Travel Help

Clark's deals | Booking tips | Search cities | Airfare codes | Vacation planning | Tips to Europe | Find a travel agent | Hotel & Auto deals | Travel Message Board

Booking tips

Begin your research for domestic and international airfares at these Internet sites. All are simple to use and most offer e-mail notifications of price reductions between cities that you specify. Keep in mind that some will charge a fee in addition to your total airfare:

Searching for a Clark deal?

  • When you have firm travel plans, start gathering airfare quotes several weeks in advance, but resist making a purchase until you know the fare patterns between two cities, or until a too-hard-to-pass-up deal comes along.
  • Purchase airline tickets to a city when it's priced far below regular sale fare levels - or at a rock bottom rate. Then, figure out why you want to go there. Eventually you'll see the world at a fraction of the normal price!
  • Visit foreign cities during off-season when airfares are at their lowest. There aren't half as many tourists and hotels are often deeply discounted with various specials.
  • The airlines will love you, but you will pay significantly more for your travel if you insist on traveling to a specific destination, on a specific outbound and return date, and/or at specific times of the day. Creating this 'box' will leave you few opportunities to take advantage of sale airfares.
  • Many of the best deals must be booked online at the site of the offering airline. If a fare basis "Code" is provided, phone orders can be placed to the airline or a travel agent. But Clark suggest you always try to book via the Internet. That way you'll have a paper copy of your booking. Also, compare prices at several travel Web sites before making a purchase.

Tips on Internet bookings

Booking an airline ticket on the Internet, or at an individual airline site can be time consuming and frustrating! It's a complete guessing game as to what dates and times discount seats are available. There is no good advice to pass on to eliminate this problem. It's as if the airlines want you in this vulnerable position. But let's say you're searching for a special fare between Atlanta and City B. You have a good idea of what the price should be, but the system returns a much higher airfare. You may even try again and again with the same results. Here's a couple of ideas why:

  • Taxes and fees are not included in advertised airfares. These junk charges can add up to 20 percent on domestic tickets nearly $250 on international ticket purchases. Look carefully at your quote. Does it include all fees?
  • Special fares may be buried and you may simply have to try every time of the day, or days within a week pre- or post of your desired travel date to find the deal. For example, if you are specific on pull-down menus for a 1:00PM departure and a 5:00PM return, you may receive a higher fare quote. Discount seats may still be available for an early morning departure and a mid-day return. Again, there's no way to know this until you modify your time and date preferences - several times.
  • Revisit various web sites a couple of times a week for rate changes, or...
  • Sign up at various sites to receive e-mail promotions, notifications of sales, or reductions for your desired city pair. This search will give you a pattern of prices for comparison.
  • Read all the fine print at the web site you finally book with. Be sure that you are totally comfortable about policies, terms and pre-and-post customer service. What if you have a problem to solve? Does the web site have a real phone number and address? Can you live with a purchase that doesn't permit refunds or changes? Are you willing to pay fees for processing/handling/delivery fees?
  • We like SideStep - a program that automatically detects when you are searching airline or travel web sites for airline tickets, hotels and auto rentals. The program pops up on a small portion of your screen while searching the best of web deals from hundreds of sites. Direct links will take you directly to the company or airline for booking.
  • Whenever possible, make your general airfare search 'flexible' - don't fill in dates or times - just city pairs. Travelocity offers this option at its Home page. This way you will see calendar dates where cheap seats are offered.

No guarantees

  • If you do not see a "purchase by" date associated with a particular sale mentioned on Clark's Travel Tips page, treat the offer as a one-day sale and purchase tickets as quickly as possible. Those deals typically expire before 11pm, and calling the airline or booking online may not always work. If you're unlucky with one format - try the other! Don't forget that travel agents are a reliable source of airfare updates and current specials.

Is my hometown on sale? How do I search out sales to cities in Asia or Europe or Caribbean Islands?

  • Clark's Travel Tips Page is full of ongoing and HOT deals to many worldwide destinations. But what if you want to cut to the chase and search for deals to your favorite city? Here's a tip. Once you click onto the Travel Tips Page, click the Control key and "F" key together to create your own search. Enter a desired city and you'll see details of available sales.

How do I use the airfare codes?

  • To eliminate great confusion, airfare codes are no longer published. If you still want to know about them - they are useful only to an airline rep or a travel agent. Codes are a reference that provides information about advance purchase, minimum stay and other rules. They are useless for Internet bookings.

Vacation planning

  • The Internet is a traveler's best tool for researching a holiday destination. Try this when looking for places to stay and what attractions are not to be missed: Pull up one of your favorite search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or others. Type in the name of the city you want to find out more about adding the key words - Tourism, or Sightseeing. Results will take you to official sites, or ones that don't want to sell you something. You'll find links to other recommended sites to book a hotel or to make other arrangements. Find out what your fellow travelers think about a destination at Trip Advisor.

Tips to Europe

The sagging dollar isn't keeping travelers from heading to Europe! Steady demand means you will have to be strategic about finding decent discounts. Don't fall for paying full fares. Instead, consider traveling during an alternate season.

  • The lowest fares of the year are offered during 'low' season which runs from November 1-March 31. Slightly higher 'shoulder' season fares are for travel from April 1-May 31 and again for October travel. 'High' season runs from early to mid-June through early to mid-September.
  • The key to savings is flexibility! Don't box yourself into a set destination for specific travel dates. If you do you are play into those seasonal airfares and cannot take advantage of discounts. Another key is to wait, wait some more, and watch for discounting during the season you plan to travel.
  • Travel only during shoulder and winter months when airfares are dirt cheap! That may be a huge sacrifice, but you'll save huge dollars if you are flexible enough to visit cities ONLY when deep reductions are offered, such as when new service to a city is announced with introductory prices.
  • Does your school schedule prevent you from taking advantage of off-season specials? Teachers, students and other full-time students can find decent summer airfares and specials, with STA Travel.

How do I find a good travel agent?

  • First, ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers or people that brag about their fabulous vacations to refer you to their agent. These references can be the most reliable and the best way to start. Working with and establishing a good relationship with a travel agent could aid you in your search for low airfares and with extensive trip planning. Yes, travel agents do charge fees that range from a percentage of airfare to a flat fee, but your ultimate savings could put you on the plus side. Find a travel agent at ASTA or a cruise professional CLIA.

How do find hotel and car rental deals?

  • Nearly all name-brand hotel chains are pulling away from placing special rates from third-party travel Web sites and now ensure consumers of the absolute lowest rates when booking directly at specific brand sites. You should still shop several general travel Web sites and compare rates at at the general brand Web site.
  • If you don't car about staying at a specific hotel, consider a purchase at Hotwire or Priceline. Review the details on how hotels are 'rated' and terms of purchase before completing a non-refundable sale.
  • Shop car rental rates at many sites and then bid a bit lower at Priceline - after all, a car is a car is a car... Auto rentals from Priceline will get you wheels from the brand names you trust.

Get help at the Travel Message Board

  • If you post a basic airfare inquiry about a specific city, it's likely that your fellow Travel Message Board readers won't have the answer either. Spend some time researching basic airfare questions at various web sites listed above. If you are seeking recommendations on a hotel in a particular city, it's helps to define your low/high price point. Clark or Clara can't research or answer every question, but will occasionally address inquiries that might appeal to all readers.