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Finding a flight

Often, the villa owner will be able to tell you where you can get a good deal on flights, and may even be able to make the arrangements for you. But it's no problem doing it yourself. Some of the most reliable direct-sell flight companies advertise on the Internet, so try them first.

Wherever you buy your ticket, make sure that the agent you buy through has an ABTA licence (which means you get your money back if he goes bust) and that the tour operator or airline is ATOL bonded (which protects you if the carrier goes under). Again, as before, it's best to pay by credit card for extra protection, but before you give your card details confirm with the agent exactly what you are getting -  the total cost including all taxes and any supplements.

Once you've booked, the agent should be able to ring you back quickly - that means minutes rather than hours or days - with the tour operator's booking reference. Once you've got that number you can rest easy that even if the tickets don't turn up you can arrange to collect them at the airport.

When it comes to booking flights, you basically have three sorts of airlines to choose between charter, full service scheduled and no-frills scheduled. Most people self-booking a property will choose a charter flight.

Usually with charter flights you have to stay for complete weeks, with outward and return flights on the same day of the week, but different periods like 8 or 11 days may occasionally be available when there is a change in schedule, as well as long winter stays of several weeks or months. Larget Ticket agencies may also be able to mix-and- match flights to give a tailored duration, sending you out with one carrier and back with another.

Scheduled airlines offer more flexibility and aren't necessarily more expensive, so it could be worth investigating their prices for Apex and Super Apex fares booked in advance.

That applies particularly to long haul destinations - the economic woes in the far east have seen fares to places like Thailand and Malaysia tumbling. The USA is another market where scheduled fares may well be competitive. And of course on some routes with no charter alternative you'll have no choice but to go scheduled. You're likely to get the best deal through the specialist ticket shops


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