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March 15th, 2011
Fiona Bagley / Staff

Book that Summer Vacation Now


WebSlayer by Fiona Bagley

If you haven't already booked that flight for this year's summer vacation be prepared for a huge sticker shock as turmoil in the oil producing countries pushes the price of a barrel of oil over $100 with  higher prices probably coming. The higher the price of oil, the more you will have to fork out for flights.

It's only March and already some airlines have raised their fares 6 times, compared to around 4 fare hikes in total for 2010. Add the fuel surcharges to the seemingly unending list of fees that airlines are attaching to flights and it's not a pretty picture. At the moment most domestic flights are around 12% higher than last year and that is unlikely to get better anytime soon.

Planning a trip to Europe? Well, that is where you will see the most increases with carriers raising the fuel surcharge from $360 to $400. All is not completely lost if you can be a little more flexible in your travel plans and prepare to perhaps take a more circuitous route to your destination. For example a flight to London from Atlanta nonstop in early June with Delta will cost you around $1300. Book a flight for the same day with a layover in Miami and you will pay around $1100. If you can put up with adding a few more hours to your trip, a family of 4 is going to save around $800 which will be a big help when you see the prices you are going to have to pay once you actually get to London. 

There are several travel websites among the hundreds, if not thousands, out there that will help you find the best deal available. The always reliable Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak are a great place to start but don't stop there. Let those websites do the work and bring up the flights you are interested in and then head straight over to the airline website and compare.

Sign up for Airfare Watchdog at www.airfarewatchdog.com , this great site will hunt around for the routes you are interested in and send fare alerts directly to your inbox. They also have the inside track on the unadvertised sales that you may have a hard time digging up yourself. Be prepared to move fast though as these sales may disappear in only a few hours or sell out quickly.

Head over to www.yapta.com and they will search in pretty much the same way as Expedia or Kayak but the one thing they do differently is keep an eye out for a price reduction after you have purchased a ticket. If a price drops enough to offset any cancellation fees they will not only inform you they will help you through the process of getting a refund. Fare Compare is a search engine that…well…. searches search engines. Enter your info at their website and they will give you side by side comparisons, they will also alert you once a flight you are interested in drops in price. Check them out at www.farecompare.com.

On a side note, I spent three hours at the post office this week renewing passports. Apparently that was a short wait as I was informed that some customers have waited up to 6 hours just to get in to see the agent. Head over to the Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov/passports to get all the information you need to renew a passport. You will find all the details on obtaining a new passport or renewing an old one, plus all the forms you will need to do so. If you are not eligible to renew by mail and have to renew in person, take a folding chair and lunch! One last tip – if you have a Costco membership head over there for your passport photos – with no appointment needed and coming in at around $5 for two photos, it is probably the best travel deal you will get this year!

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