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Travel Bargains on the Web
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

cheap flying

A recent study showed that Americans are using their home computers less and less. I hope the folks who are staying off line aren't the same ones who like travel bargains.

That's because a computer with a modem is your fastest way to learn about deals. You probably know about the weekend deals that many airlines announce on-line every Wednesday. It bears repeating: Those prices are incredible. Just last week, for example, United Airlines offered New York-Caracas tickets for a round-trip fare of $400. That's about twenty bucks less than it costs to take that 29-minute flight round trip between Washington, D.C. and New York City. San Francisco-Caracas? $500 round trip.

But what you might not be watching for are unexpected deals. Increasingly, the web has become the place to learn when airlines suddenly engage in airfare dogfights. Often, you need to book early to get the best deals on the days you want to fly. And while newspaper ads used to alert the public to new deals, that's not often the case anymore. Last Thursday, both Southwest and America West announced a $99, coast-to-coast ticket sale. The deals were almost identical: Buy your tickets by July 28th, travel between mid-August and early December. How did I know about the fare skirmish as soon as it broke out? Because I'd filled out the "news profiles" section on America On Line. I told AOL I wanted to receive any news containing keywords like "airfare sale" or "discount travel." So 24-7, I receive up-to-the-minute news stories of deals.

Now, clearly the America West/Southwest sale is the case of one competitor matching another. Who lowered fares first? Do I care? I do not. I just want to know my options. And it's not only airfare sales I learn about quickly. Last Wednesday, AOL popped this little item into my e-mailbox: Volvo, the Swedish automaker, is offering a free European vacation with the purchase of a car abroad if you place your order by the end of September. Plus, you can drive your new car all around Europe, and the company will ship it to the States when you're ready. Am I in the market for a new Volvo? I am not. But if I was, that little item would have been helpful, especially since Volvo claims I'd pay about ten percent less if I bought my car abroad. Oh . . . if you happen to be car shopping, check out the details at volvoeuropeandelivery.com.

It's also worth dropping in from time to time on general travel sales sites like Expedia.com, BizTravel.com, and Previewtravel.com. They often will gift you with bonus frequent flyer miles if you use them to purchase tickets. Through the end of August, Travelscape.com will give you ten per cent off all air and hotel travel packages. And there's often a lot of free destination information. A new section devoted to family travel on Expedia, for instance, tells you how to keep kids amused at 20 major North American airports.

That right there might be worth the cost of a computer!

The Savvy Traveler on Marketplace

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