A holiday can be costly, but not when you plan ahead. Picture: Max Pixel.

Family holidays do not need to break the bank. Marlies Kappers, head of marketing at DirectAxis Financial Services, says that like any other financial decision, a bit of research and planning can save money and take a lot of stress out of booking your annual getaway.

She says it’s important to set the budget first and then match the holiday to what you’re prepared to spend.

“Getting the family excited about going somewhere before you know the costs could result in disappointment or spending a lot more than you intended,”  says Kappers.

Iain Meaker, Comair’s executive commercial distribution, says a little insider knowledge goes a long way towards getting the best value for money.

According to Meaker, airlines sell the cheaper, less flexible tickets first. They know these seats will sell quickly.

“To make sure that customers don’t change their minds at the last minute and leave the airline with unsold seats, they charge penalties to make changes to these cheap bookings.

“The cheaper prices are generally below cost of carriage, so the closer it is to the departure date with less available seats, the more you will pay,” he says.

Planning ahead, even up to a year in advance, will ensure you get the best possible deal on your flights.

Meaker recommends that one books outside peak periods.

“Airlines have incredibility sophisticated revenue-management systems to ensure they maximise their revenue on every seat, but the underlying concept is simply supply and demand. When there are more seats available and fewer people want to travel, the fares are lower and vice versa,” says Meaker.

Booking packaged offerings that include accommodation and car hire can also help keep costs down. Companies such as kulula holidays use their buying power to negotiate favourable deals with hotel and car hire groups, which is why the package is usually better value, not to mention more convenient, than booking everything separately.

In some cases you can even pre-book holiday activities. This can save you money and also makes it easier to stick to your budget.