Book Y-Up Fares: On paper, so-called Y-Up, Q-Up and
Z-Up tickets are full-fare coach seats. The sneaky thing about them
is that these tickets come with a guaranteed upgrade to first class
-- a well-known trick of the business-travel trade.
If you were going to fly business class anyway, Y-Up and other auto-upgrade
fares are a less-expensive option. But they're never a bargain, cautions
George Hobica, publisher of Airfare Watchdog. "It is full-fare
coach," he says. "Fares [on discount travel sites] are always
cheaper." You can book Y-Up fares (exact code names vary by airline)
directly through the airline or on major travel sites, but you'll often
need to use advanced search options to dig them up. FareCompare.com
offers a Y-Up search tool as well as a step-by-step guide to booking
these fares through airline and travel sites.
Be Loyal: Airlines, hotels and car-rental agencies
often treat repeat customers to complimentary upgrades and ample rewards.
While the elite reward status achieved by many business travelers is
out of reach for most leisure travelers, racking up miles in your rewards
account can still result in some pretty nice perks. Airlines are often
quicker to provide inexpensive upgrades when available at check-in,
and loyalty pays off more quickly with car-rental agencies. Complete
two rentals at Budget, for example, and you're automatically entitled
to a 10% discount on all rentals over the next year.
Fly All-Business-Class Airlines: All-business-class
airlines like Silverjet and Eos offer a whole plane full of roomier
seats, enabling the traveler's schedule to take priority.
Enticed by visions of fun and adventure in exotic places, travelers
often fail to read the fine print, or don't really understand what they
find there. For example, many travel companies loudly proclaim "discount
specials" but bury any mention of a host of costs associated with
the trip. The information is there, but you have to hunt for it.
And then there is outright fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission,
fraud is costing Americans $12 billion each year. And the Better
Business Bureau says the travel industry consistently ranks among the
25 businesses it monitors for fraud.
Here's some general advice on what to look for when you're considering
joining a travel club — or considering any kind of "travel
deal" for that matter.
Be wary of ads that have few details and promise a lot for little
money. Remember, the better a vacation package sounds, the more thoroughly
you need to verify the details.
Be cautious of firms that ask you to pay before confirming your
reservations. Most reputable travel agents will confirm before payment.
Never pay by cash or by check — a big red flag missed by Grace
Watson. Do not give out credit card numbers over the phone except
to a person or company you know and trust.
Deal with an established firm. If a firm is unfamiliar to you, check
with relatives, friends and colleagues. Or check with the Better Business
Bureau. Grace Watson could have saved herself a lot of disappointment
had she done a simple online business check of Travel To Go on the
Better Business Bureau's Web site. According to the bureau's
report, Travel To Go is not a member of the bureau and has had
42 consumer complaints in the last 36 months. (A Travel To Go representative
I spoke with countered that this number of complaints is "miniscule"
compared to the thousands of customers the company services.)
If you are unfamiliar with the agency, request written information
on the total cost of the vacation that interests you, and ask that
the costs be itemized. Understand that any transportation, lodging,
meals or other items not specifically mentioned probably are not
Ask about your right to cancel. If you get sick or change plans
you could end up paying for a trip you never take. Also inquire about
the availability of cancellation insurance.
Be wary of vacation offers that are "good today only."
If you think you have fallen victim to a travel scam, call the authorities.