CONVENIENT FLIGHTS SAVE CASH
Don’t get carried away by a cheap air fare that departs from an inconvenient airport at an inconvenient time. It is cheaper to get to Heathrow on the Tube than Stansted or Luton on the train, and a well-timed flight that costs more may mean you get extra time at your destination and can avoid an expensive hotel stay at the airport.
Paradise for pirates: Stunning Smugglers Cove in Zante
LATE GAINS FOR FREQUENT FLYERS
While cash prices tend to jump for short-notice departures, frequent-flyer mile pricing does not vary much between high and low season and does not change at all at short notice. If you can find availability, you will get fantastic value for your Avios, far better than the 1p per mile I usually target.
MY HOLS: PENNY LANCASTER
Penny Lancaster pictured above
Smooth sailing is the aim of our summer getaways, especially when it’s a trip along the Mediterranean coastline. The main challenge is ticking all the boxes for excursions on land to suit everyone. In the evenings, the women like to shop and the men enjoy a beer. Otherwise, my tips are to leave the heels at home, let the waistline expand and just chill – it’s what a break is all about.
CASH IN WHILE PRICES ARE HIGH
Long-haul economy tickets using frequent-flyer mile redemptions are often written off as being bad value because you still have to pay all the taxes and charges that make up a high percentage of the ticket cost. During peak summer months, cash prices can be so high that using miles for long-haul economy does make sense, so don’t ignore this route.
AVIOS POINTS CAN TRAVEL TOO
Remember you can use British Airways Avios points on more than 15 airlines, not just BA. Aer Lingus, Flybe, Iberia and Finnair are alternative options for getting around Europe on Avios if you don’t mind connecting. For long-haul you have American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.
MAKE BUSINESS HUBS PAY
Frequent-flyer mile availability in August is better to major business centres such as Milan. Instead of buying an expensive flight to Venice, for example, a free Avios air miles redemption to Milan for a couple of days, together with a cheap train trip to Venice afterwards, might be more fun and better value.
SHORT HOPS ADD UP
If you’re paying cash for a flight ticket, sign up for frequent-flyer schemes. BA, Virgin and Norwegian let you use small quantities of miles for discounts off future flights, and BA and Norwegian let you pool miles from your whole family in one pot.
EXTRAS SPRING NASTY SURPRISES
Check out extra charges for seat selection, baggage and food before booking. You are likely to be faced with add-ons that can vary widely.
STRETCH OUT ON LONG HAUL
On long-haul flights it’s worth looking at economy seat width. Out of Heathrow, BA is usually nine seats across on a Boeing 777 while its main competitors are tighter, with ten seats across.
Unmissable: The beautiful Charles Bridge is one of the most visited sights in Prague
PLASTIC MEANS PRIZES
Some credit cards such as American Express Gold (free for the first year) offer airport-lounge passes when you sign up (Amex Gold gives you two). This can be a good way of getting your holiday off to a relaxing start.
BA’S GATWICK BONANZA
BA bought Monarch early this year and has got a lot of extra summer flights out of Gatwick that it hasn’t had much time to sell. Pricing may be better than you think.
PAY NOW, ENJOY LATER
You can pick up Avios miles this year that might get you a free flight next year by paying for your holiday with an airline’s credit card.
Smile and wear shoes – how to woo cabin crew
Stock photo above of a flight attendant
The holidays are here, flights are full and tension levels can rise faster than a 747. But you can cope! Here flight attendant Neil Jackson offers eight ways to a stress-free flight, as revealed by cabin crew…
ONE: Take an empty water bottle through security and fill it for free airside – most airports have at least one water fountain per terminal. Travel doctor and Holiday SOS author Ben MacFarlane says: ‘Dehydration can trigger headaches and dizzy spells and increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis.’
TWO: Vegetarians never get upgraded. Airline catering is an exact science. If you’ve booked a vegetarian meal for seat 42A, then 42A is where it needs to be delivered. If there’s a need to upgrade someone, it’s likely to be the ‘eats anything’ person in 42B.
THREE: Always wear shoes when you walk around a plane. Flight attendant and Flying High author Jennie Jordan says: ‘I know how rarely the floors get cleaned and how much food and drink lands on them every day. And I really cringe when I see people go to the toilets in socks. One thing is for sure: if you feel a wet patch on the lavatory floor, it won’t be mineral water.’
FOUR: Extra-legroom seats can also bring extra hazards. On jumbos they are mostly near the toilets – so people gather in front of you and the noise from the door and the flush drives passengers mad. Other expensive extra-legroom seats can be at the bulkhead – where baby cots and crying babies will go.
