you’ll save money and skip the queues. These can be bought online before you travel.
★ Weigh and measure your bags (carry on and checked). It’s easy to go over when you have so many bags. And the charges are extortionate, these days.
★ Collect all the receipts from your family’s purchases, for tax refunds when you leave the country.
★ If your kids are school-aged, sneak them out for a couple of days at either end of term. I know this is controversial but, hey, if it’s an educational trip, it won’t do them any harm.
The early bird analogy works for hotels, too, with savings of up to 30 per cent by booking more than 30 days ahead. “There’s a misconception that flights are the big ticket item in a travel itinerary, yet by far the largest costs are attributed to hotels and food and beverage,” according to Craig Hewett, co-founder of travel search site Wego.
He says, if the online travel agent and direct hotel rate are similar, book directly with the property to save on booking fees.
You’ll have to get in quick: the early bird period runs from September to November. Check out helloworld.com.au/earlybird for the best deals.
The early bird catches the worm, as I say, much to the disgust of the kids. (“But I don’t want to eat a worm!” they wail.)
At least it will alleviate some of the pain of unpredictable exchange rates.