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Air fares, tested web sites, & guidance needed -- Please

Air fares, tested web sites, & guidance needed -- Please

Old Dec 10th, 2002, 04:26 PM
  #1  
Ken
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Air fares, tested web sites, & guidance needed -- Please

Hello, My wife and I, seniors, are traveling to Italy this next mid-September to early October. We plan on leaving from SFO to London (two day stopover for daughter) then on to Venice.

Since we'll finish the trip in Rome, I feel it would be best to fly back to SFO from Rome. However, if prices are better we can fly from Rome to London & then return to San Francisco.

Questions: 1) What is the best time to look for low fares to Europe? 2) Is round trip generally better than open jaws? Some of the web sites I have checked do not even give a multi-destination price.
Prices on sites, at this time, for R/T to London generally are in the $1100-1300 price for each person. Suprisingly, however, Side Step came in on a couple of sites with a price of $715each.
Can someone explain this? That is when the same flight, & same airline, there is a $300-400 difference in fares?

I feel like "jumping" at the $715, but it's been stated by some prices get lower in the spring?
3) We would also appreciate any TESTED web sites for inexpensive air fares (both for going & coming to Europe as well as flying out of London to Italy). I do know of Ryanair for this.

Lastly, I've seen Fodorites talk of Priceline. While a bit "scary" in concept (at least to non computer literates), I would compete in the auction if we can get some good suggestions on Priceline's procedures.

I apologize for the long post, but thank you so much, Fodorites! This site is a blessing, & I'm sure so many people who've planned their vacations from here would agree. Thanks again. Ken L
 
Old Dec 10th, 2002, 05:31 PM
  #2  
Rex
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I'll go out on a limb abd say gran the $715 fare, as long as you are satisfied with the routing, etc.

I have seen the time when I could not get under $800 for September, from the midwest; it's an irritating twist that sometimes fares from the west coast are the same or lower than the midwest - - but I still think it is a good fare.

If you haven't already compared, you might take a look at

www.affordablepoland.com (not just for Poland)

1-888-air-tixx for Joy of Travel - - they might not have a webiste right now - - bad sign?

or

www.consolidatorwebfares.com

Best wishes,

Rex
 
Old Dec 10th, 2002, 09:37 PM
  #3  
up
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for Ken
 
Old Dec 10th, 2002, 09:48 PM
  #4  
John H
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Hi, Ken,

Can't help you on the cost of the flight. But, I have traveled two open jaw flights the last three years (into Paris, out of Barcelona; into Paris, out of Nice) and have checked open jaw flights for this coming year (into Florence, out of Rome) and have not seen any savings on flying into and out of one city vs. open jaw. So, if open jaw is more convenient, I'd say certainly price that option.

Happy travels.

John H.
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 06:53 AM
  #5  
Sue
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Ken - If you are flying to London anyway, I have found that booking an open jaw out of London is usually cheaper than booking a flight that involves a 'stopover' in London. In your case, you would book a simple return ticket SFO-LHR, then book an open jaw out of one of the London airports to Venice Marco Polo, returning from Rome Fiumicino to one of the London airports. (exact London airport depends on airline used.) Note though that this may require an overnight in London on the way back, due to flight schedules. Unless you could stay with your daughter, you'd have to factor accomodation costs in Ldn into the price. Speaking of price, everything I say has the caveat 'usually', and herewith the reason:

The easiest way to explain the price discrepancy in fares is that seats aren't sold, so much as auctioned off in blocks of a couple dozen seats at a time on any given flight. You can't hear the auctioneer chanting or your fellow consumers coming in with bids for seats in any given block, but that is what is happening. Most airlines seem to start the bidding off pretty high, then drop the price a few months out from departure to entice interest. Depending on demand, the price either rises or falls from there. It's a tough call when to tell you to bid because nobody can predict the market from one year to the next. The second complication is that more than one 'auctioneer' handles the bids, and each auctioneer has their own policy. Airlines auction some of their seats directly to the public, but other seats are auctioned by consolidators, who run their own web sites and offer bids that can be both higher and lower than the airlines'. Fun figuring out all this mess, isn't it? : - ) Generally, though, mid-September to early October is still a lovely time, and hence a popular time, to travel, so don't expect to pay the fares you would get if going to London in oh, February.

A word about Ryanair. Many people have used discount airlines very successfully. Personally, I wouldn't rely on a discount airline if my time parameters were tight. Discount airlines carry very little spare capacity; in other words, if there is a mechanical failure, these airlines can sometimes have a tough time rescheduling their passengers. I have heard of a case where the next available flight was 4 days later! This rarely happens, but I still feel happier sticking to the major European carriers. It's purely a personal decision. Good luck with yours.
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 06:54 AM
  #6  
Ira
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Hi Ken,
I have used www.tiss.com (a consolidator) with good results. They only do RT.

