Trip Coach: September 6, 2005

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Hugo Burge from Cheapflights.com answers your questions

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Hi, many thanks for joining me.
I am ready to take questions now on all things to do with flights, in particular how to get a good deal...

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Glen Gardner, NJ: I am planning a trip to Ireland Dec 20-27, 2005. Is it cheaper for me to fly from New York to London, then catch a flight to Dublin? Or fly direct from New York to Dublin?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: This is a nice question to start with as I can give a cheerful and simple response. There are great deals available direct to Dublin from New York and there should be no need to go via London to get a good deal. It is a competitive route and you have Aer Lingus to thank for that! They are using the low cost model on international flights, which means that maximum fares are capped, fares are transparent and the sooner you book the better.
I would recommend checking out aerlingus.com, oconnors.com (an Ireland specialist sitting on your doorstep in New York) and perhaps comparing against a few of the big brands on Cheapflights.com: cheapflights.com/flights/Dublin/New-York-City.
Perhaps you are not so lucky in the time you want to travel. This is near to Christmas, so fares can be very high, depending on when you wish to return. Book soon is my plea! You may be thankful for Aer Lingus new capping levels...
Other readers should note that London can often be a good jumping point for flights into Europe as it is a hub for so many low cost airlines.

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Silver Spring MD: What is the cheapest flight from BWI to BUF round trip?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Nobody can guarantee the best fare always (sadly), so you have to shop around. It's a bore but it is true. This particular route is flown by Southwest, so remember that the Travel Agencies won't have their fares, so you need to go to southwest.com to check out their fares. Looks like the cheapest Round Trip fares are $78 right now on Southwest, $83 on Travelocity and $76 on CheapAir.com. I did this research by using a combination of the tools used below:
Southwest's Flexible Date Search: southwest.com/cgi-bin/lowFareFinderEntry
Travelocity Flexible date search: Use the Flexible Date button on the homepage of travelocity.com
Cheapflights.com's best deals overview on your route: cheapflights.com
Good luck! and remember to shop around.

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Syracuse, NY: Planning a trip to Peru (Machu Picchu) and hiking the Inca trail. I am a budget traveler and looking for the best deal. Proposed dates of travel: 10/5 and return 10/12. Thinking of flying to Lima on 10/5; 10/6 fly to Cuzco; 10/7-10/10 Inca trail hike, 11th fly to Lima and then back to US on 10/12. My friend lives in Washington DC and he is also joining me. We will like to coordinate our trip. We have limited $. Please help!

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Sounds like a great trip, you want to get it right and have as much money to spend there as possible. Shopping around for the best deals will be crucial, however you need to shop smartly. I think this is a classic example of when to pick up the old fashioned telephone to call a specialist, particularly because your flight requirements are more than just out and back (which can get confusing on the web).
I have two for you to contact:
Ole Travel: oletravel.com, 800 559 5192
and
Exito Travel: exitotravel.com, 800-655-4053.
They can certainly help with getting a good deal on the flight and perhaps help with other aspects of your trip. Generally, specialists, are a great way to save on international flights as they focus on negotiating and hunting out deals for that route only. They can also give that crucial little extra help for internal flights, hotels and that bit of local knowledge that can go so far in ensuring a successful trip.
Budget Travel Online has a useful list: budgettravelonline.com as does
Cheapflights.com: cheapflights.com/agents

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San Jose, CA: We travel a great deal, but I spend an enormous amount of time looking looking on the internet for the best airfares for these trips. When is the best time to look for your airfares? I've heard that looking in the very late evening, or early morning are the best times to look online. How far advance should you look for airfare to get the best deals? Is it true that the best deals are 60 days or less of the dates you need the airfares? Can you give me the straight lowdown on purchasing airline tickets on the internet, please?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Sadly, if there were simple rules for when and how to always get the best deal then everyone would get them and the airlines would change the rules... However, there are some useful guidelines to bear in mind, particularly with regards to how far in advance to book.
Time of day/ week to purchase:
There are many rumors about this, none of which are hard and fast. Airlines definitely have a pattern of adding extra fees or price increases at the weekend (so don't buy then) but they are often removed by Monday if other airlines have not followed suit. Travelocity updates all its low fare/ flexible date schedules in the early hours of the morning. Cheapflights.com displays these fares and we recommend that you take advantage of the best availability earlier in the day. However, fare changes happen all the time and airlines deliberately keep an air of mystery about this.

