Archive for February, 2010

$587: Chicago to Casablanca

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Iberia Airlines is making it possible to visit Africa from the Midwest for under $587 via Casablanca.

However, this fare is only available on Orbitz and CheapTickets. The fare on the Iberia Airlines’ website is significantly higher.

How to Fly Cheaply to Vietnam

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Just like the Philippines, Vietnam carries a stigma stemming from events past. There’s no need to mention what that is, obviously, other than that it has spawned approximately four excellent movies and countless hours of trash.

Over the last couple of decades, the Vietnamese government realized that economic reality has no respect for political doctrine. As such, they set about improving international relations with their neighbors and, more importantly, the United States. What was once the adventure playground of a select few travelers is rapidly becoming a thriving destination.

So, how to get there and when to go?

From North America, there are few airlines flying direct to Vietnam. Asiana is one, from LAX, and Vietnam Airlines aims to start a direct service in 2010 to SFO. There are several carriers offering multi-sector flights but, with the current fuel price, the days of paying less for the inconvenience of a connection are long gone.

For those wanting to explore the entire country, Jetstar Pacific, Vietnam Airlines and Indochina Airlines all operate domestic routes. Booking in advance, rather than using them as airborne last-minute taxis, will give the best rewards. There are other outfits available, some incredibly cheap. However, given the poor safety record of certain low-cost operators, even in the U.S., it would be best to check what the FAA think about them first. Saving $200 may seem like a no-brainer, but if you need to spend triple that when the airplane breaks…

As for when to go, the climate varies from north to south. The winter monsoon is from October-March, where the weather is damp and chilly to the north, but dry and warm to the south. The summer monsoon, from April-October, is hot and humid in all but the mountainous regions.

For northern and central areas, only storm chasers should visit between July and November, as violent typhoons lash the country from the South China Sea. Tickets may well be cheaper to these areas, but the likelihood of massive delays (sometimes days) makes it a huge risk.

The most popular tourist periods, for a growing number of homegrown tourists as well, are May, June and September. Prices reflect this in both flights and accommodation so they’re best avoided, if possible. Christmas and New Year are even more expensive, which is only to be expected. Putting all these into the shade, however, is the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) festival. While the idea of joining in with the countrywide celebrations sounds wonderful, the price hikes for this period give new meaning to Tet Offensive!

One money saving possibility would be to fly to a city out of season, then take an adventurous train ride through the superb scenery in search of better weather. As always, prior planning will pay off – after all, what else is an internet connection for?

Don’t get Gouged to the Philippines!

Friday, February 5th, 2010

For many people in the West, the Philippines conjure images of mail-order brides, dictators and women with far too many shoes. However, like many places in the West, this is purely the image that the media portrays. The truth is that this country, made up of around 7000 islands, is one of the most understated destinations on the planet.

Trains and automobiles cannot reach island nations, such as the Philippines. The airlines know this and often exploit these juicy, price-gouging opportunities.

Away from Manila and the other popular tourist hotspots, the Philippines offer tranquillity, privacy and a local population that are genuinely pleased to see you. Secluded beaches, daily festivals and a favourable dollar exchange rate – what more could you want?

But, how to get there?

The Philippines has the highest number of expats in the world – approximately 11,000,000 people. The airlines know this and charge almost triple prices for flights to Manila during the Christmas period, as well as their Holy Week (around Easter time). There is also a large Chinese population in Manila who celebrate the Lunar New Year – flights are full, and therefore expensive.

Away from these holidays, prices vary depending on the time of year. The hottest month is May (with the mercury hitting 110 degrees), and the coolest period is January/February, where temperatures are in the 80’s and humidity is quite low. Try and guess which one has the cheapest flights?

The wet season runs from June to November, with the last few weeks vulnerable to tropical storms. However, because the Philippines cover such a large area, the rain falls on some islands and not others. Airfares tend to be lower because it’s the rainy season, but a check of the local climate can result in a cheap ticket and cracking weather.

From North America, just about every airline with a long haul plane flies direct to the Philippines, but almost all will put you into Ninoy Aquino International in Manila. This is often the cheapest option, but not necessarily the best. The airport is renowned for being a tourist trap, and the taxi drivers are almost predatory.

It is cheaper to fly direct from the west coast of the U.S. to Manila than it is to take a stop or two. However, for those with a little extra cash, or time to spare, the best option is to fly to Hong Kong, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur. Enjoy a few days there, and then take a flight to Cebu – the up-and-coming Philippines airport – where you can enjoy your vacation without the hassle of predatory taxi drivers!

$275: New York to Cancun

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Snowbird? If you usually fly to Hawaii in the winter to escape the cold, you’re probably noticing higher fares in 2010. This may be due to several reasons including the disappearance of ATA and Aloha Airlines, which were prominent over Hawaii’s skies for years.

Due to these higher fares to Hawaii in 2010, it may make more financial sense to visit Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America this year. We’re seeing good deals to Cancun (below), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and San Jose (Costa Rica).

Please use our searchbox to find your next flight deal!