Hugo Burge of Cheapflights.com answered your travel questions
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Hello. I am now ready to answer your questions, so do send them on in. I am rolling up my sleeves (literally) and am ready to get on with it...
The Woodlands, Tx: Are there any companies that offer discounted domestic first class air travel? We are retired and can travel at any time.
Origin - Houston TX
Destinations - Southern California and Chicago
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Flexibility is the key to cheap air travel, so you must take advantage of your retirement! Indeed, there are discounters who provide bargain first class air ticket. The ones that come to mind are 1st Air Net and Access Fares which you can find listed on Cheapflights.com. It is also worth remembering that Air Tran and America West offer discounted business class domestic fares. In fact, I recently took an Air Tran flight where the business class flight (admittedly indirect) was cheaper than a direct flight on a traditional carrier!
Santa Cruz, CA: My friend and are planning a trip to Kona, HI in April, 2006. We plan to go 4/6/06 with a return on either 4/15 or 4/16/06. We can fly out of either San Jose Int. or San Francisco Int. Our dilemma: He has UA frequent flyer miles to use for his airfare; I don't. But, the published rates now (Nov. 05) for our dates in April are really, really high, cheapest in the $800 range roundtrip. Since he's using miles, he needs to book asap. We'd like to fly together, but I'm stumped with paying such a high fare this far in advance. I've travelled to the Hawaiian islands many times over the years, and have on average always paid about $400 for my airfare. Realistically, how far in advance should I think about booking my flights? We plan to arrange for rental car and accomodation there too, but right now the airfare is the issue. Packages seem to be cheaper, but how could we work around his "free" ticket?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: What a classic travel dilemma but I think I can help.
My first tactic would be to say that his trip is free so that he should pay for you! (Joking). You need to be clear, if he makes a booking and you do not yet have one then it could be risky, so you may feel better if you can book your flights at the same time. So my advice is on the basis of getting a good deal right now and not waiting till the last minute.
The first thing to note is that you may not want to fly together in order to get a good deal. I realize that this may not sound attractive until you think about how much money you could save and then have more fun on holiday together.
The most important thing to do is to shop around and I think the secret on this one is to include companies that will include cheaper charter flights with companies like Sun Trips & Pleasant Holidays, which a colleague tells me have flights out of Oakland.
The idea of getting a package would be an additional way of getting a deal and I think you could pay for an all in package for you but explain that you will be joined by someone who does not want a flight segment.
With Charter flights you can get amazing last minute deals but as you need to book now, the sooner the better because generally the earlier you book the better the deal...
New York City: I'm heading for a cruise that starts in Europe but end back here in NYC. How can I get the most reasonable one way fare over to Europe since I, obviously, don't need round trip air?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Ah. Well I did this myself just the other day. Sometimes a specialist can get you a cheaper one way fare than just purchasing from the airline. Give those kind folks at 1800 Fly Europe a bell and they should sort you out with a one way fare.
Rockford, IL: Is it better to travel with a group tour when going to foreign countries or is it more reasonable to do it online. I have used Globas tours and am thinking of going back to Northern Italy in 2006. What time of year is best so it is warm yet?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: There is no right answer but this is really a personal decision. Here is an overview: A group tour can offer benefits such as a more stress free vacation (you just hop along and don't have to organize stuff) and sometimes you can get a great deal too (group discounts and by packaging your hotels + flights).
However, I usually find it cheaper and more enjoyable to travel independently. My personal tactic is to buy the flight as soon as possible but then go for hotels on the day and get a bargain... Northern Italy is great so you should have a fun trip whatever. I love traveling in Europe, as a rule, in Sept/ Oct when the crowds have gone and it is warm but not so hot as peak summer. It also makes for better light when taking photos and when in Italy you want to come back with some nice photos to show all the folks back home!
Boston, MA: Now the major airlines have a low fare guarantee surely that is all I need to know. I want to fly to London in the New Year - are there still tactics for getting a special deal?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Yup, this is a question hear a lot.
I personally find the low fare guarantees a bit misleading although in principle I love the idea.
You have gotta watch out for the small print in the guarantees that say they don't include: special deals, unpublished/ discounted fares, fares on other airlines or deep discounted deals on opaque sites (like Priceline & Hotwire)... so you see if you are after a deal then the guarantees do not really help you that much.
