I often say that half the joy of a trip is the planning stage. This time round, however, I have felt the stress of organising a more complex itinerary.

    Initially, my husband and I had made the intention to travel to perform Umrah and visit family and friends in countries along the way as well. We later learned we would not be able to travel for Umrah this year as our travel availability dates clash with the end of the Hajj season, in which you cannot obtain a visa to Saudi for Umrah. Allah is the best of planners, and we will do what we can to achieve this in the future, inshaAllah!

We still intend to visit family and friends, however, we’ve decided to couple that with a trip to Iran via a brief visit to Turkey, God-willing. Iran has special significance to me as part of my ancestry lies there, a part of my heritage yet unexplored. Despite this being an ambitious and seemingly expensive journey, we haven’t been deterred and have gone about planning our multi-city vacation. I began by approaching Flight Centre with my proposed itinerary, which at the time included Saudi. Now Saudi is replaced with Jordan, where we will visit some friends and sight-see but other than that the itinerary is pretty much the same as our original plan. Flight centre gave me a quote exceeding AUD (Aussie Dollar) 3500 per passenger for the entire trip. I expected as much, but I wondered how possible it would be to cut the price down so that we could purchase both of our tickets within a budget of AUD 5000. That would mean we’d need to receive a quote reduced by at least AUD 1000.

My friend and contributor to this site, Zeynab, mentioned the Flightfox service to me (well she had forgotten the name and referred to it as “something with a ‘cat’ in it”). She had heard that the service was especially useful for booking multi-city trips, and the concept of the site sounded promising. The way it works is pretty simple. You provide a Flightfox agent some details about your planned itinerary, they get back to you usually within 48 hours and suggest a set of bookings for your trip. They charge an outright fee for the service, and are not working on commission. You can detail your preferences with them in a chat style communication feature which is set up on their website for you. My agent, Alex, was quite responsive and understanding of our needs. He answered our questions helpfully and we were quite satisfied with the bookings he suggested to us.

Flightfox agents search far and wide to source the best flight and try to meet the preferences you specify, including: number of stop overs, time spent in transit and even which airlines you prefer. Flightfox also know how to source flights from the domestic and budget airlines that aren’t easily found in your own online searches. They take a lot of the hard work out of piecing together a complex itinerary, which can often take a lot of time to figure out on your own, and are often a lot more efficient than mainstream travel agents. Unlike using a regular travel agent, it is yourself that needs to make the individual bookings for each flight. This was the part of the process we found the most difficult, but we don’t necessarily attribute that to Flightfox. They provided us with all the links to make the online bookings and payments for our flights, and explained the steps clearly. The issues that arose were with some of the online booking sites. Some international booking sites are in languages other than English and you have to figure out how to change the language to English and book correctly. One of the online booking sites also rejected our booking as the payment verification from banks is not always smooth, and can be cancelled as a revenue protection measure. Thankfully, our agent provided us with alternative booking options online, and we were able to be refunded (after waiting a week or so) and book. It was fortunate that we didn’t miss out on the cheap flights despite the troubles.

Considering the number of flights in our trip, we were charged a fee that equated to approximately AUD 190. This was a reasonable price to me, given it was inclusive of two passengers, and that our overall savings from the booking was substantial. Through Flightfox, we were successfully able to meet our budget. Using Flightfox does mean that you do need to be more involved as you are completing the actual bookings once they create an itinerary for you. You also need to make yourself available to be quickly responsive when organising the itinerary with your agent. The benefits are desirable enough to go through the process. I would feel confident in recommending the Flightfox service, especially to people booking more complex journeys.

Have you used Flightfox before? If so, what’s your review? Are there any similar services online that can be recommended?

Wayferer’s Compass is a Muslim Travel Hub created by Sana Gillani. This article was originaly posted on www.wayfererscompass.com.