Americans visiting London these days may feel as destitute as the young Oliver Twist. And with $400-a-night hotel bills, $80 cab rides and $8 Tube tickets, they won't need Fagin's band of pickpockets to empty their wallets.
For their predicament, tourists can mostly blame the woeful U.S. dollar, which, after sliding 14% in two years, was recently worth half a British pound.
Another culprit is increasing costs in London, judged the world's second-most-expensive city by Mercer Human Resource Consulting in New York. (Moscow was No. 1; New York, No. 14.)
But if Americans plan carefully, they need not scratch the British capital off their 2008 travel lists. And there are new reasons to go: the redesigned St. Pancras Station, now home to the Eurostar and boasting fresh-food markets and soaring architecture; a reimagined London Transport Museum; and a big British Airways terminal, opening in March, that may reduce hassles at Heathrow.
10 DO'S . . .
Here are 10 tips for saving on a London vacation, plus five budget-busting mistakes, all gleaned from a recent trip, travel agents and other experts:
1.Go in winter, spring or fall. By avoiding the summer peak season, which many carriers define as late May through the first week of September, you'll save hundreds on airfare. And because theaters, museums and many other pastimes are indoors, you'll still have fun.
In a recent spot-check of flights online, the lowest LAX-London round-trip fare was $1,200, including taxes and fees, for nonstops in summer, compared with less than $700 for travel into March. Expect to pay $50 to $200 more in April and early May, said Brian Clewer, owner of the Continental Travel Shop, an air consolidator and travel agency in Santa Monica.
To snag the best price or even to get a seat, book way ahead. Most fliers are buying international tickets more than three months before departing, said Amy Ziff, editor at large for Travelocity.com.
Don't count on fares dropping in 2008, experts told me, even though more airlines will fly to London. That's because Heathrow and Gatwick have limited slots; oil prices remain high; and fuel surcharges of up to $220, along with taxes and fees, already add hundreds to each transatlantic ticket.
2. Book packages or group tours. Packages combine flights, hotels and often airport transfers and other costs into one price; tours typically add guides, meals, ground transportation and more. Either option can save you money, because operators get volume discounts and may buy British currency in advance to cover expenses. To book a package or tour, see a travel agent or check websites of travel sellers and major airlines.
Here are some good links:
Booking Strategies Large Internet Sites Student and Budget Specialists Domestic Bucket Shops Ethnic and Foreign Bucket Shops Courier Flying Round-the-World Tickets Charters Bumping To Gateways Glossary
15 Tips for Cheap Travel:
- Ask What's Fixed and What's Flexible
- a. How to Find Cheap Tickets and b. How to Find Cheap Plane Tickets
- How to Find Cheap Lodging
- Consider a Package Deal
- Creating a Travel Budget
- Doing Research Before You Go
- How to Save at Home While You're Away
- What to Pack
- How to Get to (and from) the Airport
- Enjoy Yourself While You're There
- How to Exchange Money
- How to Get a Cheap Rental Car
- Getting Around
- How to Find Cheap Eats
- Getting Home- VAT Taxes, Ordering Photos, and More
Wouldn't it be nice to just go to one website or call just one phone number and find the cheapest plane ticket? Maybe someday this will occur. For now, the best way to find a cheap plane ticket is to spend some time doing research and checking multiple websites. I've divided this section into "fixed vs. flexible." (If you haven't read the post on planning your vacation you can find it here.)
If you have Fixed Dates and a Fixed Place: (i.e. you want to go to Boston from Washington DC on July 3rd to July 10th)
When you have fixed dates and a fixed destination the best option is to use Aggregators. These sites search hundreds of sites find the cheapest flight out there. My favorites are:
It doesn't hurt to also try a few traditional online travel agencies including: Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity. If you use these be sure to book through the airline's own website though (see tip 3 below)
If you have Fixed Dates and a Fixed Place, and your dates are within the next few weeks also check Site59 which finds package deals within the next two weeks. Even if you don't need a hotel at your destination, sometimes it finds an entire package cheaper than you can find a flight alone.
