2009 TRAVEL GAME PLAN #1

Search Strategically

Four of the most trusted sites in the business have devised new tricks to help you find the killer deals—with a little help from your fellow travelers.

(Illustration by Kate Francis)

Kayak.com
Spy on successful searches using the Insight function
Jealous of your neighbors when they dig up amazing airfares? Now you can snoop on them as they price flights on Kayak. In November, the site unveiled its Insight tool, which displays other people's search results out of any airport you choose—in real time. For example, if someone turns up a $183 round-trip New York-Tampa flight, the route appears as an arcing orange line between the cities on a Google map. Click on it, and you can pull up the same price. (kayak.com)

Tripadvisor.com
Know the full price of a flight with the Fees Estimator
The king of the hotel-review sites muscled its way onto Kayak's turf in February by introducing a new flight aggregator with a twist. Its Fees Estimator adds the cost of a checked bag to the price and tallies up all the other extra charges you might get hit with on board. For example, if you choose one checked bag on a round-trip Boston-Denver flight on American, the fare bumps up from $300 to $330. Throw in a meal and a cocktail, and expect to pay $12 more on the plane. (tripadvisor.com)

Priceline.com
Bid on upscale hotels for the biggest steals
The downturn in business travel has been a boon for Priceline's name-your-own-price bidders: Four- and five-star hotels are so eager to offload their empty rooms, they're accepting offers of up to 50 percent off their published rates, says company spokesman Brian Ek. On biddingfortravel.com, a website where Priceline customers post accepted bids, one traveler boasted of snagging a room in March for $67 a night at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle (normally priced at $189), while another paid only $70 at the Drake in Chicago (normally $239). (priceline.com)

Points.com
Make trades on the Global Points Exchange
This site has taken the waiting game out of racking up enough rewards points for a prize—members of different loyalty clubs can now swap their stockpiles on its Global Points Exchange to cash in more quickly. Eight airlines signed on after the system launched a year ago, and then in November the first hotel chain joined—InterContinental. The only downside is the fee, which varies by company (InterContinental, for example, charges $5 per 1,000 points traded). Still, that may be a small price to pay if you're so close to a free room, you can smell the breakfast. (points.com)

PROMOTION WATCH
Title: Vacation Stimulus Plan
Deal: Holland America is giving you a boost to get you on board; the cruise line is slashing fares and deposits by up to 50 percent on all trips.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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