Last-Minute Travel Deals Still Exist — If You’re Patient

April 12, 2010 at 9:54 am | Posted in air travel, car rental/hire, consumer travel, cruising, travel and technology, value in travel | Leave a comment
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by José Balido

last-minute travel dealsVacationers and business travelers alike are booking travel later in the game than ever these days — often a week or less from departure — with the dicey economy accelerating a trend that’s been building for years. This higher demand for last-minute travel, together with the yield management systems used by many of the big players, means rates that are more than ever in flux up until the 11th hour. It also means that “deals” are no longer a sure thing.

Oh, and did I mention that the currently downsized number of flights and rental cars is also tightening unsold inventory? Sadly, all the above ads up to not a lot of breaks for the last-minute travel shopper.

Best Travel Websites for Last-Minute Deals
The good news: All is not lost. Such breaks do still pop up, because the fact remains that vendors with unsold inventory — whether it’s bundled air-hotel packages or individual components — will always need to unload it. What you’ll need is a spot of patience and perseverance — and willingness to spend a fair bit of time online doing comparisons, because that’s where most of the action is these days. And there are certainly myriad choices, including the likes of LastMinuteTravel.com and last-minute sections of familiar sites like TravelZoo, Travelocity, and Kayak. I’ve found particularly good ones are Lastminute.comHotwire.com, and of course Priceline.com where after checking the going rates on other sites you can try submitting (reasonably!) lower bids.

Apart from trolling these various sites, in the case of airfares especially I’d sign up for alerts, both from individual airlines (United tends to have the largest selection, coming out each Monday, but doesn’t email them anymore, so you have to check United.com) and airfare info sites like AirfareWatchdog.com, which blasts out individual and grouped alerts according to airport or route. For car rentals, some companies list last-minute specials, but check out Breezenet.com as well, a comparison site which also features a “Deal of the Week.” And this summer, excess cruise line capacity will pretty likely mean awesome late deals on certain itineraries — especially in the Caribbean.

Twitter Travel Alerts
Finally, as this blog pointed out last year, Twitter has not only been coming on like gangbusters in general but has increasingly caught with airlines, hotels, tour operators, and other vendors as a dandy way to unload late inventory and for consumers to monitor deals by following them. Just a handful of other airlines that tweet news and fare specials include Air France (@Air_France), American (@AAirwaves), British Airways (@BritishAirways), Cathay Pacific (@cathaypacific), Continental (@Continental), JetBlue (@JetBlueCheeps), Singapore (@SingaporeAir), Southwest (@Southwest), Spirit (@SpiritAirlines), and United (@UnitedAirlines). You can also keep track of fares on sites like AirefareWatchdog.com (@airfarewatchdog), DealsOnAirfareToday.com (@dealsonairfare), and LowestAirfares.com (@LowestAirfares_).

Example: Type “#travel” into the Twitter search box and you’ll come up with hundreds of same-day results. But say you want to go to Orlando. A recent search for “#Orlando #travel” yielded, among many other items:

  • For $289, a three-night stay for four at Silver Lake Resort, plus two adult day tickets to Disney World, Universal Studios, or Sea World (@SLResortOrlando).
  • News of an upcoming crafts and collectibles show in the quaint nearby town of Mount Dora (@roritravel).
  • A list of top free attractions in the Orlando area (@GotSaga).

Crack your knuckles and get surfing!

photo: iStockPhoto
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Those New Stricter Airport Regulations: What to Expect

December 27, 2009 at 9:50 am | Posted in air travel | Leave a comment
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by Mary Jo Manzanares

If the uncertainty of airport security regulations seems familiar, perhaps it’s because it’s a replay of August 2006 and the events that led to the banning of liquids and gels and the implementation of the “3-1-1 rule.”

I’ll be flying today, and have the same concerns about what to expect when I get to the airport. If what we read is to be believed, the following protocol will be in effect for flights inbound to the United States from international destinations:

  • One hour before landing, passengers will be required to remain in their seats (similar to the earlier policy on flights flying into DCA).
  • Passengers will not be to get into carry-on bags during that hour.
  • Passengers will not be allowed to have coats, sweaters, blankets, or anything draped across their laps during that hour (although they can wear jackets, coats, etc.).
  • All electronic items must be turned off during that one-hour period.
  • Extra inspections of passengers and bags at the gate will be conducted.

I think it’s going to take awhile before things shake out and we have a solid written policy on the matter, but if you’ve got travel plans over the next few weeks, you may want to take a look at my recommendations.

From If I Were Traveling Tomorrow (Oh Wait, I Am) on Tripatini member Mary Jo Manzanares’ blog, www.TravelingWithMJ.com.

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