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Twitter travel deals: Snooze, you lose

Frugal Travel Guide 2011 » Twitter travel deals: Snooze, you lose

Last year, Robert Reid wanted to book a flight from his home base in New York to Melbourne, Australia. As the U.S. travel editor for travel-guide publisher Lonely Planet Americas based in Australia, he knew he'd find the best travel deals by scouring his favorite websites. But when he checked Twitter, he couldn't believe his luck.

He found a flight on Virgin Atlantic Airways on Twitter that was $300 cheaper than he had seen on any other site.

It turns out that Reid isn't alone. Increasingly, frugal travelers are turning to social networking sites such as Twitter to find the best travel deals on airline tickets, hotel reservations and other travel-related purchases. Twitter members "tweet," or communicate in messages of 140 characters or less. They can follow the tweets of other users who specialize in a particular topic or who offer travel deals and other consumer bargains.

"Social media sites like Twitter are a much more immediate, effective way of snagging sales," says Ann Lombardi, a travel consultant in Atlanta who runs The Trip Chicks. Using a Twitter account is free, and you'll likely find offers that aren't available elsewhere once you get the lingo down, Lombardi says.

Follow on Twitter

If you have a favorite travel website, chances are it's also on Twitter, so it's a good idea to start by following it. Next, you can use Twitter to branch out by following airlines, hotels and even destinations.

Locate deals near you by following your nearest hub, Lombardi says. Simply add the "@" symbol to your hub airport's three-letter abbreviation. For example, if you live in Los Angeles and fly out of LAX airport, you'll want to search for "@LAX" on Twitter. Once you find it, simply click "Follow."

But as you add more travel specialists to your follow list, Lombardi says it's good to organize your Twitter feed into separate groups, setting up specific lists for airlines, hotels, destinations and any other category you intend to use while traveling. If you don't organize your Twitter travel feed, you'll have a hard time sifting through a seemingly endless array of tweets and links, Lombardi says.

Make a Twitter search

While many people just use Twitter to follow, preferring to have an approved list of providers push information to them, there's no reason you can't go out and search for travel deals.

"You can locate coupons or special discount codes by (entering terms) into Twitter's search box," says Lombardi, who advises travelers to refine their searches by adding a hashtag (#) before their query. For example, if you're looking for deals in Atlanta, you might search "#Atlantadiscounts." Or, if you're looking for hotels in Berlin, you could enter "#Berlinhoteldiscounts."

But don't expect perfect results from these searches, says Pete Meyers, vice president of Over There Interactive Inc., a company in New York that runs the travel website EuroCheapo.com.

"We've found that using Twitter purely for search purposes, like searching for cheap flights on Twitter's home page, can be a little daunting," Meyers says.

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