Travel Bargain Tips – 1

As airlines keep their prices up by reducing the number of seats available so those planes flying are to full capacity, there’s concern in a down economy about how to get a good deal on airfares.

And, whereas in last year’s tortuous economy, hotels and resorts were panicking and offering amazing deals, this year, they are holding back as the whispers of ‘the economy is bouncing back’ emerge. So, how to find the best accommodation prices?

The following websites will aid your search and even offer you some new ways to think about getting there or where to stay!

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These are 10 simple steps to consider to help cut your travel costs in 2010, from Michelle Higgins at the New York Times, with more commentary from me.

1. Use a Twitter Account for Instant Best Price Alerts

Personally, I don’t want Twitter in my life, but an increasing number of travel companies are using Twitter to market their brands; they often tweet exclusive deals to their followers. JetBlue offers last-minute discounts at JetBlueCheeps on Tuesday mornings. You will get an amazing amount of information in such a short message. Then, decide if you want to follow up.

Fairmont Hotels also offers its Twitter followers special discounts before anyone else. Farecompare‘s “flyfrom” Twitter feed offers location-specific airfare sales when you plug in your home airport’s three-letter code, as in flyfromSFO or flyfromLAX.

To receive this information, you must already have a free account at Twitter.com. Once you have your account, then sign-in to follow the companies you like.

2. How to Find the Cheapest Dates to Fly

ITASoftware.com, which already provides the technological foundation for many airfare shopping sites, also allows users to scan an entire month’s fares for the least expensive rate. (Log in as a “guest” and click on “month-long search.” )

In a calendar week, the fares can vary greatly. For example, in January 2010, the 28th and 30th show the cheapest dates to fly nonstop to London from New York ($536) for a week’s vacation, whereas, the next best was Saturday, Jan. 23, at $640.

To buy tickets, users must go to another site. And, Kayak.com has a flexible-dates option (registration is required) along with a calendar which shows the best fares found by other Kayak users in the last 48 hours.

Bing Travel, Microsoft’s search engine, operates a similar option, (under “plan trips,” about halfway down the page).

3. Consider Nearby Airports

Always pay attention to the other airports nearby in large metro areas, as they may have different rates, along with different schedules. Here, you have to figure out whether these alternatives are actually easier for you, or not. It can be a hassle in Los Angeles, for example, to be flying into Burbank if everything you need is far from it. And, your time is SO valuable — whether on vacation or a business trip.

Saving $80 – $100, but being 30 miles away in Fort Lauderdale may not make sense if you want to be in Miami or have connecting flights from there! Also, check to see that you are not creating an open leg in your journey, which may cost you “big-time”, overall.

4. Use the 24 Hour Clock

Popular travel dates like holidays and spring break are costing more because airlines have begun to charge $10 to $30 extra then. Farecompare.com offers a handy breakdown of the new fees by date, airline and amount, and as you would expect, flights in early-morning and late-at-night may also be cheaper, depending on the route.

5. Track The Price Even After You Buy

Airlines have long offered to refund the difference in their fares (minus a change fee) to customers who ask when they see they paid more for their ticket. Using your confirmation number, Yapta.com will automatically track the price of your ticket, watching the airline’s fees, and send you, without charge, an e-mail message or Twitter alert. When knowing the lower price, you can then contact the airline to claim the “credit adjustment” which will usually be given as a voucher toward future travel.

Similarly, Travelocity.com promises to refund the difference in price for prepaid hotel reservations if you find the same room for a cheaper rate online, before you check-in. It may be worth using your laptop to track this down after you are just waiting at the terminals, interminably!

6. Yes, You May Want to Take the Bus!

Between major cities, sometimes there are cheap express buses. In the Northeast, all forms of travel, especially between Washington, DC and New York City, have always been popular with savvy travelers and commuters. Now, with names like BoltBus, Megabus and Washington Deluxe these buses have become increasingly popular, with seats for $25 or less, depending on when you reserve.

Without the airport security hassles, and with amenities like more legroom, power plugs at every seat and free Wi-Fi, the bus ride, though longer, can often be more tolerable and even a fun adventure — especially when you remember a flight costs 10 times as much! Make sure you check the company’s reputation, and assess the weather. Find seats at GotoBus.com or BusJunction.com.

7. Roll the Dice and Travel Blind!

Personally, I would never do this, but each to their own. Sites like Priceline.com, Hotwire.com and Lastminutetravel.com offer deep discounts to travelers willing to pay without knowing the names of the hotels, airlines or car rental agencies they’re committing to.

To help you find the best rates, Biddingfortravel.com and Betterbidding.com provide strategies and tips from other travelers, on how to navigate the system.

