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A rise in travel spending
May 20th, 2014 by elisa

Positive growth for the travel industry as Mastercard Advisors report a rise in travel spending in three out of the first four months of this year.

Group head and senior vice president at Mastercard Advisors, Sarah Quinlan, said sales growth has been rising steadily throughout the early part of 2014, which is “a vast improvement” on 2013 overall.

The sunny weather and rising wages in April have made a positive impact on the travel sector.

“Travel businesses in the UK should be encouraged by the positive sales growth in April,” she said.

“As the economy strengthens we would expect to see momentum build this year with consumers becoming confident to spend hard earned wages on summer holidays or short city breaks rather than saving everything for a rainy day.”

Overall, retail sales are up 5.5% year-on-year in April, however, Quinlan still warns that any increased travel expenditure will be gradual, as wages have only shown slow improvement and discretionary spending on travel is still a luxury for many.

Cheap tickets tricks for huge saving potential
May 19th, 2014 by elisa

Easyjet Flexifare screenshot

Easyjet Flexifare screenshot

Lowest fare guides and flexible dates options are really helpful in finding the lowest travel fares, but sometimes the cost of a flight or train when you want it is still too expensive.

Moneysavingexpert.com founder, Martin Lewis has just revealed a way to ‘trick’ Easyjet’s booking system to get the cheapest possible fare.

“The idea is to book a Flexifare on the same route at a less busy time, then switch to the dates you originally wanted. It’s not the easiest trick in the book, but if it works it could save £100s,” is says on the website.

It’s a bit of a risk as you need to know that your dates will still be available to switch to. The website provides a step by step guide on how to do this, which includes beginning a booking for 20 people on your desired flight to see if that many seats are available and therefore not likely to sell out so quickly.

One customer is quoted as saving £700 on flights to Lanzarote. The online posting said: “When we went on the Easyjet website the flights were over £1,500 including bags. We then booked the flexi flights, which were £848 – a saving of £700. A bit nerve-wracking for the 24 hours, but we know it works. There must be availability obviously on the dates you are changing to.”

A spokesperson for Easyjet said: “EasyJet’s aim is to provide easy and affordable fares for everyone which is why we provide a number of tools on our website to help customers identify the best flight for their budget.

“Our recently launched ‘low fare finder’ makes it easier than ever to find the lowest fares available on specific routes without the stress of needlessly changing dates and our Inspire Me tool enables customers to specify their budget and dates and sets out on a map where they can fly to for that budget.

“Flexifares are designed specifically for the business customer and offer the flexibility they require when travelling for business, however there is no guarantee of availability on alternative dates. Most of our passengers travelling during the peak summer understand that the earlier they book the cheaper the fare will be.”

Train fares are another contentious issue when it comes to the different prices for the same routes, often depending on whether you book early enough or use a rail card.

Tickets are grouped into three types: “Advance” for a specific train journey, “anytime” for any train on the route, and “off-peak” restricted to quieter times of travel.

“Anytime” tickets are usually most expensive because of their flexibility, but it can still seem too expensive when booking an “advance” or “off-peak” ticket, and this is where the money-saving trick comes in. If you are travelling on a popular and fairly lengthy journey, then it could be much cheaper to buy tickets for separate parts of the journey in a practice called “ticket splitting”.

For example, a one-way “advance” ticket from Oxford to Leeds will cost £90, calling at Birmingham New Street. However, a one-way “advance” ticket from Oxford to Birmingham New Street costs £33, and then from Birmingham New Street to Leeds another £49 giving a total fare of £82. This is a fairly sizeable percentage saving of the original cost, and can amount to much larger savings on other routes. National Rail allows ticket splitting (essentially travelling on the same train) as long as the train stops at the station you’re splitting the tickets for.

Another trick I found when trying to book an “anytime” ticket on thetrainline.com was that I still had to provisionally select a journey time to allow me to buy the ticket, but the price of the “anytime” ticket fluctuated depending on the time I was searching for. I selected a time later in the day to halve the price of the ticket at the time I was considering travelling, but could still use it at any point that day.

There are lots more possible money saving methods to cut the cost of travel. Let us know what your tips and tricks are in the comments section below.

