Posts tagged “Flights

Everything you need to know about flying

The title’s a bit of an exaggeration – at the very least a work in progress – but I’m in the process of creating an index for my blog posts. Here’s the first instalment. With years of independent travel under my belt there’s a lot of advice I can share about airlines and air travel. From finding business class flights at fares lower than economy to what to do if your flight is cancelled, there’s a blog to help.

Tips for saving money on flights
Cabin baggage charges
What to do if you miss your flight
How to travel business class for the price of economy
Are business class flights really worth the extra?
How to survive a long haul flight
What’s it like to travel long haul on a budget airline?
Thoughts on airports
Transport options from Heathrow to London
How to get the best from a Heathrow layover
Getting your money back if your flight is cancelled

Are business class flights really worth the extra?

I recently had the opportunity to travel business class across the Atlantic from London to New York.  I’ve always been of the opinion that I’d rather spend my holiday budget on accommodation and activities at my destination rather than on travel to it.  An opportunity to fly business class with British Airways for less than the price of an economy ticket was too good to resist – more about that in a later post – so for the first time I crossed the pond in style.


So what did I think?

Lounge access

Heathrow’s Terminal 5 has two business class lounges but I was tipped off that South Lounge was the better of the two, so that’s where I headed after a very pleasant fast track security experience.  I was very pleased to find a decent breakfast spread and had several yummy pastries, read the paper, hooked up to the free WiFi and relaxed in the nice padded chairs while I waited to board the aircraft.  All very civilised, though I don’t really mind the bustle of airside especially where there’s somewhere decent to get a coffee.


The thing I hate most about boarding these days?  The fact that because everyone is carrying such an enormous amount of carry on luggage, the overhead bins fill up.  Consequently, there’s a mad dash to get in the queue to board so you avoid having to do a long haul flight with a bag squashed between your legs.  Now this is somewhere that business class scores highly: there are fewer people fighting for bin space and you get to queue jump and board when you like.  Of course the amount of stress in the economy cabin could also be reduced if the carry on weight and size limit was reduced to something sensible as opposed to the current policy of “bring the kitchen sink or the equivalent, we’ll cram it in somehow”.

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Settling in

I was a little nervous I’d show myself up by not being able to work the controls of the flat bed seat.  I’ve only flown business class once before, a short hop from JFK to Dallas Fort Worth after being snowbound in New York for so many days the American Airlines call centre staff just wanted to get rid of me, and in any case that was a regular seat.  In reality, I had nothing to worry about.  Raising and lowering the privacy screen was the hardest part (and not exactly difficult) but the actual seat controls were a piece of cake.  The addition of pink champagne was a bonus.  I broke my own rule of always flying sober, but only because it felt rude not to take the glass that was proffered, you understand.

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Would you like to fly backwards or forwards, Madam?

I’d been advised to try to get a window seat as with the screen up, you were in a little cocoon.  Taking off and landing backwards felt very odd.  That said, the rest of the flight was fine and it was great to be tucked away.  So tucked away, in fact, that when I finally uncurled myself to pop to the toilet (disappointingly cramped), I was amazed to see everyone else lying flat.  If I have to be critical (I feel I ought to be objective), I’d say the footrest was a bit of a stretch.  Oh the hardship!  Her Ladyship had to reach forward a little to put her feet up.

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The food

Oh the food!  A delicious sounding menu was presented.  It basically said I could eat them out of house and home – and then they’d bring me more.  Take a look at the feast that I consumed:

And the invitation to just pig out…  I love the line: “Of course the best thing about tasty treats is eating them rather than reading about them…”  Of course.  Of course!  Pass the Cadburys.

photo 5

Actually, in reality I was so stuffed I could barely shuffle to the Club Kitchen, let alone raid it.  Note to self: if you ever the chance again to fly business class long haul, make it to Sydney or Auckland.  Or at the very least to LAX.


Having reached JFK at least three dress sizes larger than when I left Heathrow, I came down to earth with a bump to join the long queue into the US.  At least the whole of the economy cabin were behind me.  I don’t mean that in a condescending way.  I’m usually quick off the mark out of the plane and walk relatively fast, meaning most of the economy cabin are behind me when I disembark from an economy seat too.  This time, however, with all that free food and drink sloshing around inside me, I had to walk slowly to make sure I didn’t spill any.