Getaroom.com offers a new twist to this gamble that may be more agreeable for risk-averse travelers. Unlike those other discounters, Getaroom tells its customers the name of the hotel and price before booking. But, even it offers even lower rates through its call center — typically 10 to 25 percent off — to travelers willing to pay for the room before finding out just how much of a discount they’re getting.

8. Go Rent Locally!

In most European cities, visitors can easily pay $200 a night for just basic hotel rooms. Yet, amazingly, an apartment or villa can be rented for as little as $1,100 a week in Paris or Rome. Homeaway.com, Zonder.com and Rentalo.com are just a few of the many rental Web sites available. Again, here it is important to know how those offering the properties have been screened and whether the properties have been checked-out.

Some specialize in specific regions like Rentvillas.com does for Europe or Wimco.com does for the Caribbean.

9. Make Yourself at Home in Someone’s Home

For a 6 to 12% booking fee, AirBnB.com connects budget travelers with locals who are offering a place to bed down. It is a little different from the need-to-be-aware CouchSurfing.com but with all these, you definitley need to make sure you have a seperate room with a lock on the door which works — and the same for the bathroom. For all the great experiences these sites tell you about, people-to-people accommodations still carry inherent risk — I encourage you to use sites which have rating systems and high amounts of member feedback.

And rates, even at these, are not inexpensive; the people offer you a place in their home to make money. Location is also a big factor in pricing, for example, for a recent NYC search, there were more than 2,000 listings including a futon in a one-bedroom near Gramercy Park ($65) and a bedroom with private bath and separate entrance in Hell’s Kitchen ($150). You also need to “know” your neighborhoods.

You either love this idea, or not. Go by your gut feeling. Walk away if you don’t feel comfortable when you arrive. Heck, I’ve done that even in regular hotels.

If you travel to a particular city often, it may be worth checking out possible residences on a trip when you stay elsewhere and meet the people involved. If you are all comfortable, then over time, you could really save!

10. Study the Fine Print, Especially on Tickets

Play close attention to which airline you are actually flying, particularly on international flights, because airlines have become part of either of 2 main groupings. It’s called code-sharing, and travel agents or the airlines themselves will shuttle you onto only the airlines in their group.

With code sharing, you may book a flight to Paris on Delta, for instance, and end up traveling with Air France, a code share partner with Delta — remember, every airline has its own strengths and weaknesses and reputation. There are MANY airlines which I would not book flights on!

Make sure you feel comfortable with all the vendors used on your itinerary, and let your agent know if you want certain carriers excluded. You may pay more, or wait for a flight, but you have to figure out what’s important here.

But while the flight may be the “same”, the price often is not. Sometimes the difference can be negligible or it can be a huge. For example, to go to Lima, Peru it was $817 for an American Airlines flight from New York City versus $693 for that “same” flight when booked through American’s code share partner, LAN, Peru’s national airline.

In tough times, you need to think and research all you can. And, that includes the age of the aircraft and types that these lesser known airlines are using and how and where they are maintained.

But, unfortunately, even major airlines are now “farming out” their maintenance to less experienced, less regulated, often foreign aircraft mechanic businesses. This is the industry’s dirty-little-secret and is reason for concern. The FAA is beginning to realize the potential of this problem.

And, even years ago, those in-the-know knew that Alaska Airlines had NO maintenance facilities in Mexico, so planes could fly out of there with problems — one crashed heading to LA under those circumstances. The airline, ironically, had always had the better reputation among West Coast airlines. After the crash, they stepped up to the plate, and I would definitely still fly them.

Here are some more price examples, based on a search on Kayak.com for flights in late January, where the round-trip fares vary greatly depending on which code share partner you book through. (Click on “details” for a breakdown of the flight’s particulars.)

New York to Singapore: $1,319 on Cathay Pacific whereas it is $1,817 on American Airlines. New York to Marrakesh, Morocco: $1,098 on Royal Air Maroc, but $3,257 on Delta. New York City to Cairo: $908 on Egypt Air and an amazing $4,650 on United — maybe more of a “target” as a US flag carrier, but also maybe it has more at its disposal as resources when heading into a tough neighborhood. Heading to the Middle East? Personally, I’d fly El Al — as the biggest target, security is taken seriously, and they haven’t allowed mistakes!

Learn more:

Jetbluecheeps
FareCompare.com
itaSoftware.com
Kayak.com
Bing.com/travel
Yapta.com
Travelocity
BoltBus
Megabus.com
Washington Deluxe bus
Gotobus.com
BusJuntion.com
Hotwire.com
LastMinuteTravel.com
BiddingForTravel
BetterBidding.com
GetaRoom.com
HomeAway.com
www.Zonder.com
Rentalo.com
RentVillas.com
Wimco.com
AirBnB.com
CouchSurfing.com

©2009 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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