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Quick fixes

Early bookings need not be a pre-requisite for economical travel. Here are some tips that can help save money even on an impromptu trip.

Enough and more has been said about the virtues of booking early and travelling off season to bag the lowest air fares and hotel tariffs. But this advice won’t help you if you are planning a holiday next weekend. Here are some tips to ensure that you stretch your budget even at such a short notice.

Flights: You may have missed the apex fares, but you could still save money if you consider a code-share flight. This is an alliance between two or more airlines which allows them to share their flights and routes. This means that the seats on one flight, operated by one airline, can be sold by all the partners. The biggest advantage, from the customer’s point of view, is that you can book multi-city trips through a single airline, buy a single ticket, and avoid multiple check-ins and baggage transfers, which makes the journey faster and seamless. Says Neha Lidder, senior marketing manager, Virgin Atlantic, India: “These ensure convenience of travel on one ticket and a hassle-free experience. Another advantage is the earning and burning of frequent flier miles.”

So, if you want to travel from Visakhapatnam to Delhi—a sector with no direct flights—you could take a code-share JetLite flight to Chennai and onwards instead of flying a regional airline to the nearest metro and repeating the check-in process for another carrier. Both the flights can be booked on the Jet Website and you get a single boarding pass for the entire journey.

These flights will obviously cost you less than the fare for late bookings on separate airlines—remember that last-minute fares can be up to five times higher than the apex fares. Besides, sometimes, partner airlines offer different pricing. Take the Delhi-Frankfurt route, where Air India and Lufthansa have a tie-up. A random search for a week showed that the economy fare was Rs 25,036 on the German airline’s Website, but Air India quoted Rs 23,921 for the same flight! If any of the flight options thrown up during fare search include code-sharing, cross-check fares on the partner airline’s Website. How can you identify a codeshare flight? It has a longer flight number than regular flights, typically running into four-digits.

Hotels: Getting into a sold-out hotel is a good way of bagging a good room, for less. All hotels have a cancellation policy as well as a deadline, after which the penalties kick in. Typically, reservations have to be cancelled at least 48 hours before arrival, otherwise one day’s tariff is deducted from the refund or you lose the entire amount. Those who can’t follow through with their travel plans usually adhere to this deadline. So it’s a good idea to call the hotel you are considering a day or two before you plan to check in. Says Geetima Talukdar, a software professional based in Mumbai: “This trick gets me a 10-15% discount three times out of five.” The hotel would want to fill up an empty inventory, so it is likely to throw in perks and value additions, if not a direct discount, to tempt the first caller.

Sight-seeing: Try buying tickets online. It will not only save you the time spent standing in snaking queues, but also fetch a discount. Online tickets and passes can be up to 35% cheaper compared with buying it at the venue, and the earlier you book, the better deals you can bag. This is because advance bookings allow attractions to estimate headcount and plan accordingly to cut overheads on slow days. Also, at many tourist hot-spots, the service charge is waived for online bookings.

The best place to buy your online entry pass is the official Website of the attraction you want to visit, like http://hermitagemuseum.org for Russia’s most famous museum and www.rceltickets.com for passes to UK’s Buckingham Palace. If you can’t find an official Website, you could try your luck with portals like www.ticketweb.com.

However, very few non-official portals mention the days when entry is free. For instance, the Louvre, Paris, allows free admission on the first Sunday of each month. The only way to ferret out such information is to trawl the Internet. This is also the place to begin your hunt for last-minute bargains. Start now.

Hot deals: Interesting packages to look out for

Tarika’s Jungal, Retreat Chail, HP
Cost: Rs 12,000 per couple
Contact: 0-9810000066
This boutique resort, 115 km from Chandigarh, is offering a two-night package for a couple that includes accommodation in a superior room, with breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner. For honeymooners, the resort offers a unique glasshouse accommodation, complete with a personal steam room and Jacuzzi. The two-night deal in this cottage costs Rs 25,000.

The Leela, Kovalam, Kerala
Cost: Rs 7,800 per couple
Contact: 1800-222-444
This luxury resort and spa is offering a picture-perfect summer getaway at just Rs 1,950 per person per day, provided you stay for a minimum of two nights. If you prefer a breakfast-included deal, the per night rate is Rs 5,850, with two-way airport transfers. A 15% surcharge is applicable on the room rate for weekend stays. The offer is valid till 30 June 2009.

Uncommon destinations, the affordable way

The destination: Pangot, Uttaranchal (400 km from Delhi)

Why go there: This unfrequented Eden is a must-visit for people addicted to bird-watching, hiking and seeking solitude.

What to do: Bird-watching and sleeping. With an experienced guide leading the way, even budding ornithologists will be able to spot at least 50 species in a couple of days.

How to get there: The closest railhead is Kathgodam, 55 km or a two-hour drive away.

Where to stay: Try the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge. This cozy complex, boasting just four cottages and a few Swiss tents, is perched on the fringes of the reserve forest. Privacy guaranteed.

Damage to wallet: The cost ranges from Rs 3,500-4,000 a night per couple, with all meals.

Published on: Jun 01, 2009, 10:38 PM IST
Posted by: AtMigration, Jun 01, 2009, 10:38 PM IST