Check out these websites for last-minute deals

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

These are not online travel agencies, but powerful search engines that troll the Net for bargains in trips, hotels and airfare

Andy Riga

The Christmas travel rush is more than two months away, but many of the cheap airline seats already are taken. The busiest sun vacation period, including winter/spring break, is even farther away, but great deals are already hard to come by.

What to do if you’re a procrastinator or you have a sudden itch to travel — and you’re on a limited budget?

These websites may be just the ticket. They provide one-stop shopping for discounted airfares, rental cars, hotels and vacation packages.

We’re not talking about sites like, and, which act as online travel agencies. Instead, the online services we’re zeroing in on this month are essentially search engines for travel deals.

These sites don’t sell anything. They help people find deals, then refer them to the vendor’s website — or to call centres in cases of small outfits that aren’t online.

Note that most of these sites are American, so prices tend to be in U.S. dollars, even if your departure city is Canadian. (To convert prices, try, a currency convertor.)

Also, remember some of these sites do not include fares from smaller Canadian airlines like WestJet and CanJet.

Here’s a look at a few key discount-travel search tools: taps into sales and specials from more than 400 different travel sites.

There is no specific site dedicated to Canadian deals, and showcased airfare offers depart from U.S. cities. But Canadians can still partake.

For airfares, click on SuperSearch. Type your Canadian city in the From box, another city in the To box, then enter details about your trip. Next, click “Show Recommended Sites.”

You are presented with a page that lets you zip through several sites to check fares — Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets among others. This saves you from having to jump from site to site, re-entering all your travel details each time.

Travelzoo also helps find hotel rooms and car rentals. And many cruises and vacation package deals can be booked starting from Canadian cities.

Real discount hounds should subscribe to one of this site’s e-mail services. They include a top 20 list of the week’s best deals, and a NewsFlash alert that sends you a message when deals are announced.

Kelly Ford, Travelzoo’s marketing vice-president, said her company “constantly test-books the deals it publishes to be sure that advertisers are accurately reflecting what they promote, and that availability, features and price are as advertised.”

What’s in it for Travelzoo?

Travel companies pay fees to be listed on the site and featured in newsletters. They also pay Travelzoo when a user clicks on a result after the company’s deal pops up in a search. is a good starting point for travellers ready to drive a few hours to save a few bucks. It looks for discounted deals, but only from U.S. destinations.

In the search box, punch in the name of a nearby U.S. city with an airport, and your destination city. Up pop the latest deals for that route, from several sources.

Cheapflights “carries a wide inventory from airlines, low-cost carriers, consolidators, agencies and destination specialists,” said company spokesperson Charis Heelan. Listings include fares from discount U.S. airlines, including JetBlue, unlike some online travel agencies.

Cheapflights “always recommends that consumers shop around,” Heelan said. “Going to one site like Orbitz is like going to one shop, so it is likely that you will miss out on the better deals.”

Unlike most online travel agencies, Cheapflights allows you to search by “destination, not date,” Heelan added.

“Searching by date limits your ability to find all the best deals,” he noted. “For example, if you input Oct. 7 as your flight date, how do you know that the fare sale on that route, with $200 off the price, ends on Oct. 6?”

How does Cheapflights make money? Every time a visitor clicks on to a supplier’s site, Cheapflights is paid a referral fee.

Cheapflights currently has a modest Canadian sister site ( whose listings and search tools are limited.

The company is working on a bigger site for Canada. “Canadian users can expect more choice when looking for deals online” within six months, Heelan said. is a sleek site with a powerful search tool to conduct comparison shopping for airfares, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages.

Yahoo! Farechase is a bare-bones but impressive site ( that lets you search for fares, hotels and cars. searches through more than 50 travel sites to find everything from flights to hotels, cruises to all-inclusive vacations., a low-budget site whose editors monitor airfare deals in the United States, looks for “hidden fare reductions,” including discounts that pop up for short periods to allow airlines to fill empty seats

© The Vancouver Sun 2005


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