The return

Until I realised I could be reclining flat on the outbound leg, I’d been most looking forward to the return journey.  Sadly, this wasn’t to be as good.  Although I was upstairs, supposedly better, I was in an aisle seat – nowhere near as peaceful as being tucked away by the window.  And being one of BA’s sleeper services due to the late departure, I’d planned on eating in the lounge before take off, but found a rather unappetising buffet presented in the lounge at JFK.  If this sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not, any free food is good as far as I’m concerned, but it wasn’t the gourmet experience I had on the outbound leg.  Nor was the service as attentive or as friendly, but in the crew’s defence, we’d had a three hour delay to take off and no one was happy.

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So what’s the verdict?

Based on the outbound leg particularly, I’d say you are made to feel very special in business class.  I enjoyed being addressed by name.  It is also a real treat to eat the meals course by course and not have to juggle plastic pots in a confined space.  I loved the flat bed and found it very comfortable; I don’t usually snatch more than an hour or two’s sleep on a standard economy flight and yet on this I was sleeping so soundly I was dreaming.  Fast tracking through security at Heathrow was very welcome.  I’m not sure why the same service wasn’t available at JFK, though in fairness it may have been because of the delays and the need to process everyone as quickly as possible so they didn’t miss their flights.

All in all it was an experience I’d be delighted to repeat, though not one that justifies spending such a huge amount more.  But keep an eye on this blog.  Soon I’ll tell you how I achieved this journey for less than the price of an economy ticket – perfectly legit and no air miles needed.

Just back from – a day trip to Bremen

Regular readers may recall previous posts about days out I’ve done by air:

This time, Ryanair are in the hot seat and it’s off to London Stansted for my flight to the north German city of Bremen.

Flight times, for once, are very convenient.  The outbound flight departs at 7.55am and is scheduled to arrive in Bremen at 10.20am.  It’s a short flight with a one hour time difference.  The only downside is that you hit Stansted at peak rush hour.  Don’t be tempted to rock up too late; the queues for security are long and just as tedious as anywhere.  Of course, with Ryanair your boarding passes are already printed and as it’s a day trip, there’s no luggage to worry about.  If you are tempted to shop before you take off, Stansted offers a buy and collect service and you can pick up your shopping on your way back in.  Coming back, the flight’s at 9.20pm, but the ten minute tram ride from the city centre and the diminutive size of Bremen Airport mean that you can get away with leaving as late as 8pm.  Touchdown at Stansted is scheduled for 9.45pm though we were a little late.


After a take off delay of fifteen minutes or so due to earlier fog at Stansted, I passed swiftly through passport control at Bremen’s tiny airport.  Ryanair use a separate terminal.  It is as pared down as Ryanair users would expect, but the advantage of being apart are of course that there is no one else to share the passport queue with.  In less than ten minutes from the wheels hitting the tarmac, I was through the airport and off to find transport into the city.

Getting to the city

Bremen Airport is obscenely close to the city centre and by far the easiest method of getting there is by tram.  Exit the Ryanair terminal and turn right.  Walk past the main terminal and ahead of you is the tram stop.  You’ll need Tram 6 marked Universität which departs every ten minutes.  The fare costs 2,70 euros.  You can either buy your ticket at the machine at the stop or hop on board and buy one from the tram’s machine.  Small notes and euro coins are accepted – don’t go trying to use a 50 euro note as it won’t let you.  It’s only a few minutes to the Domsheide tram stop.  Alight there and you’re a minute from the cathedral, town hall and main square.  The tram then goes on to the main train station.

Getting around

A network of buses and trams can take you all over the city.  The Bremen tourist board have produced a series of very useful PDF guides which include a very clear street plan as well as a map of tram and bus routes.  I downloaded these onto my Kindle app before setting out, but you can of course pick up paper copies from the tourist information desk when you get to Bremen if you prefer a hard copy, or they’ll send them to you through the post on request.  Here’s the link: https://www.bremen-tourism.de/information-material

Much of the city centre is walkable as it is a compact place, but if laziness or inclement weather strike then it’s handy to know which tram to jump on and the guides also detail opening hours and which buses or trams to use.  As with the airport tram ride, fares are 2,70 euros for a single but you can also buy a day pass for 8,90 euros which also gives you discounts off some of those city’s must-see attractions.

How to spend the day

First stop for me was the obligatory pose with donkey, dog, cat and rooster.  The famous bronze sculpture resides beside the town hall.  You’ll see donkey’s front feet are well worn – it’s considered good luck to give them a rub.  The four creatures are Bremen’s mascots if you remember the Brothers Grimm’s fairytale.

