Coming and Going: Booking Flights, National Parks

Sunday, September 27, 2009


To Book, Or Not to Book

It's the most-asked question during our online Travel chats (most Mondays at 2 p.m.): "Should I book my flight now, or wait because fares might go down?" Finally, CoGo has the definitive answer: We don't know. In fact, nobody does.

We're aware that's not the answer you were hoping for, but it comes courtesy of George Hobica, founder of cheap flight finder, who should know.

"Just as no one can really predict what the economy's going to do, we can't really predict what's going to happen with airfares," says Hobica, recalling that before the holiday season last year, some industry observers predicted that fares would go up. "And they went off a cliff instead."

Nonetheless, he offers some general guidelines for maximizing your chances of getting the best possible fare:

First, be flexible in your travel dates. "If you're flexible, a fare will probably go down, because airlines have spot sales," Hobica says. To find those sales, sign up for alerts on the Web sites of the airlines that service the route you'll be traveling. Also, track your flight on sites such as Hobica's or Farecompare (, which show you the lowest prices on any given day, or on Yapta (, where you can also sign up for price drop alerts.

Finally, Hobica offers this simple rule of thumb: "If a fare is so high that you can't afford to buy it, then you have nothing to lose by waiting for it to come down."

TRAVEL TICKER is the latest Web site to join the online travel-planning field, compiling adventurous activities under one URL. The site currently focuses on California, Nevada and Florida and will next expand to Hawaii, Colorado, New York and the Southwest. Despite the limited geography, the excursions are expansive: air combat in San Diego, canyoneering in San Francisco, Harley-Davidson rides in Daytona Beach, etc. You can browse for ideas, then book if you find a match. Info: 888-545-8247, . . . "National Parks: America's Best Idea," the six-episode series directed by Ken Burns, premieres Sunday on PBS. If you didn't make it to Yellowstone this summer, here's the next-best thing. Info:

Reporting: Zofia Smardz, Andrea Sachs

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