Surf and Save
By Paul Gerald
JUNE 21, 1999: Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that advice for summer travel plans would start with, "Okay, get on your computer ... "? But the Internet is an irresistible force, so you might as well go with it, especially if you plan on going somewhere in the real world. So here's a quick list of some Web sites that might be helpful as you make those get-out-of-town plans.
Several of these are auction sites. As Internet auctions explode in popularity one count puts the number of auction sites now online at over 500 it only makes sense that things like airline tickets and cruises start showing up on the block.
But just because it's auctioned off doesn't mean it's well-priced. Compare costs through travel agents before you get all cyber-giddy and start typing in credit-card numbers. Besides, what you're usually getting with auctions as with these last-minute "cyber-savers" are fares or packages that can't sell well on their own, like a New Orleans timeshare in August or a ticket to London in January.
Still, and as always, with a little flexibility and legwork on your part, summer savings can be had.
kasbah.com Your first decision, of course, is where to go. This is a database of hand-picked Web sites on just about any place in the world. It doesn't claim to compile all the information in the world, it just looks for good sites that have it and lets you know where those sites are.
travelocity.com and expedia.com Tell either of these places where you are, where you want to go, and when, and they tell you who can get you there the cheapest. But what's best about them is that they'll let you sign up for an e-mail service to track fares to five cities you'd like to visit. If the fare from, say, Memphis to Honolulu changes dramatically, you get an e-mail telling you so.
priceline.com Sort of a reverse auction site, it lets you name your price for airline tickets and hotel rooms (and mortgages and other financial services, too). Catches include lots of restrictions, like maybe leaving at 6 a.m., and having to go through about 37 clicks before your request is submitted.
AdventureBid.com Auctions off trips all over the world in multiple categories, from "Bed and Breakfast Birding" in Montana to kayaking in Alaska to African safaris.
luxurylink.com Catering to the "sophisticated traveler," with weekly auctions of such fare as "an exquisite private villa in Jamaica" and "a double five-star weekend in Manhattan."
onsale.com Massive auction site with a travel department featuring big-name cruises and airfares. A special feature is the one-hour Express Auction, where all bidding starts at $1.
skyauction.com Another catch-all site which includes student-travel deals. Also features an AutoBid option that "always wins," as the site says, since it increases your bid when you get outbid.
goinggoinggone.com Specializes in international airfares, especially to Europe.
travelbids.com You book your reservation, post it on this site, and travel agents bid on it, thereby lowering your price. Since you've already done the legwork, they pass on part of their commissions to you as savings. Claims 6 to 12 percent savings and then some.
bid4travel.com This one, on a recent visit, had one cruise and a few dozen hotel/resort offerings, all in either Florida or the Caribbean not your typical summer destinations, since it's plenty hot already in Memphis. There are categories for Europe and Canada, however, so it's worth a check.
ticketplanet.com These folks specialize in multi-stop, transglobal airfares. They say they offer any combination of cities; one example is Boston-London-Johannesburg-Malaysia-Tokyo-Los Angeles-Boston for $1,876.
cheaptickets.com Focusing mainly on airfares to Europe, it shows some decent fares, like $599 roundtrip from Atlanta to Paris before August 31st, but that was traveling from one Tuesday to the next Tuesday only.
airtreks.com Another around-the-world ticket service, but this one also has "circle the Pacific" fares.
toptravelsites.com A partnership site shared by several travel agencies specializing in the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand. One is a company offering tours in Africa, the Galapagos Islands, and other such exotic places.
gorp.com Simply the greatest site on the Web, it stands for Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. No matter what your activity or destination are, GORP has info, links, articles, and advice from fellow travelers.
But really, isn't getting outside and enjoying nature what summer and travel are supposed to be all about? So get off the computer and see you in the sunshine.
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