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Cheap world travel

Your mission: To travel the world without breaking the bank. To get the best fare, you must be hardworking and flexible about your travel dates. You can, however, also get a decent air fare if you're lazy and inflexible. Both lazy and industrious methods will net you a cheap, comfortable, trustworthy fare. And your efforts, great or small, will all be directed at a simple goal: a confirmed seat in which you'll be treated with the same indulgent demeanor the service staff provides less savvy customers.

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The lazy approach
Call a discount travel agency. Sometimes referred to as "consolidators" or "bucket shops," they operate by buying tickets in bulk from airlines and reselling them at a discount. You can easily get 50 percent off an international fare on a reputable airline by booking with a consolidator, but domestic ticket prices tend to be similar to airline sale fares. If you're traveling at the last minute, consolidators may be your best bet at getting a low fare. Be forewarned, however -- as a rule, all major changes to discount tickets will trigger additional fees.

If you're a hard-working, inexhaustible sort, you may spend much less. Try the following tips:

  • Call the airlines directly and check current prices.
  • Keep an eye on sale fares and special discounts by checking the Independent Traveler's Bargain Box.
  • Staying over a Saturday night will almost always get you a better rate.
  • Clip coupons. Really.
  • Visit the Web sites of major airlines and sign up for sales exclusively offered through e-mail.

Be your own travel agent
To see the same information that a regular travel agent can access, fire up your browser and check out these two Web sites: Travelocity.com and Expedia.com. You can generate lists of all flights and their nondiscounted fares to your destination. You should always confirm your reservation with a phone call to the airline.

Be a smart shopper
Look up discount travel agencies and consolidators in your local alternative weekly newspaper or Sunday daily. Call them all; fares vary widely from agency to agency. Call a consolidator and compare its fares with your local discount agencies.

Be brave
Investigate the rates of discount airlines as well. Some discount airlines are unreliable, which can lead to frightening and chaotic waits and a not-so-fond memory of your trip on CattleAir.

Be studious
Students are eligible for substantial discounts from STA Travel which have offices in many major cities. StudentUniverse.com also offers excellent deals to faculty members. Student fares are sometimes more expensive than the consolidator fares, so research carefully.

Be a pigeon
Flying as an onboard courier can score you dirt cheap fares of $100 to $700 to South America, Central America and the Far East. Fares to Europe are comparable to consolidator fares and are usually not worth the complete lack of flexibility that accompanies being a courier, except in the summer when fares to Europe typically skyrocket. When flying as a courier, your itinerary is all but written in stone. Because you must meet the courier representative at both departure and arrival, you cannot alter your flight by so much as an hour. Your allotted baggage space is used for express packages so you are only allowed carry-on bags, but often the airline lets you check your bags anyway. Fortunately, the sender, not you, is accountable for the contents of the packages.

There are other agencies as well, and you can get a list of them by joining the Air Courier Association (800) 280-5973 or visiting their Web site.

Be frequent
Frequent flyer mile enthusiasts take note; not all discount fares accumulate miles. Always inquire with both the travel agency and with the airline before you book. If you are an avid mileage junkie, you can almost always find a program that accepts your flight for miles by researching the many airline partner agreements. Most airlines have extensive Web sites, 800-numbers or both that detail their involvements in frequent flier arrangements.

 
-- Updated: Feb. 20, 2004
   

 

 
 

 

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