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I always travel on tour and would like to .......

I always travel on tour and would like to .......

Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:17 AM
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I always travel on tour and would like to .......

go solo. I know this may sound dumb, but I've never booked anything on my own for fear of being asked my credit card # when booking on the internet. For airfare, i have always paid $800.00 to 1.000. I've read that some of you out there pay sometimes 1/2 of what I have paid. The only times I can travel within a year is the 3rd week of March, JUne-July. This is considered high season. Any pointers as to how much in advance I should book tickets. What to do first- air or hotel??? I would love to do what all of you out there are doing, but not knoing how intimidates me.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:25 AM
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ALL of us had to take the plunge and book over the Internet at some point, so don't feel dumb! Until you feel comfortable giving your credit card number to "clearinghouse" type Websites (lowestfares.com, cheaptickets.com, etc.), stick with the official Web sites for the airlines you wish to use and book online with them--chances are you will STILL get lower fares than calling them (though not always). I do both: I search the clearinghouse Web sies, search the airline sites directly then call for prices. The best one wins! As for which to do first, hotel or air. After checking for availability and price for air fare, but BEFORE booking the flight, I check for hotel availability and book the hotel because you can cancel them without penalty (in most cases) if you do so at least 24 hours out. Don't want to be stuck with a non-refundable airline ticket and no place to hang your hat when you arrive! It's a little bit of homework, but isn't the search part of the fun? Good luck!
Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:29 AM
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March is still low season and airfares from Chicago at worst should run under $600 and sometimes as low as $400. It depends on your timing -- I think those are good prices, but then there are those Chicago fodorites that get fares of $300. USD! I probably have slow relexes But I also don't travel on certain airlines either because of their reputation or because of FF miles.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:36 AM
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A couple quick points.
You don't always HAVE to actually book your flight via internet. Sometimes the fare is similar whether calling the 800 number or booking online. Sometimes the internet fare is cheaper. If you're still nervous about online security (an issue which has not been resolved as yet) do your searching on the web then call to book. The biggest advantage which internet-savvy travellers have is access to better, more comprehensive information. Unadvertised (in traditional media) deals, short term deals, etc. Being able to book online isn't a primary advantage.
High season fares to Europe tend to be dramatically higher than low season fares. Sometimes you can stumble onto something good for June. July-Aug are really tight.
There are lots of places to start looking for fares such as hotwire.com, smarterliving.com, and the individual airline websites. There's another post here on this board about consolidator fares which can be cheaper. But you can't book well in advance.
Choose your destinations first.
Then work on your airfare, it's the most restrictive element usually.
Then work on hotels.
Other things like cars and restaurants and tours are easiest to arrange and can be saved until last.

Where do you want to go?
The more specific you are, the more help you'll get from folks at this forum. Best wishes....
Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:47 AM
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Hi Veronica, I think you will be fine,,,we all have to start somewhere, might as well start now, yes? One advantage of booking on the net with airlines web sites, is the extra miles some airlines give you for booking on line, eg Delta gives 1000 ff miles for booking on their site. Plus this month, they are offering 4500 etra miles as a promotion for booking on line...Good deal IMO, The only drawback you need to have a FF number.
I also think the sites are getting more user friendly. Delta also has a schematic where you can see available seats and pick them....I think it is wonderful! Try it, youll like it!
Old May 2nd, 2001, 07:58 AM
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Diner's Club called yesterday. Apparently someone in Florida ran a $1500 charge at a restaurant on a card with my number. The next day, a $7000 charge was attempted. Someone had obtained my number and manufactured a counterfit card. I'm not liable for these fraudulent charges. I like that DC checked up on them so quickly. The kicker? The "bad guys" probably got the number one of the "old fashioned" ways. I use my VISA when I charge things over the internet.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 08:26 AM
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Paying on the interent is actually much safer than other things we do with our credit cards!

how many times have you given your card number on the phone??

How long did the waiter disappear with your card the last you paid for a meal in a restaurant?
Old May 2nd, 2001, 08:58 AM
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Your credit card number is always at risk: Steve's and ohoh's examples; carbons and credit slips from manual card machines; dumpster diving (at businesses AND residences); being overheard while giving your card number over the phone, or watched while you punch it in; etc.

Obviously, if your card or card number is stolen, you have limited liability; don't forego the convenience and discounts of the internet.

Other things to lower airfares: fly mid-week (Tues-Thurs); avoid holiday weekends (especially 3 day varieties); check for nearby airports, not just the one closest (Newark might be cheaper than JFK; Brussels might be cheaper than Paris); look for hubs with lowcost local airlines (fly Gigundo Airline to London, then on ryanair to Dublin)