The tactic that I employ (& recommend) to get a deal is to shop around a few companies. The key is shop around smartly the companies that are most likely to get you the best deals. This is really the mission behind our website Cheapflights.com.
Flexibility is crucial. Be as flexible as possible about when you travel, who you fly with, who you purchase from and the route you fly (London has a few different airports).
Then I try to book my flight as early as possible.
For a starting point for flights to London try starting out with the link below: cheapflights.com
Oh, and for some amusement you could also check out a joke site that I created about the low fare guarantees: cheapestflights.com. Good luck!
Bethlehem, PA: We would like to fly from Philadelphia or Newark to Copenhagen next August to take a Baltic cruise. Right now, flights are approximately $1200. Do you have any recommendations on how to book a less costly flight in the middle of their busy season?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Hmm. Peak season in Europe is a wallet burner (as is Copenhagen). My tip would be to try flying to London and then onwards to Copenhagen. Remember to search the low cost airlines out of London too which don't show up on most travel agency sites.
San Antonio, Texas: Have tried for years to time trips to Hawaii. Not living in a hub city nor the W.Coast, clue me when airlines list a 60- or 90-day travel window for sale prices on post-holiday travel? Or are there other traditional slow months in which they go to war to fill up planes? --nick
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Nick - Sadly, there are no hard-and-fast rules because it all depends on demand at the time but you can get bargain charter flights from the west coast to Hawaii.
Good times to watch out for last minute deals are April--May and September--October. You get the bonus that there are less crowds plus the weather is more moderate.
HOWEVER, last week in April and first week in May are big weeks for Japanese tourists to visit Hawaii --in particular Waikiki (due to their "Golden Week" holidays) so don't count on getting great hotel deals right then!
A cheeky plug here but we do try to list any outrageous deals on our newsletter...if you want us to keep an eye out for you then do sign up: cheapflights.com
Carmichael CA: When reviewing Hotel/Motel amenities/services they never list "Breakfast"? I think, whether a Hotel provides a continental breakfast or not, would sway me when trying to make a decision between two choices.
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Ah. We are on the same page. I wish they did that too. Breakfast is a real deal-clincher for me too...
Somers Point, NJ: Which service provides the best rates and is the simplest to use when booking multi city flights? For example, I am flexible on departure airport (Phila, NWR, JFK, LGA) going to Barcelona. Leaving Europe via Dover, England.
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Good question.
I think there are two options here and you may not like the answer because there is no magic website that will pop out an answer for you on this, especially because you say that you want to go to Spain from Dover which makes me think you are throwing a ferry into the mix (good idea by the way to have a proper adventure).
1) Get a travel agent to help you.
2) Research the different elements yourself and break it up into travel components.
I don't really have time to go into details here but I would go for the former because they should be able to get you a better flight deal going to london but back from Barcelona.
Orlando, FL: I have a year-off and want to see the world on-the-cheap. Any ideas on where to start with flights?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Lucky you!...and yes...
You can get some fabulous deals on Round-the-world tickets and have a real adventure. I did one myself just out of school and had a memorable time..it really needn't cost a whole bunch either.
The main factor affecting price is the number of stops you want to make on your world trip and how far you stray off standard routings. You don't need to have that many stops to see some amazing prices...an example of most expensive isn't always best (a personal motto by the way but I guess I would say that).
Rather than going into too much detail we have a useful page on our site with more reading: cheapflights.com
Nashville, TN: I will flying from Nashville to Rome on March 17, 2006 and returning March 27, 2006. The best price I can find right now is on US Air - $764.40 round trip. When is the best time to purchase international airline tickets to get the best deal? Should I wait until after the New Year? Thanks!
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Ok, this is where getting a deal can drive you nuts. There is no guarantee that you can get a better deal than that but whatever you do try shopping around some of the better known sites but also some lesser known consolidators. Usually discounted international fares show themselves at around 90 days when yield management kicks in but it can vary on demand. If you have got to be there on precise dates then I think the generally accepted tactic is to book as far in advance as possible. One other tactic I would definitely use if flying the route myself is to check out if a flight to London or Paris with an onward low-cost-airline flight to see if that works out much cheaper. It could well do...
San Fran, CA: The low cost airlines don't show up on websites but they are always launching new routes. How do I keep upto date?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Yup, this is the bane of the cheap travellers life! There is no silver bullet to get the best deal.
