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Need ideas on how to spend your tax refund? Expedia wants to help

April 03, 2014|By Jay Jones
  • Expedia wants to help you spend your tax refund, perhaps by sending you to Hawaii.
Expedia wants to help you spend your tax refund, perhaps by sending you to… (Hawaiian Airlines )

Want to use your tax refund to do some traveling? Booking engine Expedia has come up with a tool that it claims can offer inspiration, although with limitations.

The “Take a Trip” feature allows people to plug in the amount of their refund (or the part of it they want to spend), enter a few other parameters and then get some suitably priced air-plus-hotel packages.

The average refund so far this year, according to the IRS, is $3,034. I figured that was a good amount to use in giving the website a test drive.

I sought information on a four-night trip for two people to “anywhere,” departing 12 weeks from now and staying in a three-star hotel.

Only three results appeared on my computer screen.

A visit to New York City (flying from LAX to Newark, N.J.), staying at the Carlyle near Central Park, totaled $3,028. 

A trip to Kauai, staying at the Koa Kea Hotel at Poipu Beach, came to $3,020.

The third option was flying to the Big Island of Hawaii for a stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Kohala Coast. It’s priced at $3,006.

Even when a specific destination is entered, “Take a Trip” can be less than inspiring. I wrongly assumed that entering a $1,000 price tag for a one-night escape to a four-star hotel in Las Vegas – again with flights for two from LAX – would generate plenty of offers.

The response on the screen: “Now showing 0 of our best deals.” I tried again with the same result.

Really? When I went to Expedia’s home page and requested the same, one night air-and-hotel getaway, I got 17 results. They included the five-star Bellagio at $686 and the even-posher Wynn Las Vegas at $840.

My test run is a good example of an adage for the modern age: Shop around for the best deal.

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