As you can see, going solo/independent is work (that's why you pay the tour company as much as you do; THEY do the work); you can't call Delta and negotiate a deal for 3000 tickets, so it means checking websites, the newspaper and calling travel agents and airlines. Once you've got tickets (get tickets as soon as you find a cheap airfare, even if it's 6 months in advance), then start looking for places to stay. Look for B&Bs, self-catering apartments, inns, etc. as well as hotels.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 09:11 AM
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Veronica: If it makes you feel better, I've never booked anything over the internet. I've used my credit card to buy books and office supplies over the net, but never for travel purposes.
I do a lot of research for my trips on the net, but I feel much better calling and/or faxing hotels (I get a fax back which I carry with me in case there's a problem when I arrive). For flights, I scout out the best prices, then call my consolidator, who always does the same or better. You don't have to be using your credit card on the internet in order to get the best deals.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 09:55 AM
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Hello Veronica, Congrats on your "about to be" NEW experience of self booking! We are here to help you.
In terms of airfare, you have to shop around a little, several times I've checked online, last trip, the best price I got was from a travel agent who booked though a consolidator, sometimes I just call the airlines repetedly... you'd be surprised how much the prices can change from one hour to the next.
I always book air first and then hotels. Tips, lower fares can be gotten if you don't fly direct and don't leave on a Friday, or Saturday or fly home on a sunday, try a Wed. to Wed flight.
For booking things, Whenever possible I make my initial hotel inquireies via email.. I chose my hotels based on reviews in reputable guidebooks (prioritize what is important to you on deciding on hotels.. is ambiance, location, luxury, service, amenities or price )
For securing hotel reservations, I usually fax a credit card number but I use a credit card that has a very small limit... not an $8,000 card, but my old City bank that's only got a couple of hundred dollars left on it, then in the unlikely event that it falls into the wrong hands, at least they can't slay me. Never give a bank card.
I would highly recommend the 3rd week of march which is our favorite time of year for travel, fewer crowds, good prices... no spring breakers, yet. Sure you may see some weather... rain and cold and the like, but it is SO worth it to us for viewing things nearly alone and not sweating in the summer heat. Pack very lightly most important thing, in my book since unlike some tours, you may not have people to handle your luggage. Take my word for it, once you do it yourself, you will never want to tour again! Bon Voyage, you can do this!!!
Old May 2nd, 2001, 10:06 AM
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Like always, thanks alot to all you Fodorites. All of your comments and suggestions have reassured me. I greatly appreciate your help. God Bless
Old May 2nd, 2001, 10:14 AM
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I am not too leery about using my credit card over the internet as I don't regard that as any riskier than giving the card to somebody in a store or on the phone (perhaps less risky, actually). I only deal with large, well-known firms that have been around for years, though (eg, Travelocity or airlines' own web sites). However, I really don't book that much by internet for travel, and I agree with others than it isn't really necessary but is useful for research. I have finally bought several airline tickets by internet because I like the online seating charts, but I don't always, as I have had too many glitches on the internet where things did not go through and you think you reserved something and you didn't. I don't think there are that many great deals available only on the internet, maybe you get perks like FF miles, but I've personally never seen discounts on air tickets vs buying the same ticket on the phone (I'm not saying they don't exist, I just don't think they are that ubiquitous). I know there are some special e-saver fares for last-minute weekend travel, but that's a different story from buying a regular APEX fare months in advance for specific dates. I do not book hotels on the internet much, only when I have to (ie, one hotel required it due to their affiliation with Utell, but even then I followed up with email/FAX to make sure they had the reservation), I email, FAX or phone for hotels. Even when I see a so-called internet discount on hotel rooms (which I have on some Paris sites), I mention that discount rate in my email/FAX to the hotel letting them know I am aware of it (subtly, I hope, I don't threaten but I think they get the picture) and they have always matched that discount rate when booking outside the web site. They probably come out ahead, anyway, as I expect they might pay a commission to those web sites or something, like a travel agent. I think the issue here is consumer awareness and learning to use internet travel resources helps you know markets, pricing, etc, better. But, I think you are not going to find a lot of $400 air fares for peak summer season just because of using the internet and people who talk about those fares are almost always referring to winter/spring sale fares. I always compare fares to those touted discount sites (lowestfare, cheaptickets, etc) and have never once found a cheaper ticket on the types of routes I look for, probably because I am not willing to fly hours out of my way or endure any more changes than necessary (which for me, is usually zero as I live in a major city) and I usually have plans or things to do that require certain dates and my vacation time is not that flexible or unlimited. If you are willing to do all those things to save some money, go with qixo, etc for fare comparisons. I sometimes book hotels first if it's someplace that is important to me or a place that I really want a certain hotel; most people don't care that much and would not change plans if they can't get one hotel. I don't care that much either when going to a new city or someplace for only a few days, so it really depends when I see a good fare as to which I book first. After perusing guidebooks and the web, I usually have a short list of at least 6 hotels that would be acceptable. You have to be aware of special holidays or events in the places you are going that may mean you should book much earlier, but for peak summer travel in Europe, I book in Feb-March. That was still a little late for Provence, as it took several weeks for me to get a hotel booking down there in July, and I did not get at all one of the hotels I originally wanted as they were completely books by March.
Old May 2nd, 2001, 11:46 PM
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I think that giving your credit card online is no different than handing it to a person in a store. You don't know what that salesclerk will do with your card number. Not long ago here in NYC, there was a clerk that was arrested for stealing card numbers in Bloomingdales, a very chic store. So get on one of the websites and start taking advantage of those great fares!!

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