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General airfare question

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Feb 15th, 2016, 05:49 PM
  #1
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General airfare question

Hello all - this is a general question about air travel but I thought I'd post it here with the hope of getting some good advice. I am planning a trip to Switzerland & Italy in mid-September of this year and of course (like everyone else!), I am on a budget. Should I book my lodging first or buy the plane tickets first? No matter which order I do this, I will have everything paid for (lodging and airfare) by the first of June. That will give me 3 months cushion prior to the trip. Just wondering how most veteran travelers handle this type of thing, and how long it is safe to wait before booking certain things. Thanks very much for any input.
MinnieC is offline  
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Feb 15th, 2016, 06:11 PM
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You really need to be looking at both simultaneously. I never book the hotels until I've booked the airfare, but at the same time, if your dates are somewhat flexible you might find once you've mapped out your itinerary it works best on certain dates and if you already have the flights then you are locked in. So I figure where I want to go and for how long, then I do up an itinerary. Then I look to see about the accomodations - once I have a draft of the trip I book the flights. Then I book the hotels, and then I fill in with specifics of each place and day trips, etc.

You do not need to pay for accommodations ahead of time. I definitely book ahead (at least three months, usually more) but don't pay until I've stayed. Sometimes you can get a slightly better rate if you pre-pay ahead but I like the flexibility of not doing that (plus if for some reason you have to cancel the trip you haven't spent all that money). I use booking.com almost exclusively but will look at other booking sites. I find it much easier to book, but also to change, accommodations with them then with individual hotels. Sometimes once I start planning my day to day activities I decide I'd prefer a different location or different hotel. Once you've been using them a while you get the 'genius' discount which is usually only 10% but still. I'm a huge fan of booking.com. I don't believe you get any better room, or service or anything else buy booking directly with the hotel.
isabel is offline  
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Feb 15th, 2016, 06:11 PM
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I usually book lodging first, as long as there is a good cancellation policy. Good, budget lodging sells often sells out before good flight prices are available. I might reserve and extra day or so, and adjust once my flights are bought.
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Feb 15th, 2016, 06:12 PM
  #4
 
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You should be watching airfares now and be ready to pounce as soon as you see a fare you can live with.

We generally wait to reserve hotels until our air is set but always pick out hotels in advance and just wait to hit the button.
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Feb 15th, 2016, 06:20 PM
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You have a general budget. if you can make lodging reservations that you can change or cancel without charge, go ahead and reserve. If you watch air fares and see one you are comfortable with, book it. Especially if exact travel dates are important to you. Then make adjustments to your lodging plans if you must, to fit your budget.

You can track airfares for a while using kayak or Justfly .com Recent articles I 've read say the best time to book is about 3 months ahead, especially if you aren't traveling in peak vacation times. But I have usually just tracked fares for a month or so, and pulled the trigger when I saw one I felt good about.
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Feb 15th, 2016, 06:26 PM
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We always make hotel reservations second as cheaper flights might dictate changes. This may change if you have to be a certain town or a certain time, or there is a place where you want to stay and you can juggle the rest of itinerary if necessary.

Unless you are going a summer resort town during July and August or there is a popular event like Semana Santa in Seville at Easter, I see no reason to book ahead.

Unless there are mitigating circumstances there are more hotel rooms than flights.
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Feb 15th, 2016, 07:53 PM
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All things you want paid for refundable? For airfare, it is unavoidable due to insane pricing of refundable fares, but for hotels there is much less difference between the refundable and non-refundable prices. For various reason, I have had to cancel trips once about every ten years. Since I book refundable hotels, I haven't lost any money with hotels. For flights, even if non-refundable, the money I paid for remained credited to my account for 1 year since booking and with ticket change fee, about 80% of the original airfare is reusable for the next trip.

If I see non-refundable fares still available at hotels, I would book non-refundable booking close to my departure and then cancel my existing refundable bookings.

I am not sure what 3-months cushion is about.

I would look at the airfare, accommodations, and ground transportation at the same time. If you are paying for all part of your trip, I think what you want to minimize is the overall cost.
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Feb 15th, 2016, 08:06 PM
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Unless there is a definite hotel, the first place I go to is booking.com. The reviews are excellent, and there is no advance payment. Rooms can be booked up to a year in advance with changes and cancellations are done very easily. Flights I book last after the entire itinerary is set.
RonZ is offline  
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Feb 15th, 2016, 10:43 PM
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When my dates are fixed I first book the flight then hotels.
Whathello is offline  
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Feb 15th, 2016, 11:28 PM
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This is what can happen if one books flight then hotels: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...r-who-knew.cfm
or this
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...y-3-nights.cfm Verona during Opera season
greg is offline  
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Feb 16th, 2016, 04:39 AM
  #11
 
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If you book your hotels with a free cancellation option (which usually costs more) you can adjust the dates if airfares dictate a change in plans. I always choose to pay the free cancellation price, because I have often had to tweak an itinerary. One of the reasons I use www.booking.com a lot is that they have a "manage your booking" page that makes it very easy to cancel or change dates.

That said, I sometimes do book the flights first and then the hotels, but I check the hotel situation before doing that.
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Feb 16th, 2016, 06:43 AM
  #12
 
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This really doesn't fit your question, but falls under "good to know"

Book a multi city airline tickets to avoid backtracking . That means flying Into one city (let's say, Geneva) and flying up of another (let's say, Rome). This is usually no more expensive than a round trip ticket (this is Not 2 one way tickets which IS more costly.)
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Feb 16th, 2016, 06:52 AM
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In my view you need to be flexible on all fronts. For example, what if it's cheaper to fly somewhere else on your itinerary than to the city you've already picked? What if flying into Rome and back from Zurich turns out to be cheaper than the reverse, but meanwhile you've locked into hotels using the original plan?

What if it's hundreds of dollars (I assume you're in North America) cheaper to fly into a third place, say like London, and then use cheap intra-Europe flights, or the train, to get to where you would have landed originally? The dollar savings might be significantly greater than the cost of revising hotel plans after you've made them.

It's always a case of balancing cost vs. time vs. hassle. In mid-September a round trip ticket from, say, Chicago (don't know where you are so I'll plug it in) to, say, Rome, is around $1420 using a nonstop flight with United. But on the same days, a flight that stops and changes planes in Istanbul, using Turkish Airways, is $860, but gets you to Rome five hours later, and you have to scurry around Ataturk Airport for a couple of hours. Is a savings of $560 worth the hassle and time? You could apply that savings to hotel charges or taxis instead of buses, whatever.

The point being, more information is better. Think outside the box, do "what if" exercises with your plans, so that when you DO pull the trigger you won't be shooting in the dark.
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Feb 16th, 2016, 10:41 AM
  #14
 
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I always book my plane tickets first as that is the most important thing to me and sets the parameters of my stay. I don't see any reason to book a hotel first, there are always many places I can stay, I'm never wedded to one particular hotel. Sometimes I need to play around with the dates I move between cities, also, for various reasons.

I rarely prepay hotels anyway, so not sure why you are doing that. Once in a while I do if I really get a big discount that way, but it's not common.

I plan my trips some months in advance so have never had a problem with not being able to book any hotel in my price range. I know enough to check out special events, etc ahead of time even before I book anything, including air.
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