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Travel Deals: 10 Best Secrets from Peter Greenberg

Planning a vacation? Knowing the best way to book travel can slash your costs. Peter Greenberg, CBS News' travel editor, shared some of his best secrets in a recent CBS MoneyWatch interview. Use these tips to save on airfare, hotels, and more — and wind up with a better trip.

Get Great Airfare Deals

  • Know when to buy: Airlines often announce airfare sales on Friday night, so all the matching/cross-cutting happens over the weekend, Greenberg says. But this is actually the worst time to buy tickets, because everybody else is looking then as well. Instead, he suggests, try booking after midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning: “All the tickets that were booked but not purchased on Monday come flooding back into the airlines computer system at the discount fare.” Find the best deal, and then...
  • Book by phone, not online: “The biggest myth is that the entire available inventory is on the Internet,” he says. Not true: “Agents have access to a larger inventory – some, at cheaper prices – than what’s available online.” The same goes for hotels and cruise lines, too.
  • Ask for positioning flights: While you’re on the phone, ask the agent if a so-called positioning flight is available. These flights are done for logistical purposes — to transport an airplane from Airport A to Airport B — and often come with better airfares.
  • Try indirect routing: If you want to go from Los Angeles to Hawaii, your plane tickets will probably be very expensive, says Greenberg. But you can probably save by getting a little creative. Instead of going the direct route, try booking Los Angeles to Phoenix to Hawaii, or L.A. to Las Vegas Hawaii. “Although it may seem counterintuitive, there may be [cheaper] seats on those [indirect] flights.”
  • Fly into alternate airports: The popular crowd prefers JFK — which is a good reason to try flying into Islip, Long Island, instead. Here are a few good alternatives to high-traffic airports.

    Instead of: Fly:
    O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (ORD) General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee (MKE)
    San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Oakland International Airport (OAK)
    Logan International Airport, Boston (BOS) T. F. Green Airport, Providence (PVD)
    John F. Kennedy International Airport, NYC (JFK) Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP)

Great Destinations for Right Now

It may seem politically incorrect, but you want to go somewhere that just had a political insurrection, an economic meltdown, or a natural disaster, says Greenberg. Why? People don’t realize that travel is the largest industry in the world, says Greenberg: It’s responsible for over 9.5 percent of global GDP. So by going to a country that’s come through a tough time, you’re helping their economy — and you’re getting the benefit of the drop in demand.

A few suggestions for right now:

  • Greece: “If you go to Greece now, they’re happy to see you, because no one is showing up,” he says. And the euro just dropped; that’s a benefit to Americans.
  • Thailand: “They had an insurrection and civil disturbances for about nine real days – it’s over now.” The drop in travel and tourism is already going to hit Thailand’s GDP by 3 percent this year. And it’s open for business.
  • Argentina: The Argentine peso is currently 3.92 to the U.S. dollar – that’s about a 36 percent decline over the last five years. On a recent trip, Greenberg says, he picked up the tab for six people at a fancy Buenos Aires restaurant — ordering appetizers, side dishes, entr es, dessert, and after-dinner drink. “Including tip, the bill came to $134 U.S.” — about $22 a person.

Other Tricks: Trains and Timing

  • Go Amtrak: The train company has a 15-day pass that offers unlimited travel throughout the entire system, with on and off privileges, for $500. Kids under 12 travel for $250.
  • Travel after Thanksgiving: The absolute best time to go to a Disney resort — or anywhere — is the week after Thanksgiving. Why? Because most Americans are recovering from Thanksgiving holiday – no one really travels that 7-8 days after Thanksgiving. It’s worth it to work out a deal with your kid’s school, says Greenberg.“You own any destination you want.”

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