Next, I walked through the main square.  The Rathaus (town hall) was under wraps which was a pity as it is a splendid building minus its scaffolding.  It’s UNESCO listed and it is possible to take tours of the inside.  The cafes in the main square are tempting and I can recommend coffee and cake of course.  Duck behind the Schütting (Guildhall), which sadly isn’t open to the public, and you’ll come across Böttcherstraße which is the marvellous Art Deco creation of a famous local coffee manufacturer.  If you can, time your visit to coincide with the chiming of the hour at the House of the Glockenspiel (look up and you’ll see it).

A short stroll from Böttcherstraße took me to the Schnoor quarter.  This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Bremen and was once where the sailors hung out.  The name Schnoor comes from the low German “Snoor” meaning string, which could have been a reference to the way the old houses line up or perhaps to the making of ropes or nets for the ships that passed through here.  The area’s very touristy but worth a visit nevertheless.

Still in Schnoor, I had a schnitzel lunch in Beck’s; if you get there early enough you can bag the table with the window out onto quaint Wuste Statte.  Flipping the main meal to lunchtime makes sense; most restaurants offer reasonably priced lunch menus and the local cafe culture lends itself to an early evening coffee or an aperitif with a cake or snack before you leave.

Wandering the streets of the Schnoor to walk off lunch was a delight.  There, you’ll find many artists and artisans, but for me the delight was the intricate detailing and artwork that formed part of many of the buildings.  It’s very important not to rush and also to look up, or you’ll miss them.

From the Schnoor quarter, it would have been logical to move on to Viertel, but as the sun was shining I decided to take a boat trip up the Weser instead.  A 75-minute round trip cost 10,50 euros and was rather pleasant, passing the Docklands area of Uberseestadt.  Boats depart from Schlachte.  Look out for the Beck’s brewery and also some famous names on some of the factories and warehouses: Kellogg’s and Primark among them.  With little wind and a clear sky, there were some lovely reflections on the water.

Back on dry land, I walked up to the park that lines the northern edge of the city centre.  There’s an old windmill on a hill overlooking the park which was the perfect stop for a cherry juice: a cooling breeze to take the edge off a humid day.  Because of the weather, I opted to catch a number 10 tram to Viertel.  It’s one of Bremen’s more Bohemian neighbourhoods: think Notting Hill but not quite as affluent.  There’s some fantastic street art to be seen, a few shops selling vintage clothes and furniture as well as plenty of decent cafes.  I was glad of one of the latter when a thunderstorm brewed suddenly and equally glad when it was short lived.

Strolling back through the Schnoor, the thunderstorm had an unexpected silver lining.  Crowds of tourists typically frequent the narrow streets but even though the sun had reappeared, people were slow to venture out again, so I almost had the district to myself.  A meander to the main square for a coffee and it was time to head back to the airport after what had been a very pleasant day.  The hot weather had prompted me to take it easy, but there is a lot more to see in this Hanseatic city.  I could have taken a tour of Beck’s brewery, seen how Mercedes-Benz make cars or ponder whether modern works of art have as much value as their earlier counterparts.  Another time, I think.  This place is worth another visit.

For more on Bremen, check out my previous blog on the city here https://juliamhammond.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/beautiful-bremen/.

Just back from – a day trip to Amsterdam

Is an Amsterdam day trip viable? In the second of an occasional series, I test whether it’s really worth making the effort for just a single day’s visit to this popular Dutch city. Would I regret not paying for a hotel room as I dashed from attraction to attraction?

Amsterdam's canals

Amsterdam’s canals


I chose to fly from London’s Southend airport, around an hour from Central London but only a short drive from my Essex home. Southend, though expanding, is still a small airport, making it possible to transit the airport in just a few minutes – none of the long queues for security or marathon hikes to the gate that characterise Britain’s larger airports. easyJet fly out to Amsterdam at 7.30am and back at 6pm, making a short day out a cheap possibility. It’s wise to note that easyJet fly into a satellite terminal at Schipol, making for a tidy walk to the gate for your return flight. But they have a good track record for punctuality and my outbound flight was on time. On the return leg, we landed early and thanks to the time difference, I was back in my kitchen feeding the dogs their dinner almost before I should have left Schipol. (Don’t worry about them, we have doggie day care for such occasions.)