 

 

£240 million in unclaimed travel compensation
May 1st, 2014 by elisa

Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights totalling around £240 million was failed to be claimed by passengers last year, according to passenger rights specialist refund.me.

Although the figure seems large, it’s much lower than the £355 million left unclaimed in 2012 and is due in part to improvements made by airlines to keep delays under the limits that would trigger compensation payments, plus more passengers being aware of their rights.

The no win, no fee firm helps eligible passengers fight for compensation under EU Regulation EC 261. Since 2004, passengers have been entitled to claim compensation of up to £490 for late cancellations or flights or delays of more than three hours, other than due to circumstances beyond airline’s control.

Refund.me founder and CEO Eve Buechner commended improvements made by airlines: “After nearly a decade of citing poorly justified “extraordinary circumstances” to avoid compensation payments, airlines appear to have turned the corner on both service and post-service quality,”

“Some airlines now have more aircraft on standby or move to pre-emptively smooth things over with passengers by offering vouchers, miles and accommodation more willingly.”

However, Buechner warned that all this progress could be put in jeopardy when a planned review of EC 261 by the European Parliament considers whether passengers should not be entitled to compensation of less than five, seven or 12 hours.

“This would effectively nullify the progress made in the last few years and set passenger rights back to their standards of 10 years ago,” she said.

“The airline industry has made significant progress in improving passenger rights in the last two years. Passengers are more aware of their rights and airlines have become more compliant and offer better service as a result. It would be disappointing to undo this progress. It would lead to more delays, more cancellations and more stranded passengers.”

Refund.me processed more than 10,000 compensation claims last year, totalling more than £3.3 million, and claimed a 94% success rate.

Holiday insurance wish list
Apr 9th, 2014 by elisa

Don’t you wish your travel insurance would cover real holiday-spoilers such as inedible hotel food, rude hotel staff and bad weather? If so, then you’re not alone. 

According to a survey by comparison website Gocompare.com Travel Insurance, over a third of travellers wish they could buy insurance against inedible hotel food.

The website asked 1,300 travellers about the things they wish they could insure against, that aren’t covered by typical travel insurance policies. Top of the wish list is delayed departures, on flights, ferries or trains. Currently many policies do provide some cover for delayed departures, but only to cover additional costs of being stuck in the airport for hours, not to compensate for lost holiday time.

Caroline Lloyd from Gocompare.com Travel Insurance said: “For many people, their holiday is not only a chance to relax away from the everyday pressures of life, it’s a big financial commitment they have spent months, if not years, saving for. So it’s not surprising that they want the perfect getaway with no delays, top-notch food and accommodation – not an encounter with Basil Fawlty.

“While our survey takes a light-hearted look at the holiday-horrors people wish they could insure against, it gives us the opportunity to highlight the importance of travel insurance in protecting holidaymakers against the unexpected – from freak weather, illness or injury, or theft or loss of baggage.”

Results of the survey:

Rank  Insurance wish list %
1 Delayed departure (flights, ferries, trains, etc.) 51
2 Disappointing accommodation 44
3 Misleading brochure description of hotel and/or holiday resort 44
4 Inedible hotel food 34
5 Bad weather 31
6 A noisy room 22
7 Being plagued by drunken teenagers in the evening 18
8 Rude hotel/accommodation staff 15
9 Annoying fellow guests 12
10 Terrible organised entertainment 7
Pre-ticked boxes for insurance add-ons could be banned
Mar 12th, 2014 by elisa

Pre-ticked boxes for insurance add-ons when purchasing services like a holiday could be banned by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The FCA claims the £1bn insurance add-on market is overcharging customers for products they may not need or use. An investigation in July 2013 by the FCA found poor competition at point of sale and low levels of claims. There was also a lack of information which prevented customers from making informed choices regarding the products.

25% of customers who bought insurance as an add-on were not aware that they could buy it separately elsewhere. 38% said they had not planned to buy the add-on before the purchase. 69% of those who bought it could not accurately remember how much they paid three to four months later, with 19% forgetting they had even bought it.

Christopher Woolard, director of policy, risk and research at the FCA, said: “There’s a clear case for us to intervene. Competition in this market is not working well and many consumers are simply not getting value for money.

“Firms must start putting consumers first and stop seeing them as pound signs.”

