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The Ins And Outs Of Great Travel Deals

The Ins And Outs Of Great Travel Deals

By Paul Marshman  

I just returned from Beijing and took advantage of a great travel deal that I found recently (you can read about it here). 

But with great travel deals still available for China, it might be a good time to offer some advice on how to proceed when you see a deal that looks too good to be true. Finding these deals and taking advantage of them are two different things. Too often we let them slip through our fingers — or on the flip side, get lured into a deal that’s not as great as it looks.

Here are five tips I’ve learned while searching for travel deals over the years.

Look around. Sometimes a great deal pops up from an online site you don’t know, or an airline you’ve never heard of. It’s tempting to just grab it, but take a few minutes to look around first. In some cases the same price — or an even lower one — is available from a site or an agent you do know. It could be that it’s a low period for the route in question and prices have been cut across the board.

A month ago I got an ad from an agency I don’t know too well for a great deal on a flight to Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I found the same flight was available from Flight Centre, my favourite
Canadian site — and in Canadian dollars. The total ended up cheaper than the one advertised, and I knew who I was dealing with.

Look at the flights. In some cases, bargain flights are cheap for a reason: You can end up suffering through three stops on the way to your destination, or turning a six-hour flight into an overnight ordeal with an unexpected hotel stay. Unless you desperately need to save money, better to spend an extra $100 and travel in comfort.

Be ready. It’s no good looking for travel deals if you’re not ready to travel. Before you start checking out a trip, have a good idea of whether and when you and your travel companions are able to go. Otherwise, by the time everyone checks with their various bosses and spouses, the deal may have disappeared.

Strike while the iron is hot. The tip above is especially important when a hot deal comes up. If the price is really exceptional, there may only be a few seats available, and they can go fast. This summer I found a flight from Toronto to Ireland for $550 — a great deal. I checked around and it seemed to be widely available, so I sat back to think it over. When I returned to book it, surprise — it was gone.

One way to see how many airplane seats are available is to put in a request for six seats on your online site. If it’s successful, you know there are that many seats available. If the most you can get is four or two, the clock is ticking. Some sites will tell you how many seats or hotel rooms are available at that price. I don’t know how reliable that is — you may be able to get a room directly from the hotel even when the site says it’s sold out – but it’s probably worth taking into account.

Total the cost. Sometimes a cheap airfare isn’t quite the bargain it seems. There are lots of other expenses once you get on the ground in your destination, from hotels and transfers to meals, sightseeing and possibly a rental car. In some places — for example, the Caribbean, parts of the U.S. and Europe — the cost of those things can turn your cheap airfare into a pretty expensive holiday. I turned down a cheap flight to Arizona last year for just that reason.

Hope those tips help you score some great travel deals!

 

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Paul Marshman is a writer, photographer and traveler living in Toronto, Canada. Paul is semi-retired from a 30-year career as a reporter, editor and photographer on Canadian newspapers and magazines where his travels have taken him to 50 countries. Paul’s articles have been published everywhere from the Toronto Star to Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and Paul now shares travel tips and stories on his popular blog – The Travelling Boomer.

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