Getting into the city

Having made it across the airport without getting distracted by the many shops and even a branch of the Rijksmuseum (Schipol has got to be the best airport in Europe, don’t you think?) I exited through self-service passport control leaving the tulip bulb purchases for my return. Keep straight on as you exit customs for the train station, the quickest way into central Amsterdam. Directly in front of you are bright yellow ticket machines which take cash and cards. A single ticket into the city costs 5,10 euros with a 0,50 euro surcharge for using a credit card; UK issued cards work fine. It’s worth noting, though, that they take coins and not notes if you wish to pay cash. Make a left and head for the train; it’s a quick fifteen minute ride into the city. Trains leave frequently for Amsterdam Centraal Station immediately to the north of the main city. I waited one minute for a train and was walking Amsterdam’s streets by 10am.

Centraal Station

Centraal Station

Getting around

The city centre of Amsterdam is compact and unless it’s raining, it’s a pleasant experience to wander the back streets and canal side paths on foot. You’ll need eyes in the back of your head, though, to avoid being run over by a bicycle. The city has dedicated cycle lanes but it’s all too easy to forget where the pavement ends if you’re trying to take a photo. If you hire a bike yourself, it’s customary to ring your bell rather than mutter profanities at wayward pedestrians obsessed with getting the perfect selfie.

For longer distances, the easiest method of getting around the city is by tram. Single rides cost 2,90 euros and the ticket is valid for an hour. Tap the ticket on the reader as you are given it to activate it. If you are likely to make more than three journeys, it’s worth your while buying a day pass, costing 7,50 euros. Tap in and out each time you ride.



What did I do?

I’ve been to Amsterdam before, so decided to give the big museums and the Anne Frank House a miss this time. If you are making a first visit then you should really consider staying a few days to give you time to do the sights justice. Queues for the Anne Frank house are frequently long (even on a Monday in January!) so if you do want to go, and you should, plan to make this first on your day’s agenda when you visit.

I made for the Begijnhof instead. It’s an easy walk from Centraal Station – cross over the canal and head down Damrak, the main drag. Damrak is tourist central, but you can arrange everything from canal boats to bicycle hire here and buy souvenirs tackier than you’ve ever imagined. From Dam Square, continue down Kalverstraat (almost as bad as Damrak) until you get to Spui.

The Begijnhof

The Begijnhof

Accessed through a wooden door, a passageway with impressive vaulted ceilings leads through to an enclosed square, the Begijnhof. Women have lived on this site since 1150, primarily to care for the sick. By the fourteenth century, the place had become a nunnery, the women referred to as “beguines”. Taking pride of place in this inner courtyard is the church. The Begijnhof is also the site of one of only two surviving timber buildings in the city, this one dating from 1528. Visitors can access half the square, so long as they keep off the well-manicured lawns; the rest is for residents only. Entrance is free, though donations to the church are welcomed.

The Begijnhof is around the corner from the Bloemenmarkt, on the Singel, which claims to be the only floating flower market in the world. Don’t worry if you haven’t timed your visit for spring, even in winter the stalls are a riot of colour, selling cut flowers and bulbs. The packaged bulbs are aimed squarely at the tourist market – locals make a beeline for the loose bulbs as they’re considerably cheaper.

Tulips from Amsterdam

Tulips from Amsterdam

Next, I set about exploring the area known as “De Negen Straatjes” – the nine streets. This is an area bisected by canals from the Singel to the Prinsengracht and gentrification has resulted in a wealth of designer boutiques, gift shops and art galleries that lend themselves to ambling. This is not a district to walk with a purpose, more an area in which to potter and dither before recharging your batteries in a cafe. Forget Starbucks – though there are plenty – a canal side coffee shop is the way to go. I recommend the Koffee Huis “De Hoek”, a far cry from the smoky cannabis cafes for which Amsterdam is better known. Try their cheese and ham pancake washed down with proper freshly- squeezed orange juice and bag a window seat for brunch with a view.

Off licence, Nine Streets

Off licence, Nine Streets

Continuing along Prinsengracht, and just past Westermarkt I passed the long queue for the Anne Frank House. Further along on the opposite side of the canal is an interesting little museum devoted to tulips. Behind the extensive gift shop and down a steep flight of steps, a series of small interconnecting rooms tell the history of this iconic Dutch flower, which you’ll soon learn, isn’t Dutch at all. In fact, it is native to Asia (who knew?) and it was the Ottomans who introduced the flower to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. They soon became fashionable, with growers competing to see who could produce the most sought after bloom. Speculators moved in on the industry and soon bulbs with the right “pedigree” were changing hands for crazy sums of money, with some selling for twenty times the annual salary of the average Amsterdam resident at the time. Out of control, the market crashed in 1637 and it was to take a further 200 years to steadily rebuild it. Fortunately, the prices of tulips are far more reasonable today, as is the 5 euro entrance fee.

