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November 19, 2010

Which is Better For Finding the Best Airfare: Kayak or Hipmunk?

Kayak's Explore toolKayak's Explore tool lets you punch in info about the trip you want to take and spits back your options for the amount of airfare you're willing to pay. 

My last post—about the new airfare search tool Hipmunk—caused a Condé Nast Traveler reader to ask this question on our Facebook page:

"How does Hipmunk compare to Kayak? Anyone know?"

I answered the question on Facebook, then realized I should probably share the answer here too, for those of you wondering the same thing:

"Kayak gives you a more complete choice of flight and fare options. Hipmunk provides fewer options but ranks them from best to worst in terms of flight 'agony.' As I see it, Hipmunk makes fare search simpler, but Kayak gives you more control over it. Because each site is very useful in its own way, I recommend checking both. But, once you've found the right itinerary at the right price, book it directly through the airline—so as to avoid the problems that can occur when you book through an online travel agency."

In my view that's the main difference between the two sites as regards airfare search, but there are many, MANY more differences:

Continue reading "Which is Better For Finding the Best Airfare: Kayak or Hipmunk?" »

November 17, 2010

Hipmunk Takes Some of the Agony out of Finding the Best Airfare

Hipmunk photo

Big news broke yesterday about Hipmunk—the refreshingly simple and consumer-friendly new site for finding the best airfare, founded by Silicon Valley wunderkinds 22-year-old Adam Goldstein and 27-year-old Steve Huffman. The news, which they told me here at the PhoCusWright travel tech conference in Phoenix, is that the fares will now be provided by ITA Software, my favorite airfare search engine and one of the "magic tools" I recommended you use in my latest Perrin Report column. Getting its airfare data from ITA means that Hipmunk will now have a more accurate and comprehensive set of fares from which to draw and that they can add flexible date search and other cool features. It also means that Hipmunk is now one of the sources you should check when shopping for a flight.

What Hipmunk offers that other sites don't is the ability to filter your airfare search results not just by lowest price but by best value for your dollar. You can sort by "agony"—which is a combination of three factors: price of flight, length of flight, and number of connections—and get a list of your flight options in order from least agonizing to most agonizing.

Continue reading "Hipmunk Takes Some of the Agony out of Finding the Best Airfare" »

November 08, 2010

16 Magic Web Tools To Save You Time, Money, and Headaches

ts_autoslash_101027.jpg

Should you buy your airline ticket now or wait because the price may drop? Is there a better coach seat on your overnight flight than the one you've been assigned? How long will it take to walk from your hotel or cruise-ship dock to the sights and restaurants on your itinerary?

You can get answers to these questions and many more via the 16 magic travel sites listed in my Perrin Report column in Condé Nast Traveler's November issue. Here's a snippet:

AirfareWatchdog.com
The real live human-being fare wonks behind AirfareWatchdog find low fares that automated airfare search engines may miss. The result: a list that includes unadvertised sales and promo-code fares (AirfareWatchdog tells you which codes to use). Sign up for e-mail alerts for low fares from your home airport, as well as "to a city" alerts that list fares from various airports to your destination. Say you want to fly from Houston to Kona, Hawaii. The Houston-Kona fare might be $800, whereas the Dallas-Kona one might be $350. If you'd signed up to see all the fares to Kona, you'd know to combine the Dallas-Kona fare with a cheap Houston-Dallas ticket.

AutoSlash.com
Seeking the best price for a car rental? It's tough if you haven't got time to check back every so often to see if rates have dropped or to sort through all the rental-car discount coupons you get in the mail (often from airline loyalty programs). Luckily, Auto­Slash does this for you. It searches for the lowest rates, using all manner of publicly available discounts in its search (you needn't know any promo codes; it enters them for you), and once you've booked, keeps repricing your rental automatically. If the rate drops, it alerts you so you can rebook at the lower price.

Read the full list, then click "Leave a comment" below and tell me: What's your favorite magic tool for planning and booking travel?

November 05, 2009

A Round-the-World Ticket for Travel to Australia and France

Imagine if you had a 2.5-month period next summer to travel to Australia and then France. That's the enviable situation reader Rhondda Patton is in. And she gets to take her two kids! I'm a jealous wreck. Here's her query:
Hi Wendy. You always have such great information, so I am hoping you can help me now. I need to visit my mom in Sydney and also my sister in Provence in summer of 2010. I work in education so have from June 8 thru August 25 to travel. I realize it is winter in Australia, but it is her birthday so have to make the trip. We depart out of Cleveland, Ohio, and would like to go to Sydney first, then back to France before returning home to the USA. Is there any way we can get a deal through one airline, so as to collect frequent-flier miles as well as save money? Would it be a good idea to look for a "round-the-world ticket"? Any suggestions for our family of 4 would be appreciated. Kids are ages 11 and 14.
I think you're on target with your round-the-world-ticket idea, especially since it would allow for cool stopovers between Australia and France!  If I were you, I'd research the round-the-world fares on offer from the Star Alliance as well as Skyteam international airline partnerships and see which provides the best routing for the best price for your travel dates.  I'd also love to hear from any airfare wonks reading this. Would you advise Rhondda differently?  Please let me know via "Comments" below.
October 30, 2009

Cheap Business-Class Flights to 21 Cities in Europe

ts_aerlingus_091030.jpg
Aer Lingus is having a business-class sale for travel from January through April.