If you have Flexible Dates: (i.e. you can go anytime in July or you can leave within 1-3 days of a particular date)
If your dates are within 1-3 day spread (i.e. you can leave July 1st, 2nd, or 3rd): Use Kayak
If your dates are very flexible (i.e you can leave any time from now until July): Fare Compare, Farecast, and Travelocity — All have searches available by the month
No one wants to pay more than they have to for air fare. But next time, look around. The guy in the seat next to you might have bought a ticket that cost $100-more than yours; the woman on the other side of you might have paid $50-less.
What to do? Start by going to FareCompare.com. And Ill walk you through the process.
How to Buy Right: An Example
Got this letter awhile back; lets solve this problem, so youll learn how to solve your own.
"Looking for Senior rate (if available) for travel about 6-months from now; leaving Harrisburg, PA on Jan. 30, 2007 to Kelowna, British Columbia, and returning on 2-6-07 … do you have available itineraries?"
First, the bad news:
- Medium-sized cities: these are often more expensive than larger hub cities
- Lack of competition: this can mean higher-prices for smaller-cities
- Senior fares: these are disappearing; when they are offered, such fares are typically not the cheapest (though the tickets are usually fully-refundable and require no advance-purchase)
Now, the good news:
- Travel is 6-months away; plenty of time to make the best air fare purchase
STEP 1 - Go to FareCompare.com. Enter the above cities.
STEP 2 - Check for Volatility - Notice the fares that appear on your screen may look high, but again, thats not unusual for smaller markets. Also look at the "Lowest Fare Last 30 Days"; fares between these 2-cities are likely flat (not volatile).
STEP 3 - Check the Departure Month Star-Rating
A 4-star rating means buy now; 3-stars is also a good rate, and 2-stars is so-so. When I originally looked up this fare, I saw that that travel departing in February had a 2-star rating ($718). But travel departing thru December had a 3-star rating ($559).
A December price-break is not unusual and indicated the airlines were managing this market in five month increments. This quick look gave me an inkling that we might want to wait a few months before purchasing a fare.
STEP 4 - Check the Fare Trend
Always look at our price-trend graph; after enter your city pair and click to find the fare, this chart is on the lower-left of your screen. In this particular case, I saw the trend was moving downward, to lower prices. Thats a good sign, obviously. If we wait a bit, at least we are on the proper price trajectory.
STEP 5 - Check the Previous Year
Just above the Fare Trend Chart, you'll see the words Advanced Historical Graphs; click that to see previous months, even years. Again, in this particular case, I saw some nice sales occurred (down to the $400 range) and the prices trended down from November to December of the previous year. You cant always count on that, but generally its a good indicator.
STEP 6 - Sign Up for FareCompare's FREE Email Alerts
You'll see this right on our homepage; it takes about 20-seconds to sign up and we will alert you to the best prices for the cities your interested, as soon as that information becomes available. And no one, not even the airlines, will get you that information faster. We guarantee it.
BOTTOM LINE: The buyer should wait a few months before purchasing these tickets, as the price will likely go down.
- If a buyer can be flexible on travel dates, its easier to find cheaper fares
- If a buyer can be flexible on airports, again, its easier to find cheaper fares
With gasoline prices going through the roof and increased costs due to new security measurements, airline ticket prices have risen drastically in the last few years. Flights that were once under two hundred dollars can now cost up to three times as much as before. However, it is still possible to find a cheap ticket if you are willing to be flexible and to do a little research.
The Internet is a great tool for helping you find affordable deals that leave you with a little extra cash to spend on your vacation. Today�s most popular way to locate cheap tickets is through online discount sites like Expedia and Hotwire. These two sites and others like them are devoted to finding discount travel rates on cars, flights and hotels. You can type in a departure and arrival city and the dates you want to travel, and the site will search its databases and bring up a list of budget rates.
The more flexible you are, the greater your chances of finding a cheap ticket. There is a catch, however, when you book flights on Hotwire or Expedia. Most of the discount rates are available on unpopular flight times, typically with early morning or late night departures or arrivals. Also, if you have set dates and times that cannot be adjusted, it can be hard to find a cheaper rate. These website services work best if you have a two or three day window for both your departure and your return. That way, the site can choose from a wider variety of flight combinations, giving you the lowest ticket prices available.
