Need a vacation? Take advantage of BIG travel deals online

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Spring has sprung, and if you’re itching to get away from home for a bit, you’re not alone.

Some unbeatable travel deals have made their way online this week, and whether you are in the mood for some relaxed fun in the sun or an excitement-packed city getaway, there’s something for you.

Hotwire is featuring a slew of hotel deals for travelers looking to escape to warm spring destinations.

You can score a stay in California , Phoenix or Las Vegas for under $70 per night! Visit calming waters in Newport Beach, picturesque golf courses in Scottsdale, Ariz. or win big in the desert oasis of Sin City.

For those hoping to escape the heat, TravelZoo is also offering major discounts this week on travel to New York City, including unforgettable entertainment.

Catch a Broadway show , get brave and try tandem skydiving , or relax with dinner for two on the Upper East Side .

For even more great spring travel deals this week, visit and .

Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Trimming the cost of an Asia trip

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Click photo to enlarge

Planning a trip to Asia this year? Better get booking.

International tourist arrivals to the region increased 11 percent in 2010, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association. And tour operators that cater to U.S. travelers say bookings this year are already well ahead of last year.

“Our most popular 14-day tour of China already has more passengers booked to travel in 2011 than the entire 2010 season,” Marty Seslow, vice president for sales and marketing at Gate 1 Travel, based in Pennsylvania, said a few weeks ago.

That means bargains will be harder to come by for travelers only now planning vacations. Rising jet fuel costs aren’t helping matters. And stronger Asian currencies, from the Taiwan dollar (up about 8 percent against the dollar compared with a year ago, according to Travelex, a currency exchange company) to the Malaysian ringgit (up roughly 11 percent), means Americans have less buying power. (One exception is Vietnam — where U.S. travelers are getting about 12 percent more for the dollar than a year ago.) But it’s still possible to save on your Asian vacation if you plan carefully.

One of the biggest expenses of any trip to Asia, whether a whirlwind tour of China or a beach holiday in Bali, is simply getting there. Discounts, offered sporadically, aren’t as deep as they were a few years ago.

Want to take advantage of the few discounts out there? George Hobica, founder of,

advises: “Sign up for frequent-flier programs, and airline emails, even if you won’t really be doing it for the miles.” Asian airlines often reserve their best fares for their own websites, he said, noting that Singapore Airlines recently slashed fares by $300 to $400 on more than two dozen routes — a sale it disclosed via email to its frequent-flier members.

If you have a stockpile of frequent-flier miles on an airline that doesn’t fly to your Asian destination, you still may be able to use those miles, thanks to airline alliances. For example, American Airlines does not fly to Hong Kong, but Cathay Pacific, a OneWorld alliance member, which has a code-share agreement with American Airlines, does and accepts American miles.

Jetting around Asia

Once in Asia, use budget airlines such as AirAsia or Tiger Airways.

“They have ridiculously low fares,” said Stephanie Trzaska, a U.S. expatriate who has been living in Asia for the past four years, including in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

She recently paid $226 total for round-trip flights on Tiger Airways from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for herself, her husband and their daughter. The same flight on a mainstream airline, she said, would have been at least double that amount.

She added that, Travelocity’s Singapore-based affiliate, can be helpful when searching for budget carriers. But be sure to check the airline site directly before you book in case the fare is lower on the carrier’s site.

Many Asia-bound travelers have several destinations on their itineraries. If you fall into this category, consider an air pass. Cathay Pacific, OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance are among the airlines and alliances that offer passes, which allow travelers to fly to multiple cities within a country or region, often for hundreds of dollars less than if you bought individual tickets. But read the fine print; the tickets often come with booking restrictions and hefty change fees.

One with fewer restrictions, said Simone Farbus, air travel manager at Asia Transpacific Journeys, is the Discover Asia Airpass, operated by SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, which offers flights between 22 Asian destinations, ranging from $145 to $345 per segment.

“There are no minimum or maximum restrictions on the amount of coupons or segments, and there’s also no minimum stay requirement,” she said. “We also like the fact that if circumstances change and the client has to cancel or change their ticket, it will only cost $25.”

One drawback: Because the air pass uses Singapore as a hub, travelers who want to fly to, say, Siem Reap in Cambodia from Yangon, in Myanmar, must first fly to Singapore. But that additional flight can shave a lot off your costs. A trip in late April along that route starts at $980 when using the air pass, versus $2,885 if booked as individual tickets, Farbus said.

