At SmarterTravel, we often get queries from readers who are ready to take a vacation—any vacation. You know you want to get away, but are looking for inspiration beyond cookie-cutter options. That's where we'd like to better serve you, the undecided traveler.
To do so, please take our brief survey on trip-planning preferences. There are only five questions, and it should take no more than five minutes of your time.
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Additionally, there are already many intriguing websites out there that can help. Here's what SmarterTravel's consumer travel expert, Ed Perkins, writes in a recent column:"If, at any given time, you know where you want to go and want to check out dates when you can fly there at the lowest fares, the websites of most big online travel agencies, aggregators, and individual airlines provide 'flexible date' search systems:
- Typically, you enter an origin city, a destination, and a date, and the site returns a grid of dates and fares for a month before and a month after the original date.
- Cheap Tickets, Expedia, Hotwire, and Orbitz also give the option of entering a starting date and a trip duration (in days); the site returns a grid of options for up to 30 days in advance. Travelocity's comparable system can cover up to three months in advance, but the display requires a lot of iteration and is more cumbersome.
- Other sites, including Kayak, provide only plus-or-minus three day searches, and I couldn't find any flexible search capabilities on Mobissimo or Vayama.
As another approach, you can sign up on several online sites—airline and agency—for bulletins on when fares drop to any given destination. Alternatively, you can place as many very low bids as you want on Priceline, varying the dates, to take 'pot luck' on an airline and schedule.
Finding the best time to get the lowest fares is an entirely different matter. By now you should have heard that nobody can claim to forecast the ups and downs of airfares, except in a very general way related to the cost of oil. What we do know is that airlines periodically offer fare sales, and many of them are available for just one day.
Whether you know where you want to go or are just interested in good deals, your best bet is probably to subscribe to one or more sale-alert services, such as are available on SmarterTravel, that send out airfare bulletins announcing sales and other time-sensitive fare information. Many individual airlines and the big online travel agencies provide similar services. Some are general; others require that you specify a route or a destination. Be prepared to act when you see something good before it disappears.
If you need help deciding where you might like to go, several sites provide assistance, including Best Trip Choices, TravelMuse, and Wanderfly."
What did you think of Ed Perkins' take? As always, we'd love to hear more feedback—either on these recommendations or on this topic in general. For you undecided travelers, where do you start your trip research? What features are you most looking for in a travel research site? Share your best tips and wish lists by leaving a comment below—and remember, take our quick three-question survey to help us help you!
Survey link: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22C7DTXDXK8