Another cheap ticket seller on the Internet is Priceline.com. This website allows you to enter your travel dates and to offer your own ticket price. If your price is accepted by an airline, you can purchase the ticket at that guaranteed rate. This process can several hours, and if you receive the price you proposed, you are obligated to purchase the ticket. Because of this, you are not able to choose which airline you use. Though Priceline is not as flexible as other ways of purchasing cheap tickets, sometimes you can get amazing deals that you can�t find any other way. Travel sites like Priceline and Hotwire do offer another advantage in addition to cheap airplane tickets. They also offer the options of booking hotels and car rentals at the same time as your flight. When you book all of your travel needs at once, you can save even more on your expenses, leaving you more money to spend once you reach your destination.
There are an abundance of websites out there to help you find the best deal for a flight. There are also additional things that you can do to leverage these tools more than the average traveler. Here are some examples:
Buy your flight 21 - 45 days in advance. Other than last minute deals, you will pay more as your date to leave approaches. Sometimes buying too soon also brings penalties, shoot for the middle.
Unsold seats are drastically discounted 3 days before departure.
Never, ever fly on weekends!
Try not to fly within 7 days before or after a holiday. Check your destination's local holidays and festivals as well.
If you are buying a round trip ticket, staying longer than 90 days usually results in a higher fare.
Search for tickets after midnight EST in the middle of the week. This is when airline databases are updated and sometimes you can grab a cheap ticket that has been returned back to the system.
Take a bus or hitch a ride to the closest major airport hub, rather than leaving from your smaller hometown.
Make sure your luggage is not over sized or overweight. Check individual airline sites for rules.
Flights with longer layovers usually have lower price tags.
Fly into the largest city on the continent you are visiting. Take budget airline hops or travel overland from there to reach your destination.
Always use frequent flier programs. It may take years, but the miles DO add up and may come in handy in the future.
Being as flexible as possible can get you a cheaper ticket. Do not specify flight times, number of stops, etc.
Finding cheap airline tickets online is a tricky thing. Maybe you will find a cheap deal at Travelocity and start to believe that it is the place to get the cheapest airline ticket, only to find a cheaper airline ticket at Expedia, albeit a month later. You will not be surprised at this if you are aware of the functioning of online airline ticket vendors. Travel agencies can�t compete with online air ticket sellers. Online companies purchase tickets in bulk (read after a big bargain) and sell the tickets online for a margin. Therefore travelers get cheaper-than-at-agents tickets. But again, no online ticket seller will be able to give you cheap airline tickets all the time. While planning a trip, consider visiting at least three of the websites listed below.
- Travel on Wednesdays - it can give you cheaper tickets.
- Consider connecting flights – often it can get you cheaper tickets than a direct flight.
- Check flights to a second airport in the city you are visiting. However don't rely on this tactic too much as you may end up paying more than you can afford for traveling from the airport to your destination.
- It is real hell continuously keeping a tab on airline ticket fares. If you are lucky enough, you may get some last minute offer – a first class journey at cargo shipping price.
# Stay over a Saturday night. The famous Saturday rule, requiring a stay of at least one Saturday night, can help with ticket costs. For longer visits, of course, this isn�t a problem, but if you are only planning to be somewhere only for a couple of days, say on a business trip, a Saturday is less likely. But be creative: perhaps you can include a personal day (or two) on that trip, letting you stay over a Saturday and have a little R&R (catch up with an old high school chum, or just relax in the hotel hot tub) � then you can fly back not only refreshed, but with a few more bucks in your wallet (or department�s budget) as well.
# Fly on weekdays. Lowest fares are usually found on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday flights. Monday and Friday flights are usually higher-priced (if you�re wondering why, just remember that Monday and Friday are around the weekend, so often higher in demand for departures and returns). However, Saturday flights sometimes have discount fares, but the rule is weekends are more expensive than weekdays.
