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Cheap Winter Travel

Cheap Winter Travel
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

When is the cheapest time to travel? The answer is: Right now. We're in the January travel trough. Tired of holiday journeys, slowly getting back into the routine after days or maybe even weeks off, we seem to grow exhausted at the thought of getting on a plane. So to lure us aboard, airlines and even some destinations offer discounts.

It's easy to say where the discounts don't exist: ski resorts and the Caribbean. For them, it's prime time, even though the snow gods haven't been very kind to ski spots in either the northeast or the Rockies. And the hurricane season closed some popular Caribbean resorts.

But if you know where you want to fly to between now and spring, nearly every airline is having a sale on advance-purchase tickets. Here's the important part: Most have to be purchased by this Friday at midnight. But you may be able to buy tickets for travel as far away as April.

Everybody is in on the party. All the big airlines have sales, and so do most foreign carriers. You've just missed Virgin Atlantic's $198 London-New York sale, but you can still cross the Atlantic for $300 or less round trip. Japan Air Lines (www.japanair.com) just announced a sale on fares to nine Asian cities from its U.S. gateways. Try New York-Hong Kong, $808 round trip. Chicago-Beijing, $718. Or Las Vegas-Bangkok, $657. Book by the 24th, begin travel by April 9, and you're good to go.


And don't forget the little guys. Vanguard (www.flyvanguard.com) out of Kansas City also unveiled some ridiculous fares on Monday. Chicago-Cincinnati, $38 round trip. Now, that's about what a cab ride from downtown Chicago to O'Hare airport costs! But you don't even have to pay that, since Vanguard departs from close-in Midway. Check these fares: Atlanta-Dallas or Denver-Minneapolis for $116 round trip. Kansas City to Atlanta, $58. Yup, that's round trip.

Not to be outdone, Denver's Frontier (www.flyfrontier.com) weighed in with what it calls a Winter White Sale, though unless Colorado gets some more snow, that's called wishful naming. Travel during mid-week, and you can pick up fares like Denver-Baltimore/DC or Denver-New York for $280, round trip.

(Allow me an aside, won't you? I know about these fares, because I get press releases touting them. You know how airline ads almost always list one-way prices but require you to buy a round-trip ticket? It's meant to catch your eye, but it bothers me. It might make you feel better to know that in their press releases, airlines do the same. As a friend of mine once said, that's like a clothing store offering men's slacks and listing the price per leg. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.)

Now, there are some cheap places to stay near ski slopes and the Caribbean. Visit websites like where2stay.com or escapetoeden.com and look in the bargain travel sections. Sandals (www.sandals.com), the all-inclusive Caribbean resort chain, offers free airfare if you stay six nights or longer between now and February fifth.

In short, like the song says, you gotta shop around.

The Savvy Traveler on Marketplace

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