The Tulip Museum

The Tulip Museum

Back at the Westerkerk, I jumped on a number 14 tram heading east to my second museum of the day – the Dutch Resistance Museum. This absorbing museum recounts the experiences of the Netherlands from 14 May 1940 to 5 May 1945, the period when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany. As well as resistance, the museum explains how people chose different paths in coping with the invasion – some collaborated, some fought back. The exhibition covers all forms of resistance: going on strike, forging documents, helping people to go into hiding, publishing underground newspapers, maintaining escape routes, and even armed resistance and espionage. Entrance costs 10 euros which I thought was good value for money. Take the free audio set that’s offered as it unlocks a series of explanations in English; the exhibits are all signed in dual language but some of the text is on the small size. A short film puts the museum in context, in kid-friendly language, and there’s a special children’s section to the museum as well. Families, this is your part of town – Artis zoo’s just across the street.

Dutch Resistance Museum

Dutch Resistance Museum

All that history had made me thirsty (and my back ache) so sinking into a chair in the Cafe Koosje on the corner of Kerklaan and Plantage Middenlaan came as a welcome relief. The hot chocolate topped, of course, with a generous dollop of cream and the friendly wait staff made this a good place to take a break.

It was time to head back to the centre for some shopping and my mind was on food. Taking the number 14 tram back to Waterlooplein, I walked to Staalstraat where I’d read about a foodie’s paradise at number 20. Het Hanze Huis is crammed full of European foods, from syrups to flavoured tea, chocolate to tasty biscuits. Mouth already watering, I decided to continue by number 24 tram (tram-hopping like a local!) to the market on Albert Cuypstraat. A mix of market tat, food trucks and cheese stalls, this place is definitely worth a visit. I stocked up on Stroopwafels, a family favourite, from a charming man who posed happily for a photo. Bag full, I had to pass on the Gouda cheese, but figured I could at least get that in Sainsbury’s.

The Stroopwafel man

The Stroopwafel man

Heading back to the centre on the number 4 tram, my final stop was to a pub with no bar. I’d come across De Pilsener Club, located on Begijnensteeg, via several bloggers on the net. The pub’s nickname is De Engelse Reet, which apparently translates as “The English Ass”. Perfect, I thought. After all today’s walking I need a seat for my own ass. According to what I read, the pub has been in business since the end of the nineteenth century. It’s been in the current owner’s family for four generations (I read that they all share the same first name, so that’s four men called Tuen Van Veen) and they don’t like change. Stepping over the threshold is like travelling back in time, with sanded floorboards and tables pockmarked through years of use. Given the early hour (for a pub, anyway) I expected to have to drink alone, but two tables were occupied when I walked in and by the time I left, it was full. It seems it’s a very popular meeting place in the late afternoon for Amsterdam’s over 60s.

De Engelse Reet

De Engelse Reet

The lowdown

As with Lisbon, I pre-planned my itinerary in order to minimise the chances of wasting time arriving somewhere that’s not yet opened up for the day or unnecessarily backtracking across town. Both times I’ve been fully prepared to ditch things as the day goes on, but was once again surprised by how much I ended up doing. I’ll admit, Amsterdam has never been one of my favourite cities, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could find a city I love within a tourist city I really don’t. A bit of extra research this time uncovered parts of Amsterdam that were a whole lot more rewarding than the Red Light District, tacky souvenir shops and mainstream museums I might otherwise have felt obliged to visit.

I also made good use of the Travel Telegraph’s app, and grew increasingly fond of its “favourites” capability and very functional zoomable map – particularly helpful as my paper map began to disintegrate in the drizzle. Because of the shorter flight time and the exceptionally quick train connection, having a later outbound flight and earlier inbound flight wasn’t an issue, though I could quite happily have holed up in De Engelse Reet and made a night of it. Next time that’s where you’ll find me, though perhaps I’ll get Tuen Van Veen to serve me up a couple of hard boiled eggs to soak up the Heineken.

Nine tips to save money on flights – and one to avoid!

Flight costs often represent a big chunk of your holiday budget but there are ways for the savvy traveller to save money.  Here’s how to free up more cash for your holiday.

