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Traveler's Aid: Last Minute Mardi Gras and Carnival (2/01/2002)

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What a difference a month makes. Seems like just a little while ago when the economy was in shambles, the tourism industry falling apart -- airlines looking down the barrel of bankruptcy.

But this week, Alan Greenspan said things are looking up, people started talking about a recession-ette, and American Airlines CEO Don Carty announced he's going to start beefing service back up to pre-Sept. 11 levels. Is the Travel Industry out of the woods? And, maybe more importantly, are all the deals of the last few months going away too? Rudy Maxa answers that question and helps us sort a few things out.

Rudy: Those are two separate questions I'd like to get into.

  • American cut service by 20 percent after Sept. 11, laid off 400 flight attendants and still reported an $800 million loss.

  • In message to employees last week, Carty said that he's first increasing hub service. Then, in April, they'll add back another phase of operations. And most important for the employees: American is going to begin hiring back those 400 it laid off. But He did say that adding these flights is "a key element" of American's recovery plan.

So, are all the great deals are disappearing? No. Airfares are still cheap.

  • December was the cheapest month to travel since August 1992. You'd have to go almost 10 years to find average ticket prices so low.

  • Analysts on Wall Street say the airlines need to keep their schedules trimmed and raise prices -- American's not doing that, it's slowly building its schedule back. So as demand rises, supply will also rise. So ticket prices will stay low.

  • United launched another sale this week, which means that good fares are still everywhere. If you're flexible about where and when you want to go, you should easily find things within even the tightest budgets.
  • One caveat: hotel and rental car prices arestarting to rise. The rest of the tourism industry is recovering more quickly than the airlines.

Now, we are just a week or so away from February 12th , AKA "Fat Tuesday" -- AKA Mardi Gras, AKA Carnival!

So, the question on many people's minds is: Is it too late to go, and can I still get a good deal? Well, not as good as you want, but there are plenty of ways to cut down expense.

  • Check out the New Orleans visitors bureau for links to special deals and advice on where to book, how to get around, etc.: www.neworleanscvb.com. Or call 800-672-6124.

  • One great Web site for booking hotel rooms at a discount is Quikbook.com. Click on special deals, and select New Orleans. You can book at high-end hotels -- like the W in the French Quarter, or the Hotel Monaco New Orleans for greatly reduced prices.

And for international destinations, like Brazil for Carnivale, or the Caribbean, you're going to be pressed to find good last minute deals to Brazil. It's high tourist season there -- the middle of summer -- and Carnival in Brazil is something you have to plan for.

  • However, there's plenty of time to plan for Carnival in the Caribbean. Because of the tourist industry, many smaller Caribbean Islands have shifted their Carnival dates all over the year, so as not to compete with each other. So in bigger islands, like Dominican Republic and Trinidad, Carnival is in just a few weeks.

Some of my favorite "Hidden Destinations" in the Caribbean are:

  • Turks and Caicos -- small island so its Carnival is small and it's not called "Carnival". It's the "Junkanoo Jump Up," which is held around Christmas Time. It attracts tourists, but mostly for the local folk. There's a parade with people dressed up in masquerade, lots of music. And it lasts for one day. Call Turks and Caicos visitors bureau for more info: 800-241-0824 for more information.

So it's easy to enjoy Carnival - just pick a smaller island you want to go to. Do some research -- call their visitors bureau and ask lots of questions about "wheres" and "whens." Then book soon. The farther in advance, especially these days, the better deal you'll receive.


If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or, you can snail-mail them in. The address is The Savvy Traveler, in care of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.

Savvy Resources:

Check out the New Orleans Visitors Bureau Web site. Or call (800) 672-6124.

Go to Quikbook.com. Click on "special deals," and select "New Orleans." You can book at high-end hotels.

Call Turks and Caicos Visitors Bureau for more info: (800) 241-0824.

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