Bar­gains on the f ly for those who try

THE SWITCHED-ON TOURIST

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JODY SPRATT

FIND­ING a bar­gain of any kind used to be con­sid­ered a tal­ent, but bud­get air­lines have opened up a whole new world of bar­gains for the fru­gal trav­eller. No spe­cial tal­ents are re­quired, just a lit­tle know-how and pa­tience.

The more ad­ven­tur­ous trav­eller shuns tour groups and pack­age deals in search of the per­fect, and in most cases cheap­est, air­fare they can find. So proud are they of their achieve­ments they are al­ways ready to let you know how much they’ve saved. Much to your cha­grin, you paid dou­ble for your last hol­i­day and want in on the bar­gains.

So where to be­gin? A plethora of web­sites promis­ing the best deal are j ust a click away and, with a lit­tle sleuthing, you too can brag of bar­gain­hunt­ing prow­ess.

Ac­cord­ing to skift.com — which pro­vides a monthly rank­ing of traf­fic to pop­u­lar online book­ing sites — tripad­vi­sor. com, ex­pe­dia. com, kayak.com and price­line.com are lead­ing the way. But are they the sites with the best deals? Let’s com­pare. A pop­u­lar hol­i­day desti­na­tion for many Aus­tralians is Bangkok. Based on a re­turn flight from Syd­ney booked for a one-week pe­riod early next month, the sites were put to the test with in­ter­est­ing re­sults. The best kayak.com could do was to di­rect trav­ellers to ex­pe­dia.com for $973 di­rect.

Tripad­vi­sor.com of­fered the same air­line and price and also sug­gested a non-di­rect route at $781; and the best non-di­rect price from price­line.com was $1100. When we move away from the big­ger sites and look more from an Aus­tralian point of view, our op­tions widen. Ag­gre­ga­tion sites such as we­b­jet.com.au, zuji.com.au, by­o­jet.com.au and wo­tif.com of­fer vari­a­tions rang­ing from $760 to $1000 for the same desti­na­tion and dates.

So many sim­i­lar of­fers may lead you to be­lieve they are all more or less the same, but one pit­fall to avoid is book­ing fees. Make sure ex­tra charges are not levied on top of the ad­ver­tised flight as there could be as much as $100 dif­fer­ence. Credit card fees can also bur­den the trav­eller with any­where from 1 per cent to 3 per cent on top. In many cases, the desti­na­tion can de­ter­mine whether or not a book­ing fee is charged.

Still con­fus­ing? Vis­it­ing the ac­tual air­line web­sites can some­times be your best bet. Many bud­get air­lines are of­ten ig­nored by the larger book­ing web­sites in favour of full-cost car­ri­ers, but the likes of Scoot Air, Air Asia and Tiger Air can get you part or all of the way to many des­ti­na­tions in and around Aus­tralia. Dur­ing off-peak times, fullser­vice car­ri­ers of­ten have bet­ter bar­gains than ag­gre­ga­tion web­sites — get in early and a great deal can be yours.

Still want more? As you surf through the vast ocean of online book­ing sites, be aware of caching, which al­lows web­sites to use cook­ies to in­fest your com­puter to ei­ther raise fares you are in­ter­ested in or lure you to low fares that don’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist. A good way to avoid this is to delete your tem­po­rary in­ter­net files or sim­ply use a dif­fer­ent com­puter to visit the same site, and com­pare what fares you are shown.

While many com­pa­nies swear this sort of ac­tiv­ity doesn’t ex­ist, it won’t hurt to test this the­ory to get the price you want.

The word ‘‘deal’’ has many mean­ings, but when it comes to book­ing flights online, keep­ing all your op­tions open and a lit­tle dili­gence can se­cure you the best price.

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