Saturday, October 17, 2015

Planning the Perfect Las Vegas Vacation Trip - Part 2 - Flights

So you've figured out your best windows to travel to Las Vegas and now its time to find the best deal on flights.

There are a million places online to find deals that might match your window. These include emails sent by your airline (you've joined all the frequent flyer clubs right?), airline websites, travel package websites, FaceBook, Twitter and other social media, and of course, the big travel search websites like Expedia, Travelocity (purchased by Expedia in January 2015), Priceline, Orbitz and so on.

Maybe you have a favorite that works for you but I like sites that allow me to play a lot of 'what if' games with trip timing and duration - that often finds me the best deal.

A personal favorite is Kayak, and another great overlooked tool is by Google called Matrix Flight Search, a demonstration of their ITA Software. I like use the 'See calendar of lowest dates' option. You plug in a start date and a trip duration, which can be a range, like 5-10 days.
Matrix Flight Search shows flight prices for a varying start date and duration of trip.

A relative of Matrix is Google Flights, which is also a good way of seeing a range of dates and prices.

For me, the biggest issue of trip planning is keeping flight costs down, so I focus on that first, keeping comp offers and other factors in mind. But booking the flights comes first.

Royal Flusher Vegas Savvy Travel Tip - All Canadian airlines, and, as far as I know, all American airlines, have a 24 hour grace period for airline tickets booked online. You can cancel any ticket within 24 hours if you book it on a website, with no penalties, and no strings attached, if you've booked more than 7 days in advance of travel. Use this to lock in a good deal if you haven't yet got all your other travel duckies in a row. If things fall apart, cancel. Now, of course, make sure you check on the policies of the airlines you fly before relying on this. There may be restrictions for tickets booked close to the flight date, and other airlines may not have this policy at all. So check it out before you book. Read the U.S. regulations here. (Thanks to savvy reader Kevin R. for pointing out some of this stuff!)

Another way of flying is on points. It can be cheap but boy is it hard to get decent flights these days. I use mostly Aeroplan which is associated with Air Canada. And, I'm planning on flying Westjet more.

If you are going to use points, there are tons of resources out there on the web to help you find availability that works for you.

Royal Flusher Vegas Savvy Travel Tip - Trying to book on Aeroplan or another airline Frequent Flyer program and every trip you look at has a red-eye return or maybe a four stop 38 hour marathon on the return which takes you from Vegas to Philly via Peru and Saskatoon? Consider booking the outbound trip on points as a one-way, and paying for the return so you can travel like a civilized, savvy, human being. Aeroplan one-way trips on their Classic rewards are exactly half the points (12,500 for a long haul) of a return ticket (25,000).

Flight Booking Theory

You have your window, and know when the best comps and offers are. You know when you can get off work or when Grandma Georgetta can come and stay with the kids and not miss too many bingo nights at the Legion.

You set up a couple of flight price monitors on Kayak and Farewatch, and get some ideas of prices. One Saturday morning, with the sun streaming into your office, a hot cup of morning beverage on the desk, hit up Matrix Flight Search and plug in your dates and lengths of trip.

Spotting a great deal on a flight that matches your dates and is long enough to be a fun getaway and not so long that you will collapse in Vegas of exhaustion, heat stroke, and alchohol abuse, you click the link through to the airline website, deftly put in your information and credit card info, and book your flights.

Now it's a simple matter of picking the hotel stays you want, booking them, and taking care of a few other details.

Celebrate, take a sip of that hot drink, smile, and look sexy, you are definitely going to Vegas!

Flight Booking Reality

Last August, I decided to book a last minute trip to Vegas early on a Friday evening. I opened five flight search engines, put in various dates and lengths of trip. Too expensive to fly from Flusherville. I looked at departing from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Watertown, NY. And Syracuse.

I shifted back and forth between the results and kept getting lost. Searches timed out. I had 59 tabs open in my browser, which then crashed.

Restarting the browser, I tried Aeroplan. I could get a decent flight on points on the way out, with a red-eye return. I looked at one way flights on points, but couldn't make the return work at any reasonable price. Every permutation I tried took 3 minutes of waiting for Aeroplan to spit out yet another unworkable routing or simply 'Uh uh, no flight for you, no how' messages.

By now it was two in the morning. I could no longer read because my eyes were so dry I could hear them scratching in their sockets as I frantically tried to focus on the screen.

The next day, I decided to go for the red-eye. It would be hell, but I'd get a trip to Vegas on points. I booked it.

