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

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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