FIVE: Choose seats carefully on super-quiet planes like the A380 or Boeing Dreamliner. ‘As the engine noise is lower, you can really hear noise from the galley,’ says Ben MacFarlane. ‘On an A380 or Dreamliner, you need to be six rows away from a galley to get some peace.’
SIX: Smile at your cabin crew. Jennie Jordan says: ‘If you’re my Bob – my Best On Board – then an extra bottle of wine may come your way. On some flights, just saying please and thank you is enough to make you my Bob.’
SEVEN: Fizz is not your friend. Scientists say that the air bubbles in champagne, canned drinks and sparkling water can expand inside you as the plane rises and cabin pressure falls, causing indigestion and cramps. Still drinks are best.
EIGHT: Sleeping pills aren’t a great idea on a plane. You don’t want to wake up woozy if there’s an emergency.
- Welcome Aboard: Cabin Crew Secrets, by Neil Jackson, Flying High, by Jennie Jordan, and Holiday SOS, by Ben MacFarlane, are all available on amazon.co.uk.
OUR FAMILY HOLIDAYS… Maria Fogle – we’ll fish for our lunch and brave an icy ocean
Maria Fogle (above) is heading off to Muskoka in Ontario
Packing in the Fogle household is never a simple task – and that’s because we don’t go on normal holidays. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that our summers would not follow well trodden paths to Ibiza or the South of France; I’m married to a man who just two months ago stood on the summit of Everest. Lounging on a crowded beach in the Balearics is simply not going to cut it.
Before our two children arrived, Ben and I were great fans of unconventional breaks. We once spent a weekend in Stockholm where, instead of marvelling at its cultural heritage, we signed up for an ice-skating marathon.
Another summer we drove even further north, to Varmland, where we built a raft on which we floated down a river for a week, with two bemused labradors in tow. That adventure didn’t quite go to plan. After 24 hours, the rain set in and the temperature plummeted to 11C. Eventually I persuaded Ben that we should head south to warmer climes.
Ben spent his holidays with his Canadian grandparents on the lakes outside Toronto. With two small children, nothing would induce me to willingly get on a long-haul flight but now they are good travellers.
So we are heading off to Muskoka in Ontario, where Ben has promised a Swallows And Amazons holiday with s’mores. And after that, a location even more remote – an island in Nova Scotia on which we will be the only residents.
We’ll fish for our lunch, build fires on the beach and brave the icy waters of the North Atlantic. We’ll drift off to sleep listening to nothing but the sound of the waves lapping gently on the beach.
Because that for us is true luxury. We don’t need marble bathrooms or flatscreen TVs. We won’t be able to answer our emails or glance at Instagram because there is no wi-fi.
Instead we’ll spend time together as a family, play games, tell stories, explore our island and come back properly restored.
So while I might moan about packing antibiotics and industrial-strength mosquito-repellent instead of wafty kaftans and statement straw hats, none of us can wait for the adventure.
OUR FAMILY HOLIDAYS… Bear Grylls – who needs exotic isles when you’ve got Wales?
Bear Grylls pictured above said his favourite holiday destination is Wales
People often ask me about my favourite holiday destination, assuming it will be somewhere exotic. The truth is simpler: we head to Wales. The time spent there as a family each summer is always the highlight of our year.
It’s not necessarily your average holiday though. We live on a small island without mains electricity or water. But it’s the simplicity and remoteness that defines the experience.
There aren’t many forms of typical entertainment, so we have to make our own. We make indoor camps and stay up late to spot shooting stars. We build sandcastles and rope swings, and try to magnetise needles to make an improvised compass by floating them on a leaf in water. Best of all, we play touch tennis – like mini tennis but with a foam ball. Look it up. Our family play it all the time! These things aren’t expensive, but they buy the one thing that strengthens families the most: fun times together, actually making and doing things.
As we try to do our best to bring up balanced, calm, kind and curious children, it is often the simple things that work best. I really believe these are the type of improvised adventures that create the most powerful memories.
I have also learned that special times don’t have to wait until we’re on holiday. Shara and I have always made sure our three boys help out, whether assembling the roof rack, watering a flower bed, or refuelling the outboard engine to go mackerel fishing.
Friends who come and stay with us in Wales are often amazed how fast and confident the boys are at tying up ropes and using the dinghy to help bring supplies ashore. But they have become good and nimble around the water and the clifftops because they have grown up having to help. The best skills and attitudes are always learned through example.
Don’t get me wrong, our boys like a bit of screen time to play games but we try to limit that time. Generally, Shara and I have noticed that too much of it often leads to rows.
Let’s not think of summer as a chore to keep kids entertained. Instead, see it as a time to have fun. It is the silly stuff kids remember.