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Traveling on a Whim

It was very tempting for them to simply drop everything, call in sick and head down to the airport to find the cheapest flight to the most exotic place.  But they resisted.  There were definite repercussions and Ken had a strong preference to keep his credit cards free from suffocating debt.  So they took a deep breath and did a bit of research first.
The real question was timing. Would they be hitting peak season (roughly mid-June through August), shoulder season (April through mid-June and September through October) or off-season (November through March)?  This would impact the price of flights and the availability of hotels.  They were willing, in most cases, to fend for themselves when it came to hotels.  But flights were another story.  They were definitely the biggest price tag and it made sense to find the best price.

To do this, they subscribed to alert services of various airlines and travel companies.

Most of them, such as Expedia’s Fare Alert, worked from desktop computers.  Expedia only worked from Windows systems.  Yet others, such as Southwest’s DING! Service, worked from iPhones and could be installed to notify them when a special was being announced.  Also, there were a number of sites available to compare fares between airlines.  These include:
FareCompare.com.  This site allows you to sign up for alerts based on the city you are departing from and the one you are traveling to.  When a fare changes, you can receive an alert.  FareCompare checks three times a day.  Most of the information on this site comes from ATPCO, which consolidates airline information from major computer systems for use by travel agencies.

  • Orbitz.com.  This online travel agency provides an extensive airfare search service, and recently has begun offering alerts.  The number of airlines is limited, however, and you can receive alerts based on a single trip.  This, however, can work when you are concentrating on a single destination.
  • Travelocity.com.  Travelocity’s fare alert covers domestic and international travel, and checks daily to see if there are any changes to the itinerary you enter.  The fares are checked just once a day, however.
  • SmarterTravel.com.  This service provides an extensive list of last-minute specials, including weekend deals.

These sites and their alert services allowed Laura to find a cheap flight.  In many cases the dates of their travel were flexible, so this allowed them to travel to their destination at a lower price.  They then focused on the location, the hotels, hostels and private homes in the area, and the sights they wanted to see. Recently they’d just begun using Airbnb to find rooms in private homes and loved the experiences.  In their minds, the exception was the first night when they might reserve a room to get a good night’s sleep. But mostly, they checked online to see the rates of the visiting country, which usually was overpriced.  And began packing early.

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