You know where you’re go­ing and when but ex­perts have ad­vice on as­pects you may never have thought of

Herald on Sunday - - COVER STORY - Re­coup on pur­chases made abroad lone­ly­planet.com

The best time to book flights to get the best rates

When do tick­ets go on sale for flights? Usu­ally, 11 months in ad­vance. Rea­sons for this are ar­cane and his­tor­i­cal — in the days of printed seat plans, air­lines wanted to avoid book­ing peo­ple on to the right plane on the right day but in the wrong year.

So should you charge in and book al­most a year ahead?

Not nor­mally. Air­lines can (and of­ten do) up­date fares ev­ery hour us­ing com­plex al­go­rithms. This is the dark art of yield man­age­ment — try­ing to get full planes with pas­sen­gers pay­ing as much as pos­si­ble for ev­ery seat.

So when is the best time to book?

There are cer­tain broad trends: on av­er­age the best time is five weeks be­fore travel. If you have time, it can pay to watch your route care­fully and ed­u­cate your­self about when cheaper seats are gen­er­ally avail­able — vary­ing the day of de­par­ture and time of day can make a big dif­fer­ence.

What about if you’re fly­ing at a very busy time, like over Christ­mas?

This may be the time to book very early: all fare classes will be avail­able and you should score a price that won’t be beat­able nearer the time. You’ll also ensure you get a seat on the plane you want.

● Filip Filipov, head of B2B, Skyscan­ner Claw back the cost of your trip

The sil­ver lin­ing on that missed flight

You may not be able to get a re­fund on that bud­get air­line flight you missed, but you can re­claim the tax on any por­tion of a jour­ney you haven’t taken.

Max­imise loy­alty schemes

Make sure you’re signed up for and us­ing air­line and ho­tel loy­alty schemes at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, in­clud­ing claim­ing points for ad­di­tional pur­chases such as car hire. Mak­ing large pur­chases on a credit card that of­fers air­line loy­alty points is a great way to pile up the miles — but al­ways check terms and con­di­tions care­fully. De­pend­ing on where you are, you can usu­ally claim back cer­tain taxes paid on pur­chases made while trav­el­ling, es­pe­cially if you’ve paid with an over­seas credit or debit card. Check out the reg­u­la­tions for where you’re go­ing and where you’ve been, as there will be forms to fill in (that you can usu­ally pick up at point of pur­chase). Pay­ment for ser­vices such as car hire can’t gen­er­ally be claimed back.

Know the in­side track

As odd as it sounds, check if cer­tain el­e­ments of your hol­i­day are tax de­ductible, as they may be if, for in­stance, you com­bine a hol­i­day with a busi­ness trip. Your home gov­ern­ment should have ad­vice on­line.

Don’t lose out on left­over cur­rency

Al­though the exchange rate for repa­tri­at­ing your left­over hol­i­day funds into your own cur­rency will be poor at de­par­ture points, you can of­ten find zero-com­mis­sion fees back at your point of pur­chase. At larger hos­tels you may be able to strike a deal with a fel­low trav­eller — if le­gal to do so of course.

Sur­viv­ing a Small Group Tour

Stay cu­ri­ous

With a tour com­pany han­dling the travel lo­gis­tics, it’s easy to switch into “pas­sen­ger mode”, which can be a treat, as long as you’re not to­tally clue­less about the itin­er­ary. Do your des­ti­na­tion re­search in ad­vance, as you would for any in­de­pen­dent trip (yes, even get a guide­book if you’re so in­clined), so you don’t spend the en­tire time play­ing catch up. Ask your guide lots of ques­tions for ex­tra con­text and rec­om­men­da­tions — you can’t beat in­sider knowl­edge.

Be­friend your guide

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing ef­fec­tively with your guide can take your tour to the next level. Ensure they are aware of any ba­sic needs or is­sues (such as di­etary re­quire­ments, travel sick­ness, al­ler­gies) so they can help you stay healthy and happy. Ex­plain your goals for the tour — be it try­ing as many new foods as pos­si­ble, ex­plor­ing lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture or find­ing an au­then­tic sou­venir — and a de­cent guide will make it hap­pen. Fi­nally, lis­ten closely to brief­ings.

Go with an open mind

All kinds of trav­ellers take small group tours, so leave your pre­con­cep­tions at the air­port. You’ll prob­a­bly be mix­ing with an in­ter­na­tional crowd of vary­ing ages and per­son­al­i­ties, all of whom have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els and def­i­ni­tions

of what it means to travel. Be pa­tient with your fel­low voy­agers and take the op­por­tu­nity to hear their per­spec­tives on the place you’re ex­plor­ing to­gether — you could end up mak­ing friends for life.

Don’t fol­low the crowd

There’s go­ing with the flow and there’s stay­ing in a dive bar for a fifth slip­pery nip­ple when all you re­ally want is your bed. Don’t feel pres­sured into stick­ing with your travel bud­dies 24/7 — alone time is a healthy way to punc­tu­ate what can be an in­tense group dy­namic. If you need a rest, skip the morn­ing ac­tiv­ity and enjoy a lazy brunch, or eat at a food stall of your choos­ing rather than the group-friendly restau­rant.

Take pocket money for ex­tras

Study your tour in­clu­sions closely and bud­get for any miss­ing meals or op­tional ac­tiv­i­ties. Un­ex­pected ex­penses (or splurges) can crop up, so hav­ing a cash stash for those “oh go on then” mo­ments can pre­vent FOMO on the road. Many tour guides and driv­ers rely hugely on tips — if you think they’ve done a great job, be gen­er­ous.

● Ad­vice for feel­ing em­pow­ered, not im­pris­oned by Emma Sparks, Deputy Ed­i­tor,

Re­pro­duced with per­mis­sion from Lonely Planet © 2018; www.lone­ly­planet.com

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