I love it when technology works for me! I got a great deal by booking on-line.
Last night I booked car hire through a UK based company, with a website called www.traveljigsaw.co.za. A friend on Facebook recommended it. I got a better deal than I would have got here in South Africa. I must say, it just felt odd to deal with a consultant overseas, to book car hire just down the road. The website scans available service providers, and summarises on a results page. Click and pay. Done. Vouchers follow by email. I was about to pay R306 per day, and ended up getting the same thing for R187 per day with more inclusions (unlimited mileage, no excess, full insurance, no fuel deposit, no block on my credit card). This travel company have negotiated great deals and make it accessible to the South African market. They also offer a fantastic personal service, with a 24 hour call centre. I called using skype, made a booking, changed it, and asked questions. They just used my surname and picked up my reservation easily. Any person that has ever travelled knows what it feels like to have a blank faced response “sorry but I have no record of your booking”.
Web-based travel applications, link a customer to a service provider through an online company that could physically be located on another continent. Fascinating. Having access to the internet, even mobi, can open up a world of travel deals. So it’s like shopping somewhere else, which for me the shopaholic is a dream.
Layers: First there is the official websites of the actual supplier, like an airline. A travel website can scan other websites for the best price of the same flight, generating a link to that website, or allow you to complete the transaction on that sight. Then, you have on-line travel agencies that have their own negotiated deals, which are not on any other website. A travel agent uses a GDS such as Galileo with a variety of different rates loaded linked directly to the airline. The travel consultant will use human intelligence to work out the best routing and fare, by understanding how the GDS works.
I have worked as a travel agent, and know many loop-holes. Using a combination of Galileo, internet knowledge and contacts in the industry, shopping around, it could be easy for me to price beat anything. The latest websites are just as smart, even smarter, and generate wider and more specific results of your enquiry.
Growing at a rapid pace, is the appearance of ‘suggestions’. These ‘suggestions’ appear at the results page and are linked in some way to your search.
In short, it’s possible to come across a lot more options, more specific to your initial search requirements.
The advantages of enhanced search engine applications of today, enable tourism service providers to reach a much larger audience. At the same time a traveller using the internet for travel research, is satisfied.
Tourism has changed since the internet is now widely available.
Ask questions. Websites normally have a call centre, reply to emails, and offer instant messaging.
Don’t click ‘purchase’ too soon. Read the fine print. If your ticket is flexible and allows date changes, that is very valuable, and not necessarily the cheapest rate. I missed a train in Paris this summer, and forfeited 100 Euros because it was not changeable. But if you don’t know about the fine print, you can get a sour deal.
Share the love. A traveller staying at the same hostel as me, was paying half the price by booking through www.hostelbookers.com. This website recommends a wide range of available accommodation options, allows you to make the booking, and take a 2% booking fee from you. The balance is payable direct upon arrival. Clever way to generate business for the hostel without investing in expensive marketing if you ask me.
Change the way you request a fare. With airfares, it is cheaper to book a return ticket than just a one-way ticket. Try it out. Extend your car hire to more than 7 days, and the rates become cheaper. Book a flight 7 days in advance or include a Saturday night. Break up the journey. A flight to America through London can be booked as two return flights (Joberg – London return, and London – NYC return), or as one entire return ticket.
Best far guarantee. Look out for this, as certain operators will match a price you found somewhere else. The Air France / KLM website for example, offers a guarantee that you will not find a lower price anywhere else.
Be flexible. Try changing your travel dates completely because airlines work in seasons that are not mentioned when you make your enquiry. Travelling from South Africa to Australia is most expensive from mid November to after January. Travel on Christmas day or 31 December, prices are always cheaper. For car hire, a weekend booking from Friday to Monday is the cheapest.
Groups. Did you know that when you book 10 seats on a flight or more, it is most likely to become more expensive? There are only a few discounted seats on each flight.
Act innocent. I flew back from Europe in August with about 45 kilos, and did not pay the additional 55 euros for a second suitcase. My hand luggage seemed too big when I went through passport control.
Miss your flight? Some airlines allow you to travel on standby for a small additional fare. 1Time charge only R70, which I have discovered when missing a flight during the busy school holiday period, unable to book another flight because all other flights are full.
There is a saying that goes ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’. Get on-line.