Always looking for the cheapest way to do things, I searched several websites that claimed to have cheap international airfare. The cheapest from Traverse City, Michigan to Quito, Ecuador, was $1720. Out of curiosity, I checked Miami to Quito, and it was only $404. Airfare from Traverse City to Miami was $299. Book two separate flights and I could save more than $1000! The discount sites aren't set up to check in this way, so you have to do this on your own.
We've found that travel agencies just can't compete with the discount ticket websites. You can search Google ("cheap airfare Europe", for example), or go straight to one of the well-known sites, like Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets, Hotwire or Priceline. Doing a quick search for the cheapest airfare from Tucson, Arizona, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, using the five sites mentioned, here's what I just found: They ranged from $1221 down to $873 for the lowest fares, with fares as high as $3728. Hotwire happened to be the cheapest, but they were the worst of the five when I searched for a domestic flight earlier. You cannot say which service will find the cheapest international airfare from week to week. My number one money-saving tip is to always check several websites when shopping for inexpensive flights.
Air courier opportunities are becoming rarer, due to the recent heavier regulation of international flights, but there still are opportunities. Find out more at The Air Courier Association Website (www.aircourier.org). The ACA can also help you get really cheap plane tickets by way of airline ticket wholesalers, discounters, last minute specials, and stand-by travel.
When searching the discount websites, try several different departure and return dates if you can. The difference of a day or two can save you a lot. There's little logic to airfare pricing, so don't try too hard to figure it out. Just be aware that if you leave on Friday instead of Wednesday (or vice-versa), you may save $100. Check the boxes that say "any time" for departure and "2 or more connecting flights". Even if you aren't sure that you want to leave at midnight, see what your options are. The savings might change your mind. When search criteria allow you choices, first take the ones that are the least restrictive for the airlines. If the savings aren't enough, you can always book first class, direct flights, or whatever you prefer. Buying your plane tickets two weeks in advance is usually cheaper. There can be a dramatic difference (but not always) if your trip is over thirty days. You may want to cut it from 32 days to 30 to save hundreds of dollars on your fare. Play with the dates. You never know what you might discover.
1. Ask the ticket counter agent nicely. Does this work? 99% of the time, absolutely not. In most cases, on most airlines, the ticket agent is not authorized to upgrade passengers unless you have frequent flyer status and even with frequent flyer status, you will most likely need to use miles to get your upgrade.
2. If you are late because of a competitor, make sure the airline is aware of that. They may want to give you a good impression of their airline, especially after your bad experience with one of their competitors. This is also dependent on seats being available and with today's oversold flights, don't expect much here.
3. Use your connections. If you just so happen to be related to a family member or are friends with an airline employee, you certainly could ask for an upgrade, but keep in mind that airlines are in the business of making a profit, and if there are upgrades to sell, or loyal frequent flyers to keep happy, don�t expect to be first in line for an upgrade. It can work if flights are not full and seats are empty in first class.
4. If you happen to be a travel agent, show your ID. Again, if and only if seats are available will an airline offer a free upgrade and even though a travel agent might have some cloat, you always have to assume that frequent flyer status will help more than just travel agent status. If you have both, you will only improve your chances of an upgrade. It certainly does not hurt to try.
5. Ask a flight attendant for an upgrade if you see a seat available. Typically flight attendants never upgrade passengers and simply asking for an upgrade is not going to work. However, there are legitimate reasons why a flight attendant will upgrade you.
- Consider flying into European hubs like London and Paris. There is a lot more competition going to those cities, and frequently better deals to them from other continents. Get a Eurail Pass and see the continent from there.
- If you do make it to a European hub city, use some low cost Euro airlines to fly around Europe. Flights as low as 1 pound per flight do exist!
July 10, 2003 - America West�s online site, like most of its rivals, used to ask prospective passengers when they wanted to travel and returned a price quote accordingly. Unlike most of its rivals, however, America West relies heavily on leisure travelers. So when customers said they wanted an easier way to search by price, the airline listened. Price-conscious customers were frustrated by how long it took on traditional systems to hunt for low fares. So the airline offered a different method: Choose your fare, then browse the available dates. �Before, when you picked a market you�d have to go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to pick a lowest price,� says Chris Stanley, America West�s director of Internet distribution. �This essentially allows you to search by price.