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ON A BUDGET

Stopping, Yes; Staying Over, No

March 04, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Many of the questions I receive from readers are of broad, general interest. It occurred to me that other readers might like to see some representative examples, with my responses.

Question: Since flights making one stop are always cheaper than nonstop flights, why can't we use them for two-city stops for a couple of days-say, stopping over in Las Vegas on the way to New York? There don't seem to be such two-city tickets available on Internet booking engines.

Answer: There aren't any. Just because your flight itinerary includes a stop on the way to your ultimate destination doesn't mean that you can leave the airport and stay overnight. Almost all airline rules require that you go straight through. (There are some exceptions; National Airlines allows passengers to stay over in Las Vegas on through flights that stop there.)

Because most airlines prohibit the practice, the only way to arrange a two-city vacation on the Internet is by booking a series of one-way flights, such as Los Angeles to Denver, then Denver to Boston, then Boston to Denver, then Denver to Los Angeles.

The cost will be higher than simply booking a Los Angeles-Boston round-trip flight.

Q: What are current conditions like for visiting Japan?

A: Quite good. The Japanese yen recently plummeted to a rate of 117 to the dollar, making Japan fairly reasonably priced again. And because American travel to Japan is newly attractive, Japan Airlines has a special promotion for the month of April: four nights' hotel lodging in Tokyo or Kyoto and round-trip air fare for $649 from Los Angeles. That's based on double occupancy; single supplement is $190. You can buy extra hotel nights for slightly more and enjoy a spring holiday in Japan. See the details at http://www .japanair.com .

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Q: We've seen references to "vacation homes." What are they?

A: They are privately owned homes whose owners occasionally rent them out for periods of a week to a month.

If the rental is to a group of four persons (such as a family), the cost is usually competitive with an equivalent hotel. Two good Internet sources of vacation homes are http://www.vrbo.com (the letters stand for "vacation rental by owner') and http://www.cyberrentals.com. Often in your initial conversation with the homeowner, you can bargain down the price a bit.

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Q: On the few occasions when we've used an Internet booking engine to find the price of a flight, that rate has turned out to be no different than the quotes we got from a travel agent.

Are we doing something wrong?

A: There are booking engines, and there are booking engines. Most of them simply supply you with published air fares that are the lowest available for your itinerary. To survey all the possibilities-to learn whether there is a secretly discounted fare-you must also go to the booking engines of discounters or consolidators, such as http://www.cheaptickets .com or http://www.lowestfare.com. Or, if you're willing to accept an odd departure time, route or airline, check such services as http://www.hot wire.com or the flight-price-matching service of http://www.expedia.com.

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