Deal or No Deal

By Brad Tuttle
January 3, 2009
Is that supercheap travel promotion too good to be true?

BoltBus: $1 one-way tickets
Reality check: There are very few seats at this price on each bus, so you have to book weeks in advance. But it's worth the hassle—plus, you get Wi-Fi and added legroom.

Spirit Airlines: $9 one-way flights
Reality check: You must join the $9 Fare Club, which costs $40 per year. Even then, finding the fare is hard unless you're flying to or from a Spirit gateway like Fort Lauderdale.
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EasyCruise: $50 per night cruises
Reality check: The cabins at this rate are tiny—65 square feet—and windowless. Port and fuel charges are also extra; expect to shell out $100 more for a three-night cruise.

Enterprise: $10 per day car rentals
Reality check: Pickups are at non-airport locations, and the rental has to include a Friday to Monday. The $10 rate is also mostly restricted to small cities. Still, the deal is very easy to get where it's available.

The Hoxton hotel: £1 rooms
Reality check: The London hotel's rooms normally cost up to $300 a night. The downside? Availability. The cheap rooms are usually snapped up the day each sale starts.
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Showing You the Way

ENTERPRISE Garmin nüvi 265W Rents for $10/Day Reliability: When my friends and I took the wrong highway, the GPS put us back on track—but did we really need to spend 30 minutes driving through a residential area? The unit performed much better on winding roads in the countryside. User-friendliness: A safety mechanism stops you from entering a new destination while driving, but we were able to override it. Of course, I typed while my friend drove. —Amy Chen HERTZ No retail equivalent Rents for $13/day Reliability: Craving burgers, my partner and I searched the machine's business directory for a diner. But the address was wrong, and we ended up at a dead end near some oil tanks. It looked like the sort of place where Tony Soprano might whack an enemy. User-friendliness: The unit was fixed below the dashboard in a non-distracting spot, but it wasn't removable, making me super nervous about break-ins when we parked. —Sean O'Neill AVIS/BUDGET—BT Pick! Garmin nüvi 780 Rents for $14/day Reliability: The GPS directed my boyfriend and me like a dream, even negotiating a tricky roundabout with aplomb. The best feature was the real-time traffic update, only available on newer machines. It rerouted us around a backup—and we saved 30 minutes. User-friendliness: Only one complaint: We thought the contraption was strangely quiet, only to realize it was set on mute. There was no mute icon on the map, so we had to search through the main menu to find it. —Justin Bergman DOLLAR/THRIFTY Garmin nüvi 660 Rents for $12/day Reliability: Using the GPS to find gas, my husband and I were led to a Shell station with broken pumps, then to a closed Mobil station, and finally to a bodega. We got Doritos, but no gas. Later, it told us to leave the highway, drive on an access road for five miles, and then get back on the highway. Bizarre. User-friendliness: We couldn't for the life of us figure out how to disable the no-typing-while-driving safety feature. Each time we wanted to enter a new address, we had to pull over, which was annoying, to say the least. —Beth Collins ALAMO/NATIONAL Garmin StreetPilot c330 Rents for $12/day Reliability: The unit made mistakes on two major turns. Once, it told my wife and me to go right to get to a town—and we knew we had to turn left. It let us pass the other turn altogether before realizing its mistake and irritatingly announcing that it was "recalculating." User-friendliness: The machine gave us ample warning before some direction changes but completely surprised us with others. I was going 60 mph on one road when the GPS told me to turn in 400 feet. I blew right by it. —Michael Mohr

Spin the Globe

1. THE ROUTE "Many people are too ambitious and want to make 14 stops in four weeks. I like to spend at least a week in each place to become really familiar with it." —Tom Michelson, corporate vice president, AirTreks, an airline broker that specializes in around-the-world tickets 2. DOCUMENTS "Before a long trip, you often can't get all of your visas because some are valid only for three to six months. Instead, pick them up at travel agencies along the way. For example, if you need a Cambodian visa, buy it in Thailand." —Alex Boylan, host, Around the World for Free, an online reality series 3. FLIGHTS "Air brokers offer the best prices on around-the-world tickets—your total might be half of what you'd pay if you bought each leg individually. Airline partnerships such as Star Alliance also sell multiflight tickets, but theirs tend to be pricier." —Gayle Forman, author, You Can't Get There From Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World 4. HEALTH INSURANCE "American insurers typically don't cover everything abroad. We bought extra insurance through World Nomads, which has policies ranging in length from one week to six months." —Jennifer Baggett, Amanda Pressner, and Holly Corbett, travel bloggers, 5. ATM CARDS "Find banks with low transaction fees abroad. I opened an account with Capital One because it didn't charge conversion fees for most foreign ATM withdrawals." —Brook Silva-Braga, director, A Map for Saturday, a travel documentary 6. PACKING "Test the weight of your backpack at home: You should be able to wear it around for a half hour without getting sweaty or feeling like your spine is going to crumble." —Doug Lansky, author, First-Time Around the World: A Rough Guide Special 7. GUIDES "Instead of lugging books around, research hotels and sights online and take notes. For free maps, visit the tourism bureau in each city." —Colm Hanratty, editor, 8. ENERGY "Bring bouillon cubes—I drank a cup of broth every day to replenish all the salt I sweated out." —Charley Boorman, coauthor, Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World