Rick Seaney says:
Well, most of us dodged a bullet last week, despite doom-and-gloom
predictions; Thanksgiving travel seemed to go off without a
hitch, as travel writer Chris Elliott pointed out in a post called,
But most of us (including yours truly) weren't crying wolf. We
were pointing out what COULD have happened. And I think, on some level,
we may have helped prevent an apocalyptic scenario.
We had a lot of concerns about the increase
in customers, the packed planes, and the long lines at the nation's
airports; if the weather
had turned ugly, we know we could have seen all kinds of delays.
And we started talking about this, loud and long, our way of trying
to help you, the FareCompare faithful. No, it wasn't just us; there
were others saying the sky COULD fall, and eventually a lot of folks
started jumping on the "this-could-be-a-rough-Thanksgiving"
And I think it had some effect on the powers-that-be: they started
paying attention and suddenly, airspace got opened up, more airline
employees were dispatched to work the holidays, and the TSA started
telling folks things
to do to make the lines move.
Today I received a Free
Airfare Email Alert; I'd set it up so I would be notified about
great deals from Dallas to Europe, and the Email Alert informed me of
several excellent deals to Spain, including one from
Dallas to Malaga. (There were so many good deals, it had to be a big
airfare sale, and, it was most likely on American, which is based in
Dallas and has a lot of international routes–this is where education
It turns out the airline ticket price to Malaga is a ridiculously
low $300-roundtrip; you then add the $200 fuel surcharge and
the customary $100 or so in international taxes, but you still end up
with a ticket in the low $600's. An incredible deal! Well, assuming
you can book it.
So I clicked on the airfare alert (or you can go to FareCompare.com,
in big "Search Airfares" box, put in the cities, make sure
Research is checked, then hit "Find")
and clicked on the month of March in the calendar, because it was the
last month with that cheapest price and saw that this particular airfare
is good for departures through March 31st (if you want to depart later
than that, the price of the ticket doubles!)
So, I picked my dates: depart March 31st (last day it is good) and
return April 7th and then I hit "search". What??!!
The results told me the cheapest price (on all airlines) was actually
$1000 or more!
I don't despair — because I have a plan of attack
and I know a "secret" that I am about to share with you.
I then select the new AA.com "Compare To"
function on the FareCompare result page which pops up a window and automatically
does the query on AA.com to confirm the $1100 price isn't a snafu…
Yep still $1191 (screen capture shown below) out the door for my coveted
$600 "out the door" airfare (obviously they don't have seats
on my day at that price??? )
But I don't give up! (Here's where education and technology
really come in).
* Fund all - or part - of a getaway: U.S. airlines
offer gift certificates or cards that let you pay for
some or all of a giftee"s trip. Check the individual airlines to
see how they can be purchased (Some must be ordered by phone or mail.),
and in what denominations, and how they will be delivered (e-mail or
snail mail). Most important, read the fine print about how they
must be used and redeemed. And don"t forget to check for
expiration dates. Some must be used within a year, which could limit
their usefulness for some giftees, while others never expire.
Airlines offering gift certificates or cards include: American
Air Lines; Hawaiian
Do you have a lot of miles in an airline"s mileage program? Check
whether you can transfer those miles to someone else. Just be sure your
giftee lives in a city where the airline flies. In some cases, you can
also buy miles to help a giftee rack up enough miles for free award
* Accommodate them: You can also spring for
a traveler"s lodgings, from more affordable B&Bs to
posh 5-star venues: The Getaway
Gift Card from BedandBreakfast.com
can be used at over 4,000 B&Bs nationwide. Bonus: There are no
blackout or expiration dates… Travelocity"s Hotel
Gift Cards can be redeemed at over 30,000 hotels all over the world.
(A nice touch, you can personalize the cards with your own photo.) …
Hotels" Gift Cards and Gift Checks can be used for restaurant
dining, in-room services, golf fees and spa services, as well as room
charges. Bonus: Gift cards can be used by non-guests at Hyatt-operated
restaurants or lounges.
