Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Travel alerts from the mother of all watchdogs

When you’re trying to book travel online, you can always use a little help.

Why? Because booking travel online is not easy. There are 78 different sites you can use to get the same exact flight information, or you can just use Kayak.com, which will do all of that redundant work for you. Press enter on Kayak, DUCK, and hope the carnival of pop-up boxes that emerge does not crash your hard drive. Then, sift through all of them one-by-one only to discover they are all the same exact flights and price.

Or, use Priceline, and utilize the “name your price” option. I mean, when has naming your own price for something ever NOT worked? If there’s anything more fun than booking travel online, it’s spending inordinate amounts of time and energy getting in a bidding war arranged by William Shatner based on the .001 percent chance you’ll spend $5 less than if you had just blindly chosen one of Kayak’s pop-up boxes.

Luckily, there are tricks to the trade. All you have to do is ask a seasoned travel veteran. Like my mom, who travels at least once a year. Her trick of the trade? It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone. Promise not to tell anyone? Pinky swear? OK. The secret is … (looks around to make sure no one is watching) … Tuesday.

Tuesday is the day to book flights online. It’s the one day of the week the airline industry is not aware of. What, you booked on a Thursday? Pffft. You probably paid triple. Legend has it (the legend is my mom) that my Uncle Mike once booked a flight from Charleston, SC to JFK for $17.50 on an overcast Tuesday back in ’06.

Everyone is asleep at the wheel on Tuesdays, so take advantage. Even when my mom is not preparing to travel, which is 99 percent of the time, she is closely monitoring Tuesday flight deals. I received this text from my mom last—you guessed it—Tuesday:

“Hey Mike, I was just on airfare watchdog”—quick interjection to note my mom uses something called airfare watchdog; I picture her in a dark room wearing a headset and monitoring the prices of flights my dad will refuse to go on because he “threw out his back”—“and saw flights Newark to Phoenix for $319 good till March.”

My immediate thoughts were: a) I am not in Newark and b) although this deal isn’t too good to be true, it’s still probably not true. Thankfully, she followed up:

“I didn’t check out the fine print so it may not be a good deal.”

Had I the time to research this deal that was not applicable to my whereabouts, it would have undoubtedly specified “good till March 2008.” My mom and fine print have had a rather turbulent relationship over the years, mostly due to the former ignoring the latter.

As if she knew I was neglecting to look into her deals, my mom then, the following—I am not kidding—Tuesday, emailed me the same deal. This time I felt obliged to look into it. I clicked on the link and airfare watchdog popped up with the salutation, “Welcome, Judy!” and, besides the flight info, featured a list of hotels I might like to stay at during my trip to Phoenix.

I responded, “Mom, thanks. But this is Newark to Phoenix - not the other way around. It also excludes Friday and Sunday travel and is literally only valid for one week in mid December and Jan. 6 to Feb. 11, 2015.”

She responded, “OK thanks, I wasn’t sure if it was like that - a different price coming the other way.”

To which I replied, in my head, “?????” But she wasn’t finished, since she had more helpful advice.

“I just read something that said the weekends are actually the best days to book.”

I don’t know what to believe anymore. But I did make a reservation at the Hampton Inn Phoenix. Should be fun.


Note: This column appears in the 10/9 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/10 issue of the Peoria Times.

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