To Find Discounts On Travel, Know The Lingo

Discounts on travel
commonly come from a travel service provider’s attempt to promote their business. An airline may have extra seats to fill so they discount them, offering a better value. Hotels promote traditionally slow occupancy times in one way or another and cruise lines do much of the same. But how do we know what is really a good deal or just an effort to encourage us to buy?

Start by learning the difference between “special” and “featured” when considering travel pricing. Its a tactic other businesses have used for decades, one we expect to see in travel more in the coming years.

“Special, in the world of travel, will most often translate to “discount,” offering the same travel product for less.

Travelocity, for example, has a cruise vacation special that came to an end recently where buyers could get up to $500 cash to spend on their sailing, based on the price paid. Assuming that price is competitive, that’s adding value to the deal by giving us more than we paid for.

“Featured” in the world of travel services, commonly highlights destinations, modes of travel and other offerings by a travel company that they want us to know about. “Featured” may or may not be sold at a discounted price.

Hertz car rental, for example, has a weekend, unlimited mileage car rental deal featured. It’s priced at $14.99 per day on an economy or compact car when you pick-up from Thursday through Sunday at select participating airport or neighborhood locations.Easy way to remember: A restaurant’s “special” is commonly a bundled offering that, if priced separately, would cost more. That restaurant’s chef may have created a fabulous new menu item so it is being “featured” on the menu today.

This is just one small piece of the discount on travel puzzle, but an important one.

Except for travelers who have never been anywhere, ever, “feature” pricing most often deserves no more than a passing glance. Spend that time on travel products that offer “special,” not normal pricing where actual gains can be made.

Some other terms to know the difference between are “value-based” or “cost-based” pricing, as explained in this video-

[Photo Credit- Flickr user miskan]

Why We Really Don’t Want Travel Agents To Die

Travel agents were once considered the dinosaurs of travel, something used before the Internet took over and eliminated the need for them. True, we can book airfare, hotels, car rentals, even cruise vacations online either directly with the supplier or through discount operations like Travelocity, Kayak and others. But should we? These days, the tide seems to be turning as individual and business travelers are turning to a new, relevant travel agent that is good to have around.

“There is no doubt that today’s travellers have more options than ever before; from destinations, packages and pricing to booking methods and itineraries,” Debra Maher, owner of Cruise Holidays said in a Northern Life report. “One of the most important decisions a traveller can make is selecting the right travel agent, to help them get started on the right foot.”

Case in point: American Airlines.
This week, American Airline pilots are expected to authorize their union to call a strike, effectively grounding the airline. In reality, a work stoppage would be weeks off and the White House can intervene to stop a strike, citing the interests of U.S. commerce. But these are the things that make travelers nervous and has those who use travel agents for something as simple as booking an airline ticket happy they did.

“Travel agents are there for their clients before, during and after the trip and when the unexpected happens,” added Maher. “We provide value, expertise, convenience and personal service to our customers and understand that travel planning isn’t just about places, it’s about people.”

It’s not all about handling emergency situations though. For example, the world of business travel is re-discovering the services of travel agents and the benefit of using them as we see in this new video from CNN released this week:

The decision to use a travel agent comes easy when concerned about traveling to places around the world where political unrest, riots or other security matters are of concern. In those situations, sure, we want that extra level of protection and guidance – someone to call to handle it for us.

More commonly, travel agents can offer value that travelers could not get on their own.
That value may translate to lower prices, complimentary upgrades, bonus amenities when traveling and other good things down the line, after booking. That “after booking” part is the unknown, difficult-to-measure factor that eludes many travelers.

“The bottom line is that they know more than you do, they are better connected than you,” said travel expert Larry Olmstead in Forbes, “they have access to benefits you can’t get otherwise, they can often beat any other prices available (even online, yes), and after you have planned everything, they provide a safety net during your trip that you simply won’t get by booking yourself or buying insurance.”

But how do you find a good travel agent?

The process is quite similar to finding a good real estate agent, insurance agent or even a accountant or investment specialist to handle personal finances. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends are a good place to start but the name of the game is building a long-term business relationship and that takes time.

