“Using the Internet for Travel Reservations”

By Dick Curry

I frequently point out during our monthly meetings that I will provide the names of some interesting web sites that I have found.  However, we seem to run out of time before I get to that part of the meeting.  So, let’s do it here.  I want to provide you with a list of sites I visit for travel (air or cruise transportation, hotel/motels, and rental cars) information and reservations.

Most of us do some traveling; some of us do a lot.  How many of us use the Internet to get the best and cheapest travel package?  Believe me, it is safe and easy to do. 

My most recent experience in arranging travel plans using the Internet relate to a trip my wife and I are taking to Hawaii in December.  I started planning the trip by going to AAA and getting a copy of their tour book and a roadmap of the Islands.  While there I spoke with one of their travel agents and told her what I wanted to do.  She made a few inquiries and laid out a trip itinerary.  I wasn’t very happy with it.  In spite of her concerted efforts, the cost seemed high; the air travel required one stop and transfer; and it was one day short of the total time we had wanted to stay.

I cranked up my computer and went to each of the first five sites listed below.  I settled on a trip that gave us a non-stop flight from Oakland to the Island we want to visit, a stay at the same hotel but with a room upgrade, a convertible rather than the compact that I would have been required to take with the first package, and the cost was cheaper even with an extra day to be spent there.

In a trip we took earlier this year I had a receptionist say at a hotel I had booked on the Internet, “I’ve never seen us honor a price this low”.  And at another hotel we got an upgrade from a standard room to a suite (they had overbooked the standard rooms but had failed to tell the Internet service).

Is it safe to give out your credit card information to one of these listed websites?  I think it is as safe as giving the same information to a travel agent or to a clerk in a department store.  But first, be sure you are using a secure Internet connection for the page you are using before typing in this information.  Look in the bottom corner of your monitor, in the area of your browser just above your System Tray.  You should see an icon that looks like a lock in the closed position (if there is no lock icon, or if the lock appears to be in an “open” position be aware you are probably using an unsecured connection – don’t!!!).  Run your mouse cursor over the lock.  You should see an informational box appear that advises that the connection is SSL Secured with 128 bit encryption technology (or words of similar content).  I suspect that the National Security Agency can decipher a message with 128 bit encryption, but I doubt that they would try without serious motivation.

These travel websites allow you to open many windows and obtain all the information you need for comparative shopping before you are required to commit to a purchase.  So shop at all these sites.  Check out the appropriate “package” deals that they offer.  But also put together your own trip by checking out individual travel accommodations, hotel, and rental car prices individually.  While you’re at it, go to www.google.com  and type in the name of each destination place you plan to visit.  Check out Google’s search results for places to stay, things to do and places to visit.  Then check out each of these places to stay, do and visit that you have interest in on www.google.com to determine whether or not you can obtain more information.  On a three week driving trip we took this past fall through the New England states I put together a three-ring binder of information two inches thick covering every place we visited and stayed with detailed driving instructions to each.

My wife’s comment:  “Why go?  I’ll just read your book, and we can stay home and relax.”  Maybe that was overkill.

You may want to create a folder in your Internet Explorer browser’s Favorite Lists or Netscape’s Bookmarks and then copy each of these sites into the folder for future reference.  My favorite sites for travel accommodations and information are: http://www.cheaptickets.com , http://www.hotwire.com , http://www.suntrips.com , http://www.travelweb.com , http://bestfares.com , http://www.google.com , http://www.fodors.com , and http://www.frommers.com .

Have a great "holiday season” and may all your computer experiences be pleasant. 

Dick Curry

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