How far in advance should I buy:
This is simpler. The general rule, if you know your destination and date is to book as early as possible -- particularly for peak seasons.
However, if you are flying on an international flight then discounts or sales often are released at around 90 days out. It is also worth remembering that sales often come out in January and September so if it is a matter of just a few weeks then it may be worth waiting. If you are completely flexible with your flight times and destination then you can get deals nearer the time. Bottom line: If you see what you feel is a good deal then bag it.

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Washington, DC: In light of the impact on oil prices by the hurricane, when do you think will be the best time to buy tickets for travel to the Caribbean in May 2006? Also, how would bidding on priceline compare as an option?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: First and foremost my heart goes out to the victims of Katrins. It is truly unbelievable. It feels a bit trivial talking about the impact on prices but it is a reality of life and I note there are a few questions on this, so I'll dive in. You have also asked about Priceline, which is an interesting angle to pursue.
The impact of Katrina on oil prices was pretty grim at first but oil prices have dropped back again to pre-hurricane levels. However, I don't want to get drawn into a guessing game about oil prices - there are smart folks dedicated to doing that and they seem to struggle. The airlines are playing a delicate game of keeping demand high but also, necessarily, passing on jet fuel price rises. At present the impact of Katrina on oil prices does not seem to be a lasting one and the more general issue of rising fuel prices over the past year seems to be the critical question. That said prices are at historic lows and demand for flights is at all time record highs.
In response to your specific question, May is not peak season, so you should be able to get a good deal. The general rule is, if you know your dates and destination then try to book as early as possible. However, in this instance there are likely to be some January sales -- so that could be a good time to make your booking.
If you are flexible with your exact dates and destination then you could wait until the last-minute to get a real bargain -- especially if you are interested in getting a vacation package deal.
Priceline can be very good, particularly with getting a hotel deal. For those who don't know this is when you get a discount for lack of information about the precise travel details. For flight deals it is worth remembering that you can also get discounted deals with consolidators or specialist discounters and know the airline & flight times before booking. Companies include: Cheapair.com, Airfareplanet.com, AirlineConsolidator.com. It is also worth noting that Hotwise, a similar model to Priceline, gives you the price in advance.

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Houston, TX: When will airlines offer the best deals for travel to Rome or Milan in November?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Sadly, there is no hard and fast rule.
However, the general rule of thumb is to book as early as you can. Particularly once you are talking a trip which is under 90 days away. November is a relatively inexpensive time of year, so a good deal is likely. A useful tip, if you want to save money and you don't mind spending a bit of extra time on your travels is to go via Dublin, London or Amsterdam. I am biased to London because that's where I am from, but there is a large selection of airlines competing for your business to London and then onwards to Italy -- more than the direct flights anyhow.

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Boston, MA: I need to find the cheapest deal to get to London from Boston in the fall to meet up with some friends. How do I find the best deal?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Ah, well this is a route I fly all the time, so I am happy to help on this one. As always, you will need to shop around. A lot depends on whether you mind having a stop on your flight. Iceland Air often have tremendous deals, which are worth looking out for but you have a brief (unless you want to stay over) stop in Iceland Airport.
I would try a range of companies including 1800flyeurope.com and ukair.com or compare deals on Cheapflights.com dedicated deals page: cheapflights.com/flights/London/Logan-IntlI hope you have a great time and get a great deal.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico: A friend told me that there is a company called Coastal Vacations that offers up to 80% discount on trips around the world. (airfares, hotels, car rentals, etc.) Is that true, or there is something that they are not telling us?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Hmm. I am always a little suspicious of discounts of 80%.
I have never used this company so cannot comment about them in particular.
What is true is that:
- No one company (however good) always has the best deal: that is the nature of the industry
- You can get discounts by packaging flights + hotels
- Last minute package/ cruise deals can have whopping savings but you have to be flexible about your destination.
- You can save a bundle if you have multiple flights by getting a round-the-world ticket or an air pass. Here is a link to a set of useful pages on Cheapflights.com: cheapflights.com/useful-links/multi-city-flights.html

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Silver Spring, MD: I feel you should always check with the consolidators first before purchasing air tickets. Recently I purchased tickets to Ireland from Orbitz only to find out days later I could have gotten them cheper from a consolidater. Your thoughts?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Sorry to hear that. Finding out that you could have got a better deal after you booked is always bad news and why we all spend such a lot of effort ensuring we do our homework. There are a number of things you should do to minimize the risk of this happening:
- Always shop around
- Be flexible who you fly, purchase from and when you travel
- On international flights it is definitely worth checking discounted & consolidator fares

Consolidator fares are specially discounted fares that are negotiated with airlines to help them sell empty seats. They are not very well known about in the US whilst they are a big deal in the UK. These fares are often found through lesser known companies as the airlines are keen to make the very best deals harder to find. The airlines deliberately don't give their best international deals to the best known companies. There is an urban legend that if you want a cheap deal to china then go check out a travel agency in China town. There is a strong element of truth to this although it is still worth searching sites like Orbitz and Travelocity because they have a user friendly interface, are easy to use and still may have the best fare (especially on domestic routes). I gave some links to lists of consolidators/ specialists above in another answer.