Jetblue does show up in some travel search sites like Sidestep, Kayak & Cheapflights but even these sites do not include Southwest.
The bottom line is that you have to check out sites like Southwest when you are researching your flight because you may not know if they fly that route.
There are a few sites that do have information on new routes and special deals though and we recently launched a news part of our site to help collate all this information into one place: news.cheapflights.com
Would love your feedback as to whether you find this useful.
Salt Lake City, Utah: My wife and I will likely have some time in mid-December for a trip of 5 to 7 days. Are there any great last minute fares to Belize? If not, is it reasonable to fly to Cancun and drive to Belize?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: The problem with last-minute deals is that you cannot rely on them if you know where you want to go. If you are flexible then it is well worth waiting to see what deals come through.
With regards to driving from Belize, anything is possible but you may need to be a bit adventurous! I suspect that crossing the border in a rental car will cause problems so I think that some research in contacting a car rental outfit would be prudent. Sounds like a fun trip, I would like to come...but I think that it would likely be cheaper to fly.
Stamford CT: I am a savvy bargain traveler but have not yet found a website that has bundled packages (airfare and hotel) that are truly bargain priced. I typically do much better booking each separately. BUT are there any websites/tour groups that really do offer bundled prices that are great values?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: I agree, it is not always that clear about exactly how much you are saving.
Expedia has recently added in a nice feature on their flights + hotel product that shows you how much you have saved though which I quite like.
For deep discounts though and 'slam-dunk' deals you need to watch out for charter flight package deals where last-minute savings really can be low. Companies like Apple Vacations & Discount vacations offer these.
Specialists like 1800 Fly Europe, Qantas Vacations (Australia) & O'Connors (Ireland) can also offer deep discounts on packages. They have relationships with airlines that mean they negotiate special deals for consumers...as long as it is not too obvious that the price is a bargain, so they mix it up with a hotel/ bed n breakfast and car rental product.
New York, NY: I want to see Europe and want to plan a trip for the new year. What is the cheapest way to get there and then get around?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: I think I have already answered a question about how to get to Europe cheaply but I like the additional question about how to get around cheaply in Europe.
A few options:
1) Flying around Europe is very cheap right now because of the low cost airline competition between the traditional carriers, easyjet and Ryanair. Easyjet & Ryanair have a nice new feature that you can change your itinerary on a flight with minimal cost making this more flexible than before where you lost your money if you wanted to get a new flight.
2) Check out inter-rail. This may sound counter-intuitive for a flights-guy but the inter-rail pass for folks under 26 (I think) allows unlimited travel for a month. I have done this (twice now but sadly now too old!). It is a brilliant way to see Europe and would advise everyone to do it.
3) Check out air passes which give you a number of flights within Europe. I'm getting embarrassed about linking to Cheapflights as I don't want to just promote us but we do have a page on the site about that too...
Have a great trip!
Oakland, Florida: Is there a day of the week and/or a time of day when it is most advantageous to purchase discount air fares?
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Some folks say yes...I'm not so sure.
A fairly common rumour (sorry English spelling) is that airlines try out price rises at the weekend so don't buy then. However, I think this is a just a rumour.
I actually think that the airlines are too smart to have set rules on this and when a pattern does emerge they change it. Come on....would the airlines make it that easy for us?
Park Rapids, MN: My husband & I are planning a trip to Australia in Feb/March of '06. We plan to fly from LA to Sydney. My question is would it be cost saving to take the train to Melbourne or rent a car? We traveled there 10 years ago at age 50 and want to re-visit friends/sites plus see some new territory. We do plan do use Qantas' Aussie Pass program for some interior flights and stay 4-5 weeks.
Hugo Burge, Cheapflights.com: Some times you have to say that it is not all about cost!
The option to fly or drive between Sydney and Melbourne should be one based on what kind of vacation you want...that is a pretty long way.
I think it would probably cost more to drive but if I had long enough and was retired...I would drive and actually whilst on the topic I think I would drive a whole lot further. Australia is a great country to explore by vehicle and offers so much.
The Qantas Aussie Pass programme is also a good call because Australis is one big place and internal flights are necessary if you want to soak up all that the country has to offer.
...as my mind turns to lengthy vacations in Australia I must return to reality with a bump. It's lunch time and my time has run out.
Many thanks for all the questions; great chatting.
Happy (+ cheap) travels this holiday season!