If the words package holiday brings to mind booking two weeks in Benidorm at the local high street travel agent, then you will be relieved to know that is not what I am writing about! Having found your bargain business class flight, most people book direct through the airline and then go elsewhere to book their accommodation or car hire. However, this is not always the cheapest option or the best from a miles point of view.
British Airways Holidays
Whenever you find a cheap flight on British Airways it is always worth looking at including either car hire or accommodation. Even if you don’t want them…. (be aware Avis have occasionally been known to charge a no show fee in some locations) Why? well, because by adding in an extra it means that it can lower the price and you get extra Avios too. Add in a low deposit until 5 weeks before departure rather than paying upfront and it’s pretty much a no brainer.
The deposit amount depends on how much you spend:
- £300-£999 – pay £150 deposit per booking
- £1000-£2999 – pay from £300 deposit per booking
- £3000-£3499 – pay from £350 deposit per booking
The other advantage is that if you cancel your booking in most cases you would only lose the deposit, not the entire cost but obviously make sure you check the details during the booking process.
A good example of this would be the £2000 fares in First to Cape Town last year. If you added in car hire this knocked around £150 off per person and gained around 1850 extra Avios plus the original Avios for the flight and car hire. This is because you earn 1 Avios per £1 spent on BA Holidays above and beyond the usual flight Avios.
Are there any drawbacks?
Often if you have a problem or need to change something you have to speak to BA Holidays rather than the Executive Club line of your status. BA Holidays can often have a much longer queue on the phone. You also lose the 24 hour cooling off period that you would get for flight only.
How to book
There are actually several ways to book BA Holidays. If you know where you want to go and want to find the cheapest package for accommodation with flights go to BA holiday finder where you can select the cheapest destination packages by month. If you only want to book a car or hotel for part of your holiday you will need to use the BA Complex holiday booking page.
This works in a similar way to BA but you get discounts as well as miles:
Save up to 7% with Virgin Holidays plus 1 mile for every £1 spent on the total value of your booking.
Save up to 7% with Virgin Holidays plus 2 miles for every £1 spent on the total value of your booking.
Save up to 10% plus 2 miles every £1 spent on the total value of your booking.
To get the discount, you need to have been a Flying Club member for at least a month, prior to making your booking with Virgin Holidays. Also, you will only receive your discount and miles when you make your booking over the dedicated phone lines or via your local retail store, not online.
You can pay a £175 per person deposit to book and then pay the balance 12 weeks before departure.
You can find more information at www.virginholidays.co.uk
Booking flights through ebookers
In October 2015, ebookers became part Expedia Inc. Despite being owned by Expedia, there are still some subtle differences. ebookers is normally my first port of call for hotel or flight plus hotel bookings. There are two reasons for this. First, they nearly always have one of the highest rates of TopCashback for these type of bookings. The cashback is usually 10-12% for hotels, 4-5% for hotel+flight and 1-2% for flights. You can join TopCashback here. Secondly they also have their own loyalty scheme which adds to your savings.
It is free to join and points are earned at up to 5% on the booking cost exclusive of add-ons, insurance and payment fees. You get the highest rate on the app. You can redeem the points on qualifying hotels when paying by credit or debit card. As you spend more you get access to more perks. After 4 nights booked with Ebookers, you progress to gold. As a BONUS+ Gold member, you receive 1 free lounge pass per calendar year to 160 lounges worldwide through loungebuddy.com. Plus you are eligible to receive airline luggage fees reimbursed in BONUS+ up to the value of £20 as well as Wi-Fi once a year.
How to get the best savings
The majority of the time it is cheaper to book a hotel as well as a flight, even if you don’t need one. First select flight+hotel for your booking. If you don’t want to use the hotel, tick the box that says I only need a hotel for part of my trip. Then just select one night. It can be any night of your trip, so it could be worth playing around with a mid-week night versus a weekend, to see if one is cheaper. Then when the results come through filter by price. Often there will be a very cheap hostel as the first choice, which is fine if you won’t use it. If you actually want a hotel you can just select it for as many nights as you need but select the hotel you actually want. You will now get the 4-5% cashback on the flight and the hotel plus the ebookers bonus+. Let’s have a look at my example.
Last year I booked a holiday to Vietnam during a Qatar sale. Despite the cheapest flight being out of Helsinki at about £1400, it actually made as much sense to book a UK flight through ebookers. By the time I had added on flights to Helsinki and an overnight stay it would have been around £250 extra bringing the total to £1600.
Here are the price comparisons:
|Qatar business class flights London to Ho Chi Minh City January 2018|
|Qatar Airways website||£1,910.00|
|Qatar BA codeshare on BA website (this was the same on Expedia, Ebookers and via Trailfinders too)||£1,860.00|
|BA codeshare plus cheap hotel on ebookers||£1,798.00|
|minus cashback at 4.5% (not inc taxes etc)||£75.00|
|minus ebookers bonus+ gained||£35.00|
|BA codeshare + 4* boutique hotel on ebookers (Villa Song)||£1,889.00|
|minus cashback at 4.5% (not inc taxes etc)||£100.00|
|minus ebookers bonus+ gained||£37.00|
I booked the option with a hotel for the first night of our trip, as we needed one anyway. You could look at the price I got in 2 ways. First, that I got the flight for £1668 and then paid £64 for a hotel, that would have cost £225. You could also look at it taking the £225 hotel cost off, I actually got the flight for £1527.
If you had booked on your Premium BA Amex card on the BA website, you would have gained an extra 2790 Avios. If you took cashback instead, you could convert £22.25 of cashback to roughly the same amount and still pay £1710 for the flight with the cheap hotel offer.
The other lesson learnt from this is always to check your codeshare options before booking a flight, as they are often cheaper!
You find Ebookers website here.
Booking flights through Expedia
Expedia have their own loyalty scheme, but it is not nearly as generous as ebookers. You earn an Expedia gift voucher worth £25 off a hotel for every 3,500 points you get. Points are gained at:
- 2 points per £1 spent on hotels, packages with a hotel, activities, and select car hire flights
- 1 point per £5 spent
To get to the next tier, +silver, you need to spend £5,000 or staying 7 qualifying hotel room nights. This gets you some extra points and free amenities at select +VIP Access hotels.
Expedia’s big advantage is that it allows you to book your seats before you pay. It also seems able to override some airline booking restrictions for bulkhead and bassinet. This certainly worked when I booked my New Zealand ticket on Singapore airlines recently.
Another advantage that Expedia has if only for research purposes, it that it works with 30k.com. I talked about this tool in this article. In short, you register your frequent flyer details and then use a google chrome extension. It will show you how many miles and tier points you will earn for every flight displayed on your search. Perfect if you need a certain amount of tier points from a trip.
You can find Expedia’s website here.
The final option is Trailfinders. They have a special business and first class travel department with special airlines fares for accommodation inclusive packages. Again, you can usually choose to just book a hotel for part of your trip rather than the whole time and this can offer some substantial savings.