"I assume you've heard the definition of an airplane?" reader Paul Brown of Santa Ana asked in an email. "A silver tube hurtling through the sky from Point A to Point B with 100 or more passengers, all of whom have paid a different fare."
That pretty much sums up travelers' experiences with "dynamic pricing," the practice of travel providers charging varying prices for the same product.
It's widely practiced, and it's annoying, especially because it leaves you with the disquieting feeling that you could have paid less.
I didn't mention booking separate airline tickets, as travel pro John DiScala (you know him as JohnnyJet of the website of the same name) reminded me in an email when I asked for his favorite tips.
He referred me to a recent column about finding airfares. One of his tips recalled trying to get to Sardinia. Too expensive.
But he saved about a grand when he bought a reasonably priced round-trip ticket to London, then, separately, a ticket from London to Sardinia and back on a low-cost European carrier.
But DiScala and I look like amateur budgeteers compared with Times Travel readers, who generously offered their ideas on how to stretch a buck. Herewith and with our thanks are some of them:
If you have military connections: "I have been using the Armed Forces Vacation Club for more than 20 years to save on lodging for vacations," said Mike Wells of Torrance, who added that its definition of military is fairly broad and includes even Department of Defense civilian employees. (Check out the "Join today — membership is free" tab.)
Wells stayed a week at the Tahiti Village resort in Las Vegas. His cost: $0.
"The club had a BOGO [buy one, get one] free promotion. I bought a week in Mexico...and the Vegas week was the free one.
"Usually, I pay $350 for seven nights for a condo timeshare in a resort. They have them all over the world."
If you're booking on short notice: Paul Perez of Whittier has had good luck with JetBlue vacations.
He keeps an eye out for bargains and has had success booking close to departure, which usually carries a premium price for hotels and airfare.
"Once, five days before my stay, I booked a $300 package. The hotel was the pleasantly nice Signature hotel suites" at the MGM Grand, he said of his one-night stay.
Depending on the weekend, you might pay as much as $499 a night at the Signature, but generally in the $200-plus range when I checked Monday.
"When I book through JetBlue Vacations packages," Perez noted, "I accumulate JetBlue points that can be used for future JetBlue purchases."
If you're driving: Bill Spitalnick of Newport Beach, who likes to visit Vegas as well, called dynamic pricing "chilling," adding that it reminds him of the lyrics from "Love on the Rocks" (think Neil Diamond): "When they know they have you, then they really have you."
Besides traveling midweek, Spitalnick, who usually drives to Vegas, suggests staying in a hotel that doesn't charge parking fees. You can read about nine hotels that don't charge.
If you're traveling internationally: Our readers like Vegas, of course, but they also travel the world. Brown, whose definition of dynamic pricing led this column, reminded readers to consider shoulder season — not the worst time to travel (usually cheapest), but not the best, either.
"I also watch currency values such as the strong dollar against the pound, euro, Australian and Canadian dollar, and Mexican peso," he said.
And remember what Mom always said about the most important meal of the day: Brown added, "Booking a hotel that includes breakfast is convenient and cheaper too as long as it is something you or your family will eat.
"Prime example: Fairmont Singapore charges $30 plus [Singapore dollars, about $21 U.S.] for their beautiful buffet breakfast. My last stay was inclusive of this cost for the three days I stayed there."
There are more tips, but I am out of room for this week. We'll revisit cost savings one more week, and then you'll be armed and ready to go for the summer. Meanwhile, send your money-saving tips to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Money saving" in the subject line, and include your name and city of residence.
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