Photo: virtualpilot / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This may be the low-season business-class airfare sale to Europe that Condé Nast Traveler readers have been waiting for: $1,698 roundtrip to Dublin or Shannon from New York (JFK), Boston, or Chicago.

That fare includes a free roundtrip coach flight from Dublin to cities throughout Europe. From New York, for instance, you can fly via Ireland to: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Birmingham, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Krakow, London, Madrid, Malaga, Manchester, Milan, Munich, Lisbon, Paris, Rome, Vienna or Warsaw. You also get: use of Aer Lingus's business-class lounge, three free checked bags, priority check-in, and a personal on-demand in-flight entertainment system.

For travel from: January 1 to April 30

Book by: November 30
 
Book through: AerLingus.com or at 800-IRISH-AIR

Caveat: Taxes and fees may add about $200 to your fare, depending on your travel dates.

How did I learn about this sale?  It's the Deal of the Week over in the Steals & Deals section of business travel expert Joe Brancatelli's member-supported site JoeSentMe.com, which I've recommended before as an invaluable source of business-class fare sales. When you consider how much money you can save via these sales, Joe's $49 annual membership fee is a drop in the bucket.

October 16, 2009

Finding the Cheapest Days of the Week to Fly

"What are the cheapest days of the week to travel to the Caribbean in November?" asks reader Robin.


I've found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often cheapest to the Caribbean, although sometimes it can be equally cheap on Sundays and Mondays. Of course it depends on many factors, including your origin and destination. 

One tool for pinpointing the cheapest days to fly within any 30-day period is Orbitz's Flex Search. Go to Orbitz.com and click on "Flexible Dates," in the lower left corner of the blue box. Plug in your city pair, go to "Option 3: Flexible Stays," choose your trip length, punch in your up-to-30-day travel window, and click "Find." Hope that helps.
October 09, 2009

How to Find Discounted First- and Business-Class Airfares

ts_business_class_airfare_deal_091008.jpg
United's business-class seats are easy on the legs but not on the wallet—unless you snag a deal
mab @ flickr on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

by Wendy Perrin

Yesterday I promised to answer this question from reader CathyB0820:

"Do you have any recommendations for great places to find business and first-class airfare sales?"

Sure I do. First, sign up for FareCompare's business/first fare alerts. Here's how:

1. Go to FareCompare and click the My Trips/Alerts tab.
2. If you don't already have an account, sign up for e-mail alerts.
3. Click "Add a Trip." 
4. Specify the city pair or pairs you're interested in. If your destination is a continent rather than a specific city, specify the continent. Click "Next."
5. Select the "Business/First" toggle and then finish up.

While you're at FareCompare, read Rick Seaney's article "How to Fly First Class at Coach Prices."

There are a couple of other good sources for business- and first-class airfares. Read about 'em after the jump.

Continue reading "How to Find Discounted First- and Business-Class Airfares" »

September 01, 2009

$1,000 Business-Class Fares to Paris

The wide, plush Biz Seats on transatlantic airline Open Skies
The wide, plush "Biz Seats" on transatlantic airline OpenSkies don't fully recline but do offer 51 inches of legroom.

by Wendy Perrin

Deal of the Day If you're thinking about exploiting some of the bargains in Europe this fall or winter, you might also think about snapping up OpenSkies' $1,000 roundtrip Biz Seat fare (excluding taxes and fees) between New York and Paris from the start of November through the end of March. "I can't remember a time it's been this cheap to Paris in premium class," says eagle-eyed biz-class fare watcher Joe Brancatelli of JoeSentMe.com. He considers Biz Seat on British Airways-owned OpenSkies to be "the best value in the sky."

Keep in mind that this fare isn't just for people whose final destination is Paris. If you're willing to make airport connections in order to save money, it can work as the New York-Paris leg of an itinerary beyond Paris. (Just remember that OpenSkies flies you into Orly and not Charles de Gaulle.)

Book by: September 8

For travel from: November 1 - March 31

The catch: In testing this deal--by plugging fictitious travel dates into OpenSkies' booking system--I was not easily able to find the lowest advertised fare of $499 each way. But I did easily find one-way fares of $509. Once you add in all the taxes and fees, that total roundtrip fare is $1,136.

May 06, 2009

Fly to Tahiti for $860

Cnt_frenchpolynesia_005p 

A beach on Rangiroa, Tahiti. Image courtesy of concierge.com.

Daily deals by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

We're seeing plenty of great Tahiti deals these days. The latest is an airfare sale from Air Tahiti Nui: Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, for $858 per person, including taxes. These flights would ordinarily cost upwards of $1,400. 

Book by: May 11
For travel between: August 12 and December 10, 2009
The catch: Seats are available, but the availability is limited, so it's best if you have some flexibility in your travel dates.

