One of the advantages of being retired is
that you get more leisure time to travel. Here are some ways to
stretch your travel dollars further...
Online Fare Engines
Like search engines for websites, there
are search engines for airfares. Orbitz (orbitz.com)
is probably the best known, as it was started by the big 5
airlines. However, there are others, like Travelocity.com,
Other smaller websites also cash in on the
business, like CheapTickets.com,
Using these websites are simple: just
enter the origin, destination, and the days you like to travel on,
and let it find a fare for you. You may have to register for a
membership, but a "trial" membership is usually free.
Most of these websites also let you book
more than just airfare. Hotels, car rentals, even vacation
packages are available on most of these websites, usually at a
significant discount off the standard rates.
Don't Ignore the Source
If you only search via the fare engines,
you may not find the best deal. Some airlines, such as United and
Southwest, only advertise best fares on their own websites. In
fact, Southwest fares do NOT appear on any fare search engine.
United hides its special e-fares on its website. Others give extra
miles and such for flights booked on their website.
For example, a ticket from San Francisco
to Dallas usually costs about $500 roundtrip, even with 14-day
advanced purchase. A United e-fare, with just a weekend stay-over
requirement, can be as low as $190, with merely 24-hour advance
If you have one of those frequent flier
memberships, check that airline's website before you buy the
ticket. You may be able to get more miles and such. Just beware
that often these special flights are NOT eligible for mileage.
Be Flexible and Score Even More
Most airlines reward weekend stay-overs by
lowering prices over weekend stays. In fact, United has a special
e-fares section just for week-enders, as much as 75% off regular
round-trip fares. Currently, their round-trip ticket from SFO (San
Francisco) to DFW (Dallas/Ft. Worth) is $298.
If you can move the departure or the
return dates by a day or two in either direction, you may be able
to take advantage of these special pricings. Orbitz.com has
a "Matrix" display that shows you the prices for one or
two days before and after your planned dates so you can see the
Red-eye flights, those that depart or
arrive very early or very late, are usually discounted. If you
don't mind flying in the "wee hours" you can save money.
If you have multiple airports nearby (for
example, San Francisco has THREE airports nearby: San Francisco,
Oakland, and San Jose) you may be able to get a better deal flying
out of one of the other airports instead of the nearest. However,
this is best done for long-distance travel, as the savings may not
be worth the extra hassle for short trips.
Blind Tickets and Name-Your-Own-Price
If your travel schedule is flexible, you
can save even more by buying "blind tickets". Hotwire is
probably the best-known "blind" ticket seller.
The way "blind ticket" works is
simple. You buy the ticket "blind". You don't know which
airline or even what time the flight will leave. They will
guarantee you a MAJOR airline, and no more than a certain number
of stops, on that specific day. You get the flight number and the
exact times after you BUY the ticket. You can save up to 50% when
compared to most tickets. However, most will require you to sign
up, and only about 1 hour to buy those blind tickets after you get
Priceline is the company that really
pushed "name your own price" slogan, and they do work.
However, the airline is not required to accept your offer, and
this back-and-forth can be a real hassle for those who just want
to see a low price. Offer a decent price and you're more likely to
be accepted, but if you offer too high it's not a bargain.
may have interesting deals
If you are traveling to popular
destinations like Florida, Hawaii, etc., or popular International
destinations, you may want to check with a consolidator. They buy
up large blocks of seats on certain flights, and sell them
Airlines are guaranteed a number of sales,
while you get the low price of group purchase. However,
consolidators do not have the good selection of routes. Think of
them as the super "clubs" of airfares: great deals, but
lousy selection. You can find consolidators in your local
phonebook, or contact your travel agent, who should know a few.
Don't forget your travel agent
Your local travel agent may still have a
trick or two up his or her sleeve. Don't assume that the
proliferation of Internet has wiped them out. They are still
there, and still provide a better service than some nameless web page.
Call them up and see if they can pull up
the same fare you found via the Internet, and see if they can find
better. They have direct access into the booking system and may be
able to locate unadvertised fares that is not listed in the fare
search engines. Maybe they know about a hotel promotion that goes
with your fare, or car rental upgrades, and so on. Nothing really
beats personal service.
It is not hard to find travel bargains on
the web nowadays with a computer. By knowing what to search for,
you can save more money and have more fun on your vacations.
Have fun out there, and I'll see you on