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San Diego, CA: I am a little confused by the term "low fare" or "discount" airline. There seem to be no rules. Can you please explain?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: I agree totally. This is increasingly confusing.
A low fare airline used to mean one that you could only book directly like Southwest or Jetblue in the US or Ryanair or easyJet in Europe.
However, now there are a host of airlines which call themselves low cost because: they have fare transparency, no food, no allocated seats, are profitable, like the image and lots of other reasons.
However, the key factor to remember as a consumer is, to my mind, that low cost airines fares cannot be found on travel agency websites. This clearly makes shopping around hard as there is no one place to find all the deals. Jetblue shows its prices on some aggregators like www.sidestep.com and Cheapflights.com but so far Southwest refuses to. The low cost airines brought many brilliant things and that is why we love them but it would sure be nice if they showed their fares in the same place as everyone else... I hate to sound like a broken record but shopping around is currently the only solution.

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Anonymous Will be traveling to Europe in the spring. I hope to visit the tulip fields in the Netherlands then do sidetrips to visit friends in Swizterland, Germany, England and Spain. Is it worthwhile to try and use the discount airlines now in Europe? Would I be better off using the speed trains or the intercity trains?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Wish I had time to take a trip like that, sounds fun.
The key question to my mind is if you are eligible for the Interail Train pass for people aged under 26. This is a fantastic bargain that allows you unlimited travel round Europe for a month at a price that even the low cost airlines can't beat.
However, if you are not eligible for this then I think the low cost airlines are probably the best way to travel around europe although the odd train journey would add character to the trip.
Good sites for low cost airlines in Europe are skyscanner.net and applefares.com. However, easyJet and Ryanair now dominate much of the low cost market in Europe. They have some great site features like being able to change your tickets online (date or destination) for a sum that won't break the bank.

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La Jolla, CA: I am planning to travel to Ooty, India in late December 2005. What is the cheapest way to fly. Should I take a plane to Delhi, and fly to Bangalore? What airline do you recommend? What local airline flies from Delhi to Bangalore?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Ok, this is another case of specialist to the rescue. I have not been to India but would love to.
A new India specialist should be able to help answer the questions that you ask: makemytrip.com
It is also worth noting that low cost airlines in India are sprouting up like a rash: Air Deccan, Kingfisher air, Spice Air and more. There is not one resource yet, that I am aware of to cover all this although a new site called ghumo.com/ is a new aggregator which has ambitions to do just that and is worth checking out for specific routes...

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North Syracuse, NY: I am one of the three people still left who are averse to putting a credit card number in hyperspace. Are all "best deals" only done with a credit card? If so, what's the next best deal?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: I hope you do not mind using the telephone, which can actually sometimes give you a better deal than the web.
You can use the web as an information source to find the best deal and then use a good old fashioned telephone number.
Sometimes expertise of the person you speak to could help save you money by helping you to pin down a cheaper travel date or alternative routing. This is particularly the case on long haul travel or complex itineraries.
If you call an airline though you will pay a fee (that varies from airine to airline) as they want to encourage you to book online.
I used to be like you but now love the freedom of booking online - especially with the features to allow you to manage your booking like online check-in, amendments and miles upgrades. I just like to keep the telephone as an option in my deal-hunting armoury.

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Boston, MA: I want to book a flight to Sydney, Australia for October 28 for about 10 - 14 days. When is the best time to do this? Are some days less costly for departure/arrival? Any good hotel/air deals you recommend?

Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: I think this is the last question I have time for on this occassion.
If the trip is for this October then I would recommend getting your skates on and booking up. This is a popular time of year and bargains will be tricky to find. You need to use any flexibility you can in order to bring the price down.
It would be worth trying out a specialist like qantasvactions.com who may have special air discounts but will also be able to help with vacation package specials. I would also try other companies with access to consolidator fares like: airlineconsolidator.com, 1800cheapseats.com, airfareplanet.com. You may need to shop around more than normal but unfortunately this is not a highly competitive route.
The usual rule is that it is cheaper to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday because most vacation travel takes place around the weekend.

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Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Thank you for all the questions. I enjoyed myself. I'm off for lunch now...
Happy travels!

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