If you want to treat someone to a taste of the luxe life,
opt for a gift certificate from upscale hoteliers such as Ritz-Carlton;
Seasons Hotels or the Small
Luxury Hotels of the World (available in dollars, pounds and Euros),
which can be used at its 440
independently run luxury hotels in 70 countries.
* Help "em get out of town - fast! Know someone
whose schedule makes it hard for them to plan ahead? Travelocity offers
certificates for its last-minute
travel packages. Gift certificates are emailed and include a personal
deals include airfare, hotels, air/hotel packages and car rentals.)
to Go is known for its big discounts (up to 75 percent off), even
on last-minute sailings on top
lines. You can order gift
certificates in various denominations online for delivery via the
USPS or DHL express service.
* Stretch their travel budget: Flyers can lose what
they saved on airfares when they overpack and are forced to pay high
fees for overweight luggage. A portable
luggage scale ($9.75; TravelSmith) is a cheap and useful tool to
use at home, and on the road, to ensure that luggage meets airline weight
rules… A subscription to Budget
Travel magazine is a must-have for anyone who wants to squeeze
the most out of their travel dollars. And at only $12 for a one-year
sub, it won"t break your budget either!
Travelers can cut the cost of sightseeing at top attractions
with a City
Pass Gift Certificate. Passes are available for Atlanta, Boston,
Chicago, Hollywood, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle,
Southern California and Toronto… The 2008 editions of the Entertainment
Book include discounts and coupons (up to 50 percent
off and 2-for-1 offers) for local restaurants, retail stores, attractions
and services as well as travel discounts for hotels and rental cars.
Books are available for dozens
of U.S. cities and start at $15. The books and passes are
a great value for all travelers, but are terrific money-savers for families.
Even if a traveler manages to snag a cheap airfare, finding
affordable accommodations around the globe can often be a real challenge.
Fortunately, the editors of Budget Travel magazine have done
the groundwork and compiled their favorites in Secret Hotels: Extraordinary
Values in the World's Most Stunning Destinations. The book details
different types of lodgings (cottages, villas, guesthouses, etc.), many
of which are known only to the locals, in top travel destinations. The
hotel profiles include rates (generally under $200 a night); contact
information and photos of the hotels (both interior and exterior shots).
Travelers often waste a lot of money (not to mention time) trying to
find local eateries that are really worth their vacation $$$. A one-year
subscription ($24.95) to the online Zagat Guides gives
free, and full, access to 30,000+ ratings and reviews for restaurants
in the U.S. and around the globe; nightlife, hotels and attractions.
The subscription also includes a 25 percent discount on items in the
Given the high cost of airport food and the state of in-flight offerings,
it makes both fiscal and common sense to carry on food. But who wants
to schlep around stuff in plastic or paper bags? The Gourmet
Getaway ($24.85, Magellan"s) is a stylish-yet-practical way
to stow snacks and food for in-flight and on-the-road noshing. The lightweight,
stretchy neoprene material acts as a natural insulator to keep food
warm or cold for several hours and it easily expands to hold beverages
and take-out and plastic containers. Best of all, it"s washable,
stays flat when empty and can be easily stowed in a handbag or briefcase.
Cheap airfare. Discounts on lodging and park
admission. Short lines. No crowds. Sunny weather that's not too hot.
Those are just some of the reasons to consider
taking your trip to the Magical Kingdom in the winter instead of during
summer or spring break, like most people do.
I recently returned from a five-day trip to
Disneyland with my three children, all younger than 6. Many of the important
decisions about this excursion were made before we left, starting with
the question of when to go.
Bob Deuel, public relations director for Disneyland,
declined to release specific attendance figures, but he acknowledged
that after the New Year's Day festivities wind down, the park is at
its slowest until spring break.
A couple of staff members told me that they
bring their own families during the third or fourth weeks of January,
when most people are still home recovering from Christmas, physically
as well as financially.