Budget airlines have opened their bookings for next summer. EasyJet was the latest to do so, and last Thursday began offering flights for travel until September 4, 2016, which covers the key school holiday dates.
So is this your best chance to get a reasonable fare? Or should you hold on in the hope that rates might fluctuate, and even get cheaper?
The answer is clear-cut: for civilised departure times (ie, between 10am and 6pm) to popular destinations, on peak dates (Fridays and weekends during the main school holidays), book now if you can. It’s very unlikely prices will do anything other than rise notch by notch from now on. Return fares from Gatwick to Majorca for the Saturdays of the May half-term were released some weeks ago and they already cost up to £571.
But if you are travelling outside such peak dates, you needn’t feel pressured into booking. Flights to Majorca in May are still available for less than £100, and are unlikely to rise sharply in the short term. They may even fall back if demand is weak.
However, to be sure of getting the best value in either scenario, there are several points worth bearing in mind before you book your short-haul flights next year:
Check the competition
EasyJet (easyjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) aren’t necessarily cheapest. Comparison websites such as Skyscanner.net show, for example, that on that May half-term Saturday, the lowest fare currently from Gatwick to Majorca (£344) is with Norwegian (norwegian.com). Note that Ryanair (ryanair.com) and Jet2 (jet2.com) opened their summer 2016 bookings last month, and Turkey specialist Pegasus (flypgs.com/en) opened its on Wednesday.
Get your summer holiday in the bag by booking when tickets are released Photo: Alamy
If you don’t want to commit unnecessarily early, the other advantage of Skyscanner is that you can set up alerts and get automatic emails when fares on your chosen route and date rise. Obviously, you’ll end up paying a little more, because the price will have already gone up a notch, but you will have a chance to book before it rises again.
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Debit cards and insurance
Booking with a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, will cost you a few pounds more – on easyJet the extra charge is 2 per cent of the fare. But on flights costing over £100, you will have more protection against the possible financial failure of an airline if you do use a credit card. (Visa debit cards may offer similar protection, check with your bank.) However, for expensive fares, you are paying quite a big premium for that protection; it may be better to buy travel insurance which covers this automatically. When booking so far in advance, buy your travel insurance when you book your flights to get the most benefit from the cancellation cover.
Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas
Don’t rush to book the rest of the holiday
If you know the accommodation you want, you might as well go ahead and book it. But there is much less urgency than with airfares.
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The big rush for holiday bookings comes in January, so you still have a couple of months to get ahead of the game. With add-ons like car hire, there is definitely no need to book yet – there may be special offers or incentives in the peak season.
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