Looking at a travel agent as the ‘person who handles travel’ like your accountant is the person who ‘handles your taxes’ is the way to go and with every success they have on your behalf, the more their stock goes up as a trusted personal advisor.

Checking with your local Better Business Bureau, a local chamber of commerce or other professional organization like the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) or American Society Of Travel Agents (ASTA) are also good places to begin, even with the recommendation of a friend.

Getting the thumbs up on a potential agent from multiple sources should head you in the right direction to finding one that can be of great value for life.

[Flickr photo by Dan Nguyen @ New York City]

Is Travelocity Built For Women?

The folks over at Skift have an interesting study on mobile travel apps as a function of gender. Among the comscore data that they crunched, they found that the mobile tools for Hilton and Delta were frequented primarily by men (74% and 67% respectively) while among Online Travel Agents, Travelocity was the only tool that was gender asymmetric. Apparently, 66% of Travelocity app users are women, while other sites like Orbitz and Kayak are closer to 50/50.

What’s with the skew? Dennis Schaal, the author of the article, jokingly suggests that the Travelocity Gnome might have some better sex appeal (and The Negotiator doesn’t?) but the real influences are probably more subtle than that. It’s well known that design aspects of a website including color and functionality tend to cater to different demographics. In this case, it’s possible that Travelocity’s design is just better suited to the female aesthetic.

Either way, Travelocity has the same comscore data that we do, so the targeting is intentional. We just don’t know why.

Caribbean Week Brings Music, Dance, Deals To New York City

Now through June 11, Caribbean Week New York is being held at Grand Central Terminal, offering a celebration of the unique vacation experiences available in the Caribbean. Hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) the event is a chance to experience the sights, sounds and culture of island life along with some exclusive travel deals.

Travel experts from Caribbean destinations will be on hand and visitors will have opportunity to book exclusive Caribbean Week travel deals via Travelocity and American Airlines Vacations.

Part of Caribbean Week New York is the 2012 Rum and Rhythm Benefit. At this event guests will sample premium rums of the Caribbean and cuisine prepared by the region’s celebrity chefs. There is also an opportunity to experience some of the Caribbean’s award winning musicians and mixologists as guests journey from one destination to the other. A live auction will give visitors the opportunity to outbid each other for exclusive vacation packages.

At another event, one lucky couple will tie the knot at a Caribbean-themed wedding ceremony in the iconic New York City landmark. “From the bride’s dress to the wedding cake to the honeymoon, the Caribbean has spared no expense to make their Caribbean dream come true,” says the CTO on their website.

The top-rated island of St Kitts will host a honeymoon for the lucky couple including two business class tickets to St. Kitts in addition to a four-night stay at the St. Kitts Marriott, which is also providing complimentary spa treatments and more.

Performances by JAM-X Band, Danza Fiesta Salsa Dancers of Puerto Rico, Natraj Center for the Performing Arts and Braata Productions will be held throughout the week. Admission is free.

[Flickr photo by katiew]

Travelocity’s “roaming gnome” hosts Earth Day scavenger hunt in NYC

Celebrate Earth Day with one of Gadling’s favorite trip booking sites, Travelocity. Their mascot, the Roaming Gnome, is hosting a virtual and real week-long scavenger hunt, where Facebook fans and Twitter followers have a chance to win prizes, while finding the “greenest” hotspots from uptown to downtown Manhattan.

Starting April 18, the mascot (@roaminggnome) will host four scavenger hunts in NYC, hiding out in eco-friendly hotels and attractions. He’ll Tweet clues about where he’s hiding via his Twitter feed using #greengnome.

Prizes will include: two-nights stays at green hotels, show tickets to popular Broadway shows – gift certificates toward a new, eco-friendly clothing line and sustainable treats from Sweetery gourmet food truck.

On the actual Earth Day, April 22, the Gnome will be in Times Square starting at 11 AM EST. Those who stop by his booth and take a picture with him can enter for a chance to win a sustainable vacation package. Those playing along at home via Twitter can also enter to win.

Sounds like a fun and creative way to explore the city’s finest green hotels and win prizes. Why didn’t we think of this first??

Psst- want to stay at a green hotel? Check out Hotels Editor Melanie Nayer’s post.