The FCA is proposing banning pre-ticked boxes to ensure consumers actively opt in to buy, and not have to choose to opt out. It will also require companies to publish claim ratios to highlight low-value products, which it hopes will encourage better quality products for consumers.

Suspend APD during school holidays
Feb 24th, 2014 by elisa

A suspension of aviation tax during the school holidays to help make family breaks more affordable is one of the options to be discussed in today’s parliamentary debate.

The debate, chaired by the Commons Backbench Committee, centres on the issue of high holiday prices during school holidays, and the new regulations that mean parents may face a fine if they take their children on holiday in term time.

A survey by the Telegraph found that package holidays are typically 30-40 per cent more expensive during school holidays, and scrapping Air Passenger Duty (APD) would save a family of four between £52 and £376 on an overseas holiday, depending on how far they travel.

Other suggestions have been to stagger school holiday times, and to regulate holiday prices during these peak times.

Tips for when to book
Jan 28th, 2014 by elisa

Flight comparison website, Skyscanner, has revealed its top tips for when to book your flights.

According to its research, 80% of travellers wouldn’t know whether a fare offered good value for money or not. So, Skyscanner has launched a handy tool to show when it’s the best time to book. You can also set up an email price alert for any flights you’re searching.

Based on an analysis of thousands of flight and booking data, along with its expert knowledge and experience, Skyscanner has come up with these handy rules to follow when trying to get the best price for your flight:

1. Book smart – Lower costs by travelling at less popular times of the day. Also avoid peak season travel.

2. Be flexible – If you’re open to different destinations then run a search on ‘everywhere’ to find the countries with the best value flights at any time.

3. Compare and contrast – Using travel comparison websites can compare the widest range of airlines and online travel agents to help to get the best deal.

4. Track prices – Keeping an eye on prices a few months in advance is the best way to find a good value flight.

Skyscanner also has a table of average prices and best times to book at some of the most popular destinations for travellers from the UK.

Holiday trends 2014
Jan 6th, 2014 by elisa

Value for money is still top of most people’s priorities when booking a holiday in 2014, according to the Travel Trends Report 2014.

The report by ABTA and the Foreign Office predicts “cautious optimism” for the year ahead.

“We know that Brits hate to cut back on their holidays and after several years of tough market conditions, we are seeing early signs of more optimism amongst British consumers,” said ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer.

“However, with the squeeze on household budgets continuing, we are expecting that tried and tested destinations and package holidays will continue to perform well in the coming year. We are also expecting a range of other overseas destinations to prove popular in 2014, as well as another good year for domestic tourism after the heatwave in the UK in summer 2013.”

The report includes a list of “destinations to watch” for 2014:

Great news for domestic tourism also; the feel-good-factor created by the Olympics and Jubilee in 2013’s sunny summer is likely to continue over into new year bookings.

2013 round up
Dec 30th, 2013 by elisa

It’s nearing the end of 2013, so it’s time for our annual round up of travel news and features covered in this blog over the year.

January is normally the time when you start to examine your finances after the Christmas splurge, and this year was no different for the travel news. A Sunday Times report that found customers were seriously losing out on foreign currency exchange rates when purchasing their travel money at airports.  We also looked at the financial benefits of flying to an airport further from your destination and driving the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Spain was voted the best value destination for 2013, and Eve told us why she thought Spain was a great winter destination.

However, it was all about Greece in February! With its award-winning beaches and Thomas Cook trend survey that revealed a huge increase in bookings during the month. The month ended with a warning to check your travel insurance small print, as many travellers were reported to have fallen foul of clauses in their insurance, which meant they wouldn’t get a pay out on claims.

In March, a woman successfully smuggled a dog onto a plane; we looked at the biosphere reserve that is Menorca; and BA started selling tickets for flights on its ‘red carpet route’ to Los Angeles in its new super jumbo A380. Easyjet installed new, lighter, seats on its aircraft in an attempt to save on fuel and CO2 emissions. Bitter weather threatened to blight travellers’ Easter holidays, but this didn’t stop Peter Rabbit visiting children at Heathrow.

The bizarre law in Florida that all British Citizens must carry an International Driving Permit in the state was repealed in April. Samoa Air launched its controversial pay by weight flights and we looked at the facts about turbulence.