One air pass that doesn’t require backtracking is the Discovery Airpass, operated in a joint venture by Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines and Berjaya Air, with flights between Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and many small island resorts in the region. Flights between countries are typically $120 per segment, according to Farbus, and domestic flights range from $65 to $113.

Hotel savings, purchased by Priceline in 2007, is a good place to begin your search. It offers deals at more than 10,000 hotels in the Asia-Pacific sphere, including specially negotiated last-minute rates that can offer savings. For example, a “family” room, which comes with a double and a single bed, at the Yeng Keng Hotel, a 20-room boutique hotel in the City of George Town in Penang, Malaysia, was offered for $118 in mid-March on Agoda versus the promotional rate of 380 ringgit, or about $125, listed on the hotel’s own site.

You can also bid for hotels in major Asian cities on, choosing trip dates, hotel star rating and the general neighborhood you wish to stay in, and then naming your own price — just as you do on the U.S. site but this time in Hong Kong dollars. As on Priceline’s U.S. hotel site, you learn the name of the hotel after you pay.

Package, seasonal deals

Packages that combine air and hotel are another way to save. For example, Singapore Airlines Vacations’ Amazing 5 Nights Bali Package offers five nights at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, round-trip flights from Los Angeles for two, airport transfers and daily breakfast for $3,028, including taxes, in early May. If booked separately, five nights at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel ($640) and the airfare for two ($3,068) came to $3,708 for the same trip.

You’ll get the best rates in the offseason, of course, but there are trade-offs. You can have the Forbidden City practically to yourself in Beijing in December, but you’ll have to bundle up, with daytime temperatures hovering around freezing.

The so-called shoulder season offers something of a sweet spot for travelers looking for deals. For example, the 10-day Taste of China Tour offered by Friendly Planet Travel costs a few hundred dollars less in April, when the weather is milder, than during peak summer season.

“All the components for the various prices are the same,” said Peggy Goldman, president of Friendly Planet Travel. “The only thing that changes is the departure date.”

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Travel deal of the week: Egypt will be a bargain

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The best deal around this summer likely will be a trip to Egypt.

With politics settling down there, companies want to get travelers back to the pyramids — and quick.

Although the U.S. State Department travel warning issued Feb. 18 has not been updated or canceled yet, tour companies are preparing for better days.

One amazing deal is the upscale Cox Kings 10-night “Egyptian Sojourn: Summer Special” private tour — two for the price of one.

The tour visits the Great Pyramids, cruises the Nile River and visits Abu Simbel. Book by May 31 for travel through Sept. 30. Price is $4,995 plus internal air (, 800-999-1758).

Our advice? Keep checking Egypt tour providers and see what deals they’ve got so you can take advantage as soon as the green light to travel appears.

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Travel deals to Florida, New Orleans and Italy

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

The deal: ONE Bal Harbour Resort Spa in South Florida is offering the “Sun, Stay and Shop” package to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Cost: Starting at $395 per night, based on double occupancy.

What’s included: $100 resort credit, daily continental breakfast and complimentary car service to the Bal Harbour Shops (home to 100-plus chic boutiques and gourmet restaurants).

When: Through Dec. 31.

Information: Call 800-847-9222 or visit

The deal: The New Orleans Marriott is offering guests of the French Quarter hotel the opportunity to volunteer with hotel employees with the Spirit to Serve package.

Cost: Ranging from $199 to $209 per night.

What’s included: Overnight accommodations for two; Volunteer Day with Marriott Associates at Habitat for Humanity to continue to rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina; boxed lunch for two on volunteer day at the site; transportation to and from the volunteer site.

When: April 16 or June 10.

Information: Call 888-236-2427 or visit Booking code V5S.

The deal: Sceptre Tours is offering a Six-Night Upscale Tuscany – Venice Vacation package.

Cost: Starting at $899 per person.

What’s included: Two nights at Hotel Bolognese in Venice (two separate guest rooms); two nights at La Fattoria degli Usignoli in Tuscany in a two-bedroom villa; round-trip economy-class airfare to Venice; one-week manual-shift car rental with unlimited mileage and collision damage waiver; and breakfast daily while in Venice.

When: Through June.

Information: Call 800-221-0924 or visit

— Alexis Tarrazi

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