How to save money when you fly

Book early

Airlines are keen to lock you in to a date and offer enticing early bird fares. Once sold, prices are likely to go up (though this isn’t guaranteed!)  If you are certain about when you will travel – a birthday celebration perhaps or fixed school term dates – then it is worth booking in advance.  It also has the advantage of spreading the cost of the trip over a period of time compared to the shock of a large bill from a tour operator a couple of months before departure.  Scheduled flights become available about 11 months before you fly, while some budget airlines, such as the US carrier Southwest, publish the date flights will be released for the new season on their websites. Make sure you take out travel insurance to be sure you’re covered in the event something doesn’t go according to plan.

Sign up for offers

For UK budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, the easiest way to keep abreast of the schedules is to sign up for their email newsletter. These will regularly send you details of special sales, release dates for particular routes and new destinations.  Follow your preferred carriers on Facebook and other social networking sites to be the first to be notified of their latest promotions.  It’s also worth looking at the news and media sections of airline websites to get wind of what’s coming up.

Fly indirect

It’s not everyone’s idea of fun to spend some of their precious holiday stuck in an airport waiting lounge. That said, the savings to be had from an indirect flight can be too tempting to resist.  Use an online agent like Opodo or Expedia to compare the savings on your chosen route or by mixing airlines.  Be careful of very long layovers as the cost of booking an airport hotel could negate the savings you’ve just made.  Using indirect flights with long daytime layovers can be a good way of seeing a city knowing that your luggage is safely checked ready for the second flight. Some airports such as Singapore Changi even offer free trips for eligible passengers. Make sure you’ve checked the visa requirements if you’re planning to sightsee along the way.

Look for alternative destinations

Horror stories abound in the media of airlines that deposit their unwitting passengers at obscure airports far from their intended destinations. It is possible, however, to make this work for you rather than against you.  Travelling from an alternative airport can not only save you money, but it can also save you time.  Factor in journey times, rail fares, airport parking and the availability of public transport at your destination to get an overall price rather than the basic flight price.  Don’t dismiss a smaller airport until you’ve scrutinised the schedule; you might find an indirect flight is still quicker than travelling to a larger hub such as Heathrow.

Shop around for the best baggage allowance

Depending on how long you are away for and what kind of gear you need to take, the cost of transporting your belongings varies enormously between airlines. Think seriously about hand baggage only fares; some airlines offer generous cabin baggage allowances and some hotels provide many of the products you might be thinking of carrying with you.  Check websites and email hotels in advance to make sure you only take what you need.  If you really can’t leave the suitcase behind, compare airline baggage fees to ensure you choose the cheapest option. Often headline “deals” don’t include baggage fees.

Choose when you fly

Midweek fares tend to be better value than weekend to weekend deals as many people like to take their holiday in complete weeks. If you are going away for a weekend, look for Saturday to Monday flights rather than Friday to Sunday.  Hotel room rates are often lowest on a Sunday night giving you further savings.  Think about whether you can travel on the early or very late flights; if you’re not tied to public transport these may offer considerable savings on the more convenient middle of the day departures.  Even the time of day that you search for flights might be a factor; some people say that booking late at night throws up better deals than if you surf at peak times.  It’s anecdotal rather than based on scientific fact but it can’t hurt to try.

Travel in the shoulder seasons

It’s worth doing your homework on the weather. Missing the peak months doesn’t have to mean missing out on sunshine.  Consider travelling in September for the Med or in winter for a city-break.  Temperatures in Australia are much more conducive to sightseeing in the Antipodean winter – and it’s dry season up in the north too.  Try the Caribbean in November or May; check out historic hurricane data to make an educated guess at which islands are least likely to get a direct hit if you want to visit between August and October.

Travel outside festival times

Depending on how badly you want to celebrate, you might consider flying out or back on a public holiday. Returning on New Year’s Eve rather than after the hangovers have lifted can save you money and you’ll be able to party back home with your friends instead of strangers.

Consider alternative methods of transport

Depending on the journey you wish to make, it might be a realistic alternative to take an overnight sleeper train or take your car on the ferry. Booking well ahead is just as important on popular train routes, such as Eurostar, as it is with flights but you have the added advantage of arriving in the centre of the city rather than a long taxi ride away on its outskirts.  Some long distance bus companies offer one dollar fares if you book sufficiently early – and it is possible to get hold of them.

And one to avoid…

There’s one tip for saving money on flights that could actually cost you a small fortune. Taxes vary from airport to airport, meaning that the long-haul savings travelling from Paris or Amsterdam could be significant compared to, say, Heathrow.  However, don’t be tempted to use a different airline to cover the first leg on a separate ticket.  If that flight is delayed or cancelled and you miss your second leg, the second airline is under no obligation to honour your ticket and you could be left considerably out of pocket.