Easyjet began testing its volcanic ash cloud detection technology in May. We found that trillions of air miles are going to waste; and there was the slightly disturbing report of a flight being diverted because the pilot got locked out of the cockpit. There was good news for Harry Potter fans going on holiday in Florida, as the Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment announced the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley “environment”.

A US ban on using a laptop during take off on flights was lifted in June.

Tenerife enjoyed at 14% rise in arrivals from the UK in July. It was also discovered that many English families were flying from Scottish airports to save up to £500 on their holiday travel costs. It may have been one of the hottest summers we’ve had in years, but this didn’t stop large numbers of Brits leaving for even sunnier holiday destinations in the last weekend of July. We gave advice on how to avoid common pick pocketing scams as the Foreign Office issued a warning about pick pockets in Switzerland.

As August enjoyed more of the heatwave, Ryanair had a drop in flight bookings; it also took legal action against an unfavourable Dispatches programme “Ryanair: Secrets from the Cockpit”.

Etihad Airways launched its “flying nanny” service to look after passengers’ children in September. Helly Kitty planes took to the skies with Taiwan’s EVA Air, and a computer glitch in US Airways system sold $0 flights on its website. Spain enjoyed record visitor numbers over the summer, proving the predictions earlier in the year.

In October, Manchester was announced to be the UK’s first Airport City; and Ryanair announced that it would work on a better customer service.

It was all about the measure of happiness for travel in November, and BA introduced interactive billboards to remind people of the magic of flying.

The Northern Lights in Norway topped Brits’ “must see” list in December. Britain also endured wide-spread bad weather with winds of up to 140mph battering parts of the country, and flooding hitting others.

That’s the round up for 2013, make sure to follow this blog for more travel news and articles in 2014, and book your holiday villas at a wide range of destinations on Villaseek.

Theft warning in Switzerland and tips against pickpockets
Jul 30th, 2013 by elisa

A theft warning has been issued by the Foreign Office for travellers heading to Switzerland after an increase in reports of theft.

An update on its website said the British embassy received the reports particularly in larger cities, Geneva airport and on trains to and from Geneva.

The website said: “There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, the British Embassy has recently received increased reports of theft especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to/from Geneva.

“Watch out for pickpockets, confidence tricksters and thieves in city centres, airports, railway stations, on trains and in other public places.”

Holidaymakers should always be on guard of their possessions while travelling, particularly in popular holiday destinations. These are where pickpockets and other types of thieves are drawn because of the high volume of visitors.

Holidays should be a time for relaxing, but often it can mean that visitors let their guard down and are open to having their possessions stolen.

Follow a few of our tips to preventing theft on holiday:

  • Photocopy important documents such as passport and travel itinerary before you go.
  • Expensive looking luggage may be helpful and keep you looking smart, but it will attract a thief’s eye before a seemingly scruffy or muted colour one.
  • Wear a money belt for all the important money and documents you may need while sightseeing.
  • Secure your bag to a table or chair leg, or yourself with the bag strap when you sit down at a cafe, particularly when dining outside. This will make it less desirable for a would-be thief who will be looking for something to snatch and run with.
  • Never leave your mobile out on a table, it’s the perfect place for it to be swiped.
  • Be extra alert of where your valuables are if there is a sudden commotion in a crowded area, as this could potentially be a distraction in order to pickpocket you or someone close by.

A few common scams to look out for:

  • Some thieves will pretend to be lost and approach you for directions with a large map which they will place over your mobile phone (mainly if it’s left on a table), which they will pick up with the map and walk away.
  • In Paris recently, I came across fake charity workers with clip boards outside the Pompidou Centre. They would approach tourists to ask for their signature and place the clipboard over their bags to try to pickpocket them at the same time.
  • Beware of people questioning your seat number on a train, this could of course be genuine, but through the commotion of retrieving tickets to check numbers you could be pick pocketed if you have money in your back/side pockets.
  • Some pickpockets use scissors or a sharp razor to cut or slash handbags to get whatever is inside. A bag with multiple compartments, with an inner zipped pocket with most valuable contents closest to your body could help to prevent this.
  •  Beware of ladies trying to hand you sprigs of rosemary or something similar, by simply touching it they expect you to pay, but may also pick pocket you while your hands are full.

 

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