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Off-Peak Travel Bargains

If you're planning a trip by plane any time soon, you'll probably be able to take advantage of current domestic leisure airfares. The reason: Northwest Airlines is running an extended fare sale, and competitors like Delta and United, which raised their 14-day and 21-day advance-purchase fares, had to rescind the hikes after Northwest said it wouldn't match.

But what about finding fall travel bargains? CBS 'This Morning' Contributors Ken and Daria Dolan say fall is a great time to travel and take advantage of off-peak travel season bargains.

The travel industry refers to autumn as "off-peak season" because it's one of the slowest periods for the leisure end of the travel industry. Daria Dolan explains, "It basically comes down to supply and demand. Because fewer people are traveling, airlines and hotels go out of their way to attract more business by reducing their prices and offering special packages."

If you like to travel when there are smaller crowds, but don't want to visit a place when the weather is poor, pick a time to go just before or after the traditional peak seasons. Hotel rates and airfares to destinations that rely heavily on leisure travelers - like the Grand Canyon; Orlando, Fla.; and Las Vegas - are soon going to be much more reasonably priced than they are now.

Beware: Not every part of the country is going into off-peak season in the fall. For example, you are not going to find any tremendous travel deals in New England through the early part of the fall, because that's a money season for the area. People are going there to look at the foliage.

As for hotel rooms, Ken Dolan advises, "Never pay the 'rack' rate. That's the published rate... or at least don't pay it until you do some checking around". Instead, he suggests, call a hotel discount booking service. They buy blocks of rooms from hotels and offer them at a discount. On average, you can save 30 to 40 percent, but you may be able to save as much as 65 percent. One good hotel discount wholesaler is Hotel Reservations Network.

You should also use hotel wholesalers if you are having difficulty finding a hotel with vacancies. In major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, hotel space can be hard to find, because those cities really don't ever have an off-peak season. They rely on business travelers during the week and tourists on the weekends. A wholesaler can help you find a room when it looks like there are none to be had.

Other hotel tips from the Dolans:

  • Call the hotel and ask if they give discounts to first-time guests.
  • Check the newspapers of both the city from which you are leaving and the newspaper of the city you are visiting. Sometimes, there are promotions to fill the hotels with "locls".
  • Check with the tourism office of your destination city for discount cards. They may have special deals on hotels, meals, and city attractions.
The Dolans' tips for finding airfare bargains:
  • You can find some wonderful deals on the Internet. A great Web site to check out is Best Fares Online. You can keep apprised of airfare price wars and find out about Internet only weekend specials.
  • It pays to be flexible and find out what fares low-niche airlines are offering in other cities where you would consider departing from.
  • Only use an airfare wholesaler that accepts credit cards so that you have some recourse if something goes wrong. Airfare wholesalers are also called consolidators. They buy large blocks of tickets from the airlines and sell them at discounts. Check your newspaper for names of airfare wholesalers.
  • Remember to check with your credit card company to find out what special deals they may have for their customers.
If you are thinking about flying outside of the United States, the Dolans say they've heard that there are going to be some very good deals to Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia in the fall. In some instances it's going to be cheaper to fly to Europe than to fly coast-to-coast in the U.S.

Flying to Asia is also expected to be cheap because of the problems they are having with their economy.

Reported by Ken and Daria Dolan
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