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What do you book first: Flights or Tour?

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Planning a trip can be a challenging task. Where do you begin? What do you book first? It’s easy to get overwhelmed and over-excited, especially if you haven’t done something like this before. The internet, with its many advice blogs, internet forums and chats, can confuse you even more. These forums are, more often than not, applicable to certain destinations but are not really helpful for some other areas like the Northern Territory in Australia. Planning your trip to Uluru, for instance, should include a few factors that might not be worth considering when planning a trip elsewhere.  Below are the most important factors that you need to consider:

    1. Tour availability
    2. Pickup Locations & Tour Inclusions
    3. Costs
    4. Flights (arrival and departure time according to pickup and drop off points)
    5. Insurance
    6. Conditions of Travel/Terms & Conditions

Many travel blogs would advise you to book your flights first and they would be correct but while this may be helpful and advantageous for most destinations, this is not always the case when planning a trip to the Central Australian Outback. What you need to determine first and foremost is a tour’s availability. It’s always wise to ensure first that you’ll have a seat on the tour because rebooking or amending flight details is very expensive which you can avoid by ensuring that a tour is available for you to book.


Many, if not all, tour operators in Central Australia offer tour packages that include accommodation and bus transfers with the regular camping tours. If you are aware of these prior to booking your flights, you’d know which airports would work with the packages giving you an opportunity to save some costs. Before booking your flights, know the available pickup points and times, as well as the distances between the different airports and accommodations. Many passengers book their flights thinking that any of the airports will be fine. We’ve had passengers book tour packages that include accommodations for the night before the camping tour not knowing that the two locations are hundreds of kilometers away from each other. As an example: A passenger booked a flight that lands in Ayers Rock but booked a tour package that included accommodation the night before in Alice Springs, which is approximately 470 kilometers away. She had to have the booking amended which resulted in an additional admin fee/charge.

Who wouldn’t want to save money while maximizing a trip? Seasoned travelers know from experience which sites to check when planning their trips where they are able to save a little bit of cost here and there. But for the first-timers this is really tricky; gathering relevant information and getting a better understanding of the area, the tour operator’s packages and its inclusions, travel times between locations prior to booking a tour and the flights often help in saving costs.


Once you’ve ensured that you do have a seat on the tour and already have a place to stay, you are now ready to book your flights. When booking, make sure that you are landing at an airport that is compatible with your accommodation – note that airports are far apart in Central Australia and choosing the wrong airport can and will result in you having to pay for a very expensive transfer or worse getting you stranded or missing your tour. 

I know some people omit this very important inclusion when booking flights or their tours, and this is fine as long as nothing untoward happens. What happens, though, when a force of nature, like a severe thunderstorm, overly heavy rains or massive flooding, cuts your trip short? How do you protect yourself? Where do you claim a refund?


Of course, it is always advisable to know and fully understand the Conditions of Travel before clicking that ‘BOOK NOW’ button for both the tour and the flights. Know what your rights are, and know how to go about claiming refunds if in case you would need to cancel the bookings. We have had a few instances when passengers deciding to cancel the tour close to the date of the tour found out how costly this can be. So, while traveling to most destinations can be really simple, your travel to the Northern Territory requires a different approach and, yes, just as the Central Australian Outback experience is as unique as it can be, preparing for it is truly unlike anything else.



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