Tip: If you're booking flights only, book them through the airline. If you want an entire trip, hotels included, talk to Kleon Howe, the French Polynesia specialist in Wendy's Rolodex of the world's best travel agents. He can get the same airfare as above and incorporate the other great deals on offer from the islands' hotels and resorts.

March 03, 2009

Low Summer Airfares between the East Coast and San Francisco

Boys_under_golden_gate_2by Wendy Perrin

It's no surprise that transcon airfares to SFO are supercheap right now (in the $240 range, once you add in taxes and fees). But it might surprise you just how cheap they are for travel during the upcoming peak summer season: You can snag a nonstop roundtrip for $260 or $270 from New York, Boston, or Washington, D.C.

In fact, I just did: Every year I must buy four tickets from New York (EWR) to San Francisco (SFO) for late June/early July, for my family's annual July 4th trip to the West Coast to visit the in-laws. This year, unlike the past few years, the cheapest summer fares are available on a huge range of flights and dates. I just paid $300 each, including taxes and fees, as opposed to the $450 or so that I've had to shell out the past few July 4ths. (Obviously, there have been fares lower than $450, but only for people with more schedule flexibility than I have.)

Had I been willing to fly out of JFK, I could have paid only $260 each this time.

Carpe diem, folks.

I'd love to hear what great airfare deals YOU've been able to nab lately. Just click on "Comments" below. Thanks!

February 03, 2009

Low Summer Airfares to Paris

by Wendy Perrin

Desperately seeking an affordable airline ticket to Europe this spring or summer?  George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com tells me there's an unadvertised summer sale to Paris going on that may not last long. Fares are in the $600 range, including tax.

January 28, 2009

Low Airfares Delivered to Your In-box

by Wendy Perrin

"Is there a site that allows you to set up fare alerts when prices are reduced to a specific destination?" asks reader Gochek.

There are a ton, so I'll single out my favorite: FareCompare.  As I advised in my November Perrin Report on how to nab affordable airfares,

"Sign up for FareCompare.com's alerts so you'll know when prices drop on specific routes. These alerts go out by e-mail several hours before the reduced fares are loaded into the airlines' reservations systems--which means you can nab the discounted seats before others do. You can request alerts for specific cities, countries, continents, airlines, and classes of service, and you can specify that you wish to be contacted only when the price drops by a certain amount (I recommend about $30 for U.S. cities and about $80 for international destinations)."

Personally, I've signed up for these fare alerts from the New York area (where I live) to destinations all over, since my travel decisions are usually dictated by where I can fly a family of four cheaply.  Examples of wanderlust-stirring alerts that have popped into my in-box within the past couple of days alone include:

Continue reading "Low Airfares Delivered to Your In-box" »

January 22, 2009

Air Fare Sale to South America

Torres_del_paine_national_park Remember our 2007 Dream Trip Contest winner, Gene Pembroke? At this time last year Gene was criss-crossing South America on LAN Airlines and blogging about it here. Gene shot this photo in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

by Wendy Perrin

Been itching to go to South America but scared off by the high ticket prices? If you live in the northeast, you're in luck: LAN Airlines now has roundtrip fares from New York City to six different cities in Argentina for $599, six different cities in Chile for $699, Easter Island for $999, and Uruguay for $599. (These fares don't include taxes, which add up to $90 to your bill.) There are similar fares from Toronto, as well as deals from other U.S. cities.  For flights to Argentina and Uruguay you must stay a minimum of 4 days, to Chile and Easter Island a minimum of 7 days. And one stopover is allowed for $75. Tickets must be bought on or before February 3 for travel between February 1 and June 15.

January 18, 2009

The Summer Airfare Sales to Europe Have Begun

by Wendy Perrin

Quite a few of you have been asking how to get lower airfares for travel to Europe this summer. The latest query comes from reader Leslie, who needs four tickets to Rome in late June:

"The fares I've found are more than $1,000 each. I've searched high and low, tried multiple connections, flying through London, etc. I've tried Aer Lingus, Eurofly, Swiss, Virgin, Air India. How can I find cheaper airline tickets to Italy?"

According to George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog, yesterday US Airways launched a fab unadvertised summer sale to London, Paris, Frankfurt, and other European cities: Fares are in the $500s and $600s, including all taxes, for peak summertime travel. "These fares are in some cases less than half what other carriers are charging," says George, "and they're from cities large and small."

"Airlines often launch amazing sales on a Saturday because competitors can't match them quickly," he explains. "That's because the computer systems that distribute fares to sites like Orbitz only update once on Saturday, around 5 p.m."

So how do you find these fares? Click to the next page to keep reading.

Continue reading "The Summer Airfare Sales to Europe Have Begun" »

January 16, 2009

Air Fare Deal to Australia

by Wendy Perrin

A few days ago I told you about a good Air New Zealand deal for folks who want to combine Australia and New Zealand in one trip and can travel in May.  If your destination is Australia only, and you need a wider travel window, you should know that Qantas has extended the booking date for its "G'day USA" fare sale till January 26. You can travel any time between February 1 and September 21 for a fare of about $900 from Los Angeles or San Francisco and about $1,100 from New York (JFK). (Those prices including all taxes and fees.) Bonza!

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