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How to save money and score the best travel deals in 2015

Sunday Times Travel | 2015-01-15 09:57:04.0
A cruise ship approaches Marseille harbour; cruising can be a relatively affordable option for visiting Europe

We asked some leading operators and agents in the travel industry to give us their tips for travelling this year

PLAN AHEAD

Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing manager for Protea Hotels

"Meticulous planning or greater flexibility in timing and destination are the keys to saving money. You either need to book and pay a minimum of two to three months ahead of time to take advantage of early booking rates, or be more adventurous about where you're going and when if you want to keep to a smaller budget by booking last-minute breaks.

"With the economy as tight as it is, 2015 is going to be a good year to explore your own region. It sounds self-evident, but very few people think about exploring close to home when they think about big holidays. It's cheaper in terms of fuel and accommodation, and will frequently deliver unexpectedly wonderful breaks."

HIT THE HIGH SEAS

Elle Hudson, general manager of Imagine Cruising

"Holiday hopefuls, who see their overseas travel plans scuppered by the exchange rate, are turning to cruising as an affordable way to explore some of the world's best tourism destinations, such as the Mediterranean, Dubai and Istanbul.

"The all-inclusive nature of cruising means that when compared to hotel stays, a cruise wins hands down every time. Cruising has been reflected in very competitive pricing, making cruising a value-for-money, hassle-free travel option.

"If you had to pay for accommodation, meals and entertainment in several Mediterranean stops - for example Rome, Venice, Split, Corfu, Santorini, Athens and Istanbul - and add up your transport costs between these stops, you would far exceed the costs of a cruise holiday without even taking into consideration the return flights."

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MAYBE MAURITIUS?

Joanne Visagie, sales and marketing manager of Beachcomber Tours

"The tendency is to book all-inclusive holidays where travellers can budget for what their holiday will cost is growing.

"There are no nasty surprises where Mauritius is concerned: a short flight, temperate weather most of the year, excellent value and a fantastic service culture. Mauritius is a place you fall in love with, over and over again."

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GOOD MORNING VIETNAM

Hayley Walls, marketing and online sales manager of Thompson's Travel

"Thailand remains exceptionally popular and the first choice for South African travellers to South East Asia.

"Promising an unforgettable experience that touches the soul, Vietnam will appeal to travellers seeking adventure, beach, wellness, culture, cuisine and heritage."

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GO OUT OF SEASON

Theresa Szejwallo, managing director of Trafalgar

"Plan ahead and keep a track of various offers. Consider going to Europe during autumn, winter or spring to get value whilst seeing it in a different light, and without the crowds and queues.

"Consider destinations where visas are not required or free. Turkey and Ireland are both great, and a Turkish visa is issued online for free for South African passport holders. The US is also a hot favourite. When you apply for a US visa you could get issued with one that lasts for 10 years, so this is a great saving."

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EAST END OF THE MED

Pieter Beyers, general manager for Insight Vacations

"Popular destinations this year are Italy for the fabulous food and amazing scenery, Greece - which is making a great comeback - and Croatia. Turkey is very good value, you can travel this country in premium luxury from as little as R1 800 per person per day."

ALL IN ONE

Jolene Campbell, brand manager for Uniworld

"Booking early is essential to get the best savings of the season and, in the case of cruising, to get the best category of cabins.

"Eastern Europe is growing in popularity with destinations such as Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria still touched by an air of mystique."

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GO GREEK

Claire Swanepoel, cruising product manager at Flight Centre

"Book early to avoid currency fluctuations as you wait for your departure date. There are many early booking offers available as well as discounts for past passengers and those over 55.

"Do your research ... you can save by opting for a taxi or a train pass instead of transfers on your arrival. There is often interesting sightseeing relatively close to the popular hotels and you can save by using public transport to get to sights further away.

"Up-and-coming destinations for cruising in 2015 will be Greece and the Greek islands, which are becoming more and more popular with South Africans."

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DO THE DELTA

Keith Gow, managing director of Gateway Travel & Tours

"The "green season" in the Okavango Delta sees lodges offer huge discounts for South Africans.

"Some of the best game lodges are situated in the Okavango, the world's biggest inland delta and one of the last remaining unspoiled wilderness areas of Africa.

"Check for discounts until March."

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