I checked SFO/FCO for Sept 14. Your price looks pretty good.
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 07:34 AM
  #7  
Laurie
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Ken -I was unclear what the $715 is for-rt SFO/LHR non-stop? And what is side step?

If it were me, I'd wait and "gamble" prices will fall. Next Sept. is so far away & so much could happen between then & now-to your plans & for flights. Also, you mention you're seniors so are the dates flexible? Going a month later could save some money. I'd set up a fare watcher at Travelocity or any other site that offers one and wait til maybe March. But that's me and I don't want to be responsible for your missing a deal!

Keep in mind the flights from Gatwick to venice are cheap! BA flies that route as does Alitalia and Volare.

Good luck.
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 07:39 AM
  #8  
Mark
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Hi Ken!
You've gotten some good advice so far, but I'll add my 2 cents worth. (Remember that free advice is often worth exactly what you pay for it!)
1. I think you might be a little early in looking for airfares for September, but heck, it never hurts to shop. I just bought tickets to Paris for March, and would have saved about $140US per ticket if we had our act together in August or September. #@!$*&^%$#@!!!
2. I've either purchased or researched several open-jaws tickets, both domestic and to Italy. There is absolutely no constant as to whether open-jaws are more expensive than round-trip or vice versa. In fact, I often found that the open-jaw tickets were CHEAPER than a round-trip. There is no rhyme or reason. Definitely price both when you're shopping.
3. Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Airfareplanet, United, and other web sites DO allow you to price open-jaws itineraries. It's usually labeled "mulitple cities" or "more options" or something similar. Again, if you're bargain-hunting (and who isn't?!), price all your options.
4. I've purchases tickets from Travelocity, Orbitz, and I think Expedia (can't really remember) and have -- KNOCK ON WOOD! -- never had a problem. When in doubt, pay the few extra bucks and get paper tickets for overseas trips. I don't think they're necessary for domestic trips, though.
5. There's a GREAT travel agency outside Seattle, Travel Team (travelteam.com). Earlier this year they helped me with open-jaws tickets to Italy for my brother and his wife. Get their phone number off their web site and call them. They are honest, knowledgeable, and have good consolidator fares to almost all overseas destinations. (I have no financial interest, just a satisfied customer.) I really, really think you should call them before you buy!
Finally, do a search on this forum for a post called "If airlines sold paint." It's a joke, but it truly captures the absurdity of today's airfare pricing madness. Buona fortuna!
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 12:43 PM
  #9  
Rex
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Geez, what typos!

I'd go out on a limb aNd graB the fare!

Just in case that wasn't obvious.
 
Old Dec 11th, 2002, 08:52 PM
  #10  
Ken L
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Great advice and good ideas for me to follow up. While I've not had time yet to check all the web sites & suggestions; I wanted to thank all of you for contributing.
Rex: for his "always helpful attitude", and he must love Italy a lot--it shows in his caring!
Sue: Must know quite a lot about the inner workings of an airline. Can I hire you, Sue, to get us some tickets?
I will price BOTH ways, & just hope the inlaws do not complain too much for staying over. I appreciate the comment too about the majors vs. the "non frills". I suspect though the majors are considerably higher. Will check for sure.
Laurie: The $715 price by Side Step just "pop'd" up while looking at (I think) Expedia. Apparently they can "override" another site & show their comparison prices?? Perhaps it's my 7 year old computer?
Mark: Thanks to you too. I will check out Travel Team in Seattle. We can make our dates more flexible, however, because we are staying at convents & monasteries they want a rather firm arrival & departure date.

So thanks again to you all. You are swell, and your suggestions are much appreciated. Ken Lansing
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 05:39 AM
  #11  
Rex
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You're very welcome, Ken.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 07:14 AM
  #12  
Sue
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LOL Ken, it is good to meet someone with a sense of humour. Sorry if I got carried away...I take it this means you are not ordering my 15 volume giftset of 'sue's thoughts on airfares.'

All the best on your trip. :- )
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 07:57 AM
  #13  
John H
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Ken,

A few follow-on comments:

1) As Mark said, Travel Team is worth checking out. I believe they are the company that Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) uses for the tours his company leads. Have heard good things about them.

2) If you are thinking about going into London and taking a no frills carrier from there (like Ryanair), know that many of them have VERY limited baggage allowances. You could end up spending some/much of your savings on excess baggage charges if you travel "heavy". So, read their rules if you are considering this.

