Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: The cool alternative for cheaper flights to New York

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Q My family and I are travelling to New York next August. I've been urged to “book early” but at the moment the average fare is around £820 return. Is there a better time to book - and what would you expect the fare to be in August?

Leslie Armstrong, London

A My family and I are also travelling to the US next August, but considerably further than New York - to Anchorage, Alaska - and for rather less than £820 return. The secret is to travel via Reykjavik in Iceland. Surrendering the convenience of a non-stop flight (available to New York, if not to Alaska) saves cash. And building in a stopover of at least 24 hours reduces your Air Passenger Duty liability from £67 per person to £13.

At, the fare from Heathrow via Reykjavik to New York on a range of dates in August is £601 return. (Prices from Gatwick, as well as Manchester and Glasgow, are slightly lower.) The overall flight time, around 10 hours, is not much more than a non-stop trip.

Make Iceland an important element of your holiday. The saving will easily pay for a hotel room for you to experience a day in Iceland. Ideally you should stay for a couple of days, to take in the “Golden Circle” trip that takes in geological sights including the original geyser (from which all other plumes of steam take their name) and the tectonic frontier where the North American and Eurasian plates collide.

Is there a better time to book? Well, during the summer just gone, fares were typically £800 return, rising to £1,000 on peak dates. There may be a few tactical seat sales between the UK and New York, but the chances are against it - and that Icelandair fare is unlikely to fall.

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