Travel Tuesday – Reading Between the (air)Lines… The Truth Behind Low Fares

I am starting a new series on My Living Canvas called Travel Tuesday.  My husband and I are traveling to Europe this fall and I want a venue to get excited about the trip and talk with you about all the planning and preparations that go into perfecting the vacation of a lifetime.  We have not been on a true vacation since our honeymoon in 2005.  This year we celebrate our 5 year anniversary and decided to treat ourselves to Paris and Italy (and likely the last big trip before we think about having babies!)

So that brings us to the inaugural Travel Tuesday.

We actually started dreaming about this trip in 2007 and we have been saving and planning ever since.  When we finally decided on a time frame to go I starteded the planning process and quickly became overwhelmed. We’ve traveled a good bit in the last several years doing missions work but all of those trips were organized for us by the agency we were working with in country.  For example, we didn’t have to negotiate accommodations in country, the sending agency did that part for us.  And on every trip there was a liaison on the ground who led us through the tricky spots of international travel.  So now that we were looking at a big trip to Europe we wanted to find someone who really knew the cities we wanted to visit and get their expertise in planning the trip.

I was sharing all this with my friend Jen and she introduced us to the lovely and talented Julie Gilley who owns and operates My Far and Away Itineraries.  Julie plans and customizes trips to Italy and Paris for groups or individuals.  Having spent a significant amount of time in Italy and Paris, Julie has seen it all and knows what to do, and more importantly, what not to do to ensure a perfect experience.

Which leads me to today’s inaugural topic of Travel Tuesday: securing airfare for travel to Europe, specifically Italy or Paris.  Since Brian and I made our trip intentions official, I have set up several low fare alerts with many popular web based travel web sites.  I have recently been seeing a consistent offer for round trip travel from DC to Venice for under $300.  Sound too good to be true, right?  According to Julie, in many cases, it IS too good to be true.

In her most recent newsletter Julie writes:

While working with a client on a trip to Europe, she sent me an email she received advertising a flight for $225.  Wow–that had to be too good to be true, I thought.  Sure enough, digging deeper uncovered that the seats offered at that rate were sold out, and that the rate did not include all the taxes and fees (totaling to more than $400).  The only other seats available offered by that website were $449, totaling over $800 once taxes and fees were added in.  This is an example of the scam marketing used today to lure travelers into believing they are finding great travel deals.

Searching for the best airfare is the most time-consuming and frustrating part of travel these days.  So why not let a search firm do the work for you.  There are four that I use:  Kayak.com, Fly.com, Bing.com and Momondo.com.  These sites don’t sell plane tickets or book reservations.  Instead, they search hundreds of travel sites at once to find the best rates and then send you directly to the seller’s site to book.

Although each site may be searching in the same pool, they each differ is small ways.  Kayak, for example, will allow you to calculate baggage fees into your ticket fare for a truer cost of the trip.  Bing offers a Price Predictor that uses algorithms to determine whether the fare might rise or fall during the next seven days.  Fly provides a side-by-side comparison of economy and business or first-class seats in case you care to upgrade.  Fly.com also searches international consolidators which negotiate contracts with the airlines to sell tickets below the lowest published price.

Because each site’s technology and partnerships are configured differently, results can vary.  No one site is the one-stop shop for finding the best airfare,   Nonetheless, a visit to these four sites save me hours of clicking through hundreds of others!

Pretty insightful information for anyone scouring the interwebs for flight deals. I know I will be taking her advice as I search for the perfect airfare for Brian and my trip this fall!  You can stay connected to valuable tips and insights into foreign travel by signing up for Julie’s email or following her on Twitter or Facebook.

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