3) On the cheaper sidestep fares -- sidestep is very reliable. Do know that they might be using consolidators. Often consolidator tickets DO NOT allow for the accrual of frequent flyer miles. If these are important to you, be aware of that. (Often the 10-20,000 miles a frequent flyer gets for a trip to Europe from the West Coast compensates for the extra cost of a ticket on which one can earn miles).

4) Like you, I am going to Italy in mid-September to early October next year (Florence and the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria; have already done the other big cities a few times). I'm also in the SF Bay area. Maybe we'll overlap somewhere. Let me know if I can be helpful.

John H.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 12:18 PM
  #14  
Jim
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Ken,
Run,--don't walk! to your computer and book that $715 price.
If you don't, please report back to us on how much more it cost you by waiting.
 
Old Dec 12th, 2002, 02:14 PM
  #15  
Ann
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It never hurts to put in a ridiculously low price on a flight through priceline. Who knows what you might come up with?

As for timing, I find I get the best fares typically about 45 days from my departure date. That said, I also keep my eye out for sales along the way, and grab a good fare if I see it.
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 06:22 PM
  #16  
Ken L
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Hello all responders: Appreciate the additional comments, & I have some follow-up too:
Sue: Can I get that 15 volume gift set of yours through a consolidator?
John H: Did not know that about the baggage allowances. Do you know what it is off-hand? Since you going to Italy in same time frame (if I may ask), do you have tickets yet? When will you look, or whom do you use?

Thanks again to all! Ken Lansing
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 06:26 PM
  #17  
Carolina
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I use travelhub quite regularly and have found them to be excellent value. The service is also very good, I even got good service when I had to cancel a flight earlier this year.
I actually booked my flights to the UK for next June yesterday as their prices are great at the moment.
I am paying $414 + tax from Cleveland to London.
They do open jaw tickets. When you enter your destination, this is transferred to the return part, but if you change this before you click to search, open jaw is possible (I hope that makes sense).
I checked the site earlier, the open jaw you want costs $688.60 + tax (not all dates are available).
SFO - LGW return is $551 = tax
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 06:43 PM
  #18  
John H.
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Hi, Ken,

1) TO check baggage restrictions, generally click on "terms and conditions" and/or look under "baggage" on an airline's web site. (This will usually be available on the home page).

Unfortunately, Ryanair's web site only says that: "You may carry some Baggage, free of charge, subject to our conditions and limitations, which are available upon request from us" -- real helpful, huh? I'd e-mail them.

I flew Easyjet (they are now merging with Go) in September of this year. They allow one piece of checked baggage per person only. So, if you were flying a major carrier from the US with 3 checked bags between the two of you, and then switching to EasyJet, you could be asked to pay a supplement. If you think you might use a discount carrier, I think you should e-mail them directly to confirm carry-on and checked bag allowance and excess charges levied.

2) I can't help you on buying tickets, unfortunately. I used free tickets last year and am doing so again this year. Especially given United's filingIn light of thee industry's woes, I am reducing my frequent flyer balance a bit.

Also, becuase I am tall, if I do buy economy tickets, I usually upgrade to business class. And, low fare tickets are usually not upgradeable, at least on United. (Upgradeable fares are about $1200-$1300 from SF-Italy right now).

Let me know if I can be of further help, Ken.

John H.
 
Old Dec 13th, 2002, 06:44 PM
  #19  
John H.
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Hi, Ken,

1) TO check baggage restrictions, generally click on "terms and conditions" and/or look under "baggage" on an airline's web site. (This will usually be available on the home page).

Unfortunately, Ryanair's web site only says that: "You may carry some Baggage, free of charge, subject to our conditions and limitations, which are available upon request from us" -- real helpful, huh? I'd e-mail them.

I flew Easyjet (they are now merging with Go) in September of this year. They allow one piece of checked baggage per person only. So, if you were flying a major carrier from the US with 3 checked bags between the two of you, and then switching to EasyJet, you could be asked to pay a supplement. If you think you might use a discount carrier, I think you should e-mail them directly to confirm carry-on and checked bag allowance and excess charges levied.

2) I can't help you on buying tickets, unfortunately. I used free tickets last year and am doing so again this year. Especially given United's filingIn light of thee industry's woes, I am reducing my frequent flyer balance a bit.

Also, becuase I am tall, if I do buy economy tickets, I usually upgrade to business class. And, low fare tickets are usually not upgradeable, at least on United. (Upgradeable fares are about $1200-$1300 from SF-Italy right now).

One thing you might do is sign up on expedia and/or travelocity for their "fare watcher" service. This service e-mails you when a fare between cities drops by more than $xx. (I think you can specify the amount -- I use $50).

Let me know if I can be of further help, Ken.

John H.
 
Old Dec 18th, 2002, 06:47 AM
  #20  
Mark
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Topping for Jeff.
 

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