That's when the Quad Queen decided she wanted to come with me. I logged onto her Aeroplan account but I couldn't get the same flights I was on. But I could get two flights together that left Flusherville Regional Aerodrome sooner. Knowing about the 24 hour cancellation rule, I did a "I'm so savvy!" back and forth shake of the head, and went ahead and booked two flights using her points - one for her, one for me.

Now, I'd simply cancel my single booking on my account. I logged in. No. Can. Do. Read this carefully. The 24 hour web cancellation rule does not apply to Aeroplan points.

If I cancelled I would actually have to pay $180 to get the points put back in my account. (This kind of thing is why people hate Aeroplan, by the way. They should make more allowances for stupid people like me.) Anyway, the Internet told me that some people had gotten supervisors to override this if they called in right away after making a mistake with their booking.

I called the Aeroplan number and punched '1' for English. It told me I could expect a Thirty Five Minute hold time.

Not a problem for The Flusher... I hung up and called back - and selected '2' for French. Within two minutes, I had a real live person on the line and in my pidgin French, I asked if they spoke English and if we could transact in English. Pas de probleme.

I spoke to the guy for maybe 20 minutes and all I can tell you is that he was condescending, and almost insulting. He didn't care about my plight. He wouldn't help. He told me that he was doing me a favor by telling me how to pay $180 to avoid losing my points, which could then be put to a future ticket. He said they had not allowed the 24 cancellation rule ever.

When I told him that supervisors could override this and that I'd read some posts on Flyertalk where exactly that had happened, he basically told me that this couldn't be so, and I hadn't read that, because it couldn't happen. Basically indicating that I was lying.

I hung up.

And called back the English line. Flushiepants does not give up. Not when he's done something stupid that he needs to get out of!!! I waited the 30 minutes and finally got someone.

And God love her, she was wonderful. I put a personal spin on it, and she commiserated with my stupidity.

"You are truly stupid," she said, "but I'm going to help you anyway because I take mercy on the weak and stupid members of the Aeroplan point-using traveling public." Okay, not really.

So guess what? Up until a few years ago, the 24 hour thing DID apply to Aeroplan, she said. And guess what else?

She got a supervisor involved and was able to undo everything. The ticket got cancelled, all of my points got returned, and the fees and taxes on my credit card (around $100) was refunded. The only stipulation? This was a one time deal. There would be a note on my account that I am stupid, and never to allow me to do this again.

"Thank you soooo much," I cooed. "Heh heh... I don't suppose you could upgrade us to business class, eh?..."

"Don't press your luck buster."

Royal Flusher Vegas Savvy Travel Tip - Don't let ANY service people - be they phone minions, boothlings, check-in people, sales people - push you around. If you don't get the answer you want, try someone else. And don't give up. Keep calm, and tell them someone is gravely ill or some other tragic but believable story in order to get your way. If it's your own stupidity that caused a problem, surely you deserve a break from The Man?! That's how I spin. Err Roll. Because it's better to be stupid today and spend two hours on the phone fixing it than it is to get it right the first time. Okay, well, I think you get it, just don't give up on getting the rules bent for you, and don't lose your temper! Also, apparently, stick with the mother tongue phone line.

Flight Booking Reality #2

Now, the most recent scenario.

For our latest trip, the Quad Queen had enough Avion points for a return flight. We decided to try flying from Watertown. I'd pay for mine. I found some American Airline flights that worked. She went on her Avion booking site and pulled up the flights we wanted, while I went onto the AA site on my own, and pulled up the same flights. My price was $800 CA. Ugh. But she was paying nothing, so, well, ok. The plan was to pull the trigger at the same time. We'd even book seats in the same row.

Partway through the confirmation process, for reasons unknown to me, the price on my screen changed from $800 CAD to $500 CAD. SCORE!!!!

We both completed our bookings, got aisle/window seats in the same row, and it was all so easy this time!

Flights booked, I started going down my offer list and filling out the calendar. I booked a few offers, adding them to the calendar as I went, including the confirmation numbers. I sent an email to my host at the Cal to let her know we were coming and to arrange room, food and limousine.

The Quad Queen called the Left-B-Hind Kennel to book Chippy in. The good news was that the first few days were available.

The bad news was that for the rest of our trip, and for the next month, actually, Left-B-Hind was closed. Completely.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the information about the look of it. Sadly, I did not know about it when I booked my latest flights, but it does show that the overpriced ones I booked a couple of months ago would be $300 more right that's a small consolation. So...yeah.... ;-)