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Travel & Holiday

Net great deals

Head online to get the best travel discounts, from flights to hotels to travel packages
The Straits Times - January 17, 2012
By: Huang Huifen
| More
Net great deals Ayana Resort and Spa Bali offers Facebook deals. -- PHOTOS: AYANA RESORT AND SPA BALI

Fancy a holiday at a fraction of the cost? Head online.

With so many websites ranging from online travel agencies to price comparison sites to even Facebook offering significant savings, it is no wonder that more Singaporeans are going online to get more bang for their travel buck.

Graphic designer Angeline Liu, 39, swears by Singapore-based price comparison website Wego.com.sg, which tracks prices across more than 150 websites, 350,000 hotels and 500 airlines.

Ms Liu, who started using Wego 11/2 years ago, estimates that she saves 30 to 40 per cent on hotel rates by using it to search for the website that offers the lowest rate for the hotel where she wants a room.

The savings are so substantial that she made her husband, a 45-year-old photographer, cancel the booking he made directly at a hotel for their upcoming trip to Argentina because a Wego search showed that agoda.com was offering a 30 per cent lower rate for the same room category at the same hotel.

Even Facebook helps travellers save, as teacher Thirumaran Velusamy, 49, recently found out.

He got his wife to become a Facebook fan of Ayana Resort and Spa Bali to enjoy its social media promotion 'Like To Tweet', where Facebook fans and Twitter followers receive US$50 (S$65) credit for bookings of fewer than three nights, and US$100 for more nights.

Mr Velusamy and his wife stayed for four nights and used the US$100 credit for a seafood dinner and drinks at

the resort, and to pay for two-way transport to Jimbaran to do some sightseeing.

'It was my first time using social media for travel deals and the best thing was that it helped me stretch my dollar,' says Mr Velusamy.

Life! picks the best websites that help travellers save on flights, hotels, travel packages and attractions.

The good thing is most of these websites have a Singapore version or office, so you do not have to convert prices, spend money on long-distance calls or endure the agonising wait for e-mail replies because of the time difference.

Hotels

HotelClub (http://www.hotelclub.com)

What: This online hotel-booking specialist with 71,000 hotels in more than 7,400 cities worldwide has a Member Rewards loyalty programme which is simple to use with savings guaranteed.

Members, who enrol for free, can earn between 4 and 7 per cent cashback, depending on their membership tier when they make a booking.

It is relatively easy to move up the membership tiers. For example, once you book a hotel, you will be granted a silver membership. But gold and platinum members have to work harder to maintain their status.

Next month, HotelClub will start weekly flash sales for members in Asia. The one-day sale will feature a hotel in the region priced at up to 40 to 60 per cent off its usual rates.

http://www.Hotels.com

What: Under Hotels.com's Welcome Rewards loyalty programme, for every 10 nights booked via the website, members get a free night's stay at a hotel of a similar value to the average daily rate of the previous 10-night stays.

There is no time limit to accumulate the 10 nights, as long as you make a booking every year. You can book either a budget or luxury hotel as long as it is a property under the Welcome Rewards programme.

The website, which covers more than 140,000 properties, also has a price-match guarantee. So if you find a cheaper rate for the same room category in the same hotel elsewhere, it will refund you the difference.

Mr & Mrs Smith

(http://www.mrandmrssmith.com)

What: The boutique hotel guidebook publisher and booking specialist said last week that its basic-tier BlackSmith membership, which costs US$30 (S$38) a year, will now be free to users who book via its website. The membership will also now last a lifetime.

BlackSmith perks include a 1 per cent rebate on the users' bookings that can be used for future use and freebies such as spa treatments at the hotels.

The website covers more than 850 properties ranging from luxury lodges to bed-and-breakfasts in more than 50 countries. Some notable hotels include the exclusive Dolphin Island boutique hotel (right) on Fiji, which is available only for private rental.

Tablet Hotels

(http://www.tablethotels.com)

What: For well-heeled travellers who cannot resist a bargain, this online hotel-booking agency is where they can bag stays at hip hotels such as Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles at a huge discount. Tablet holds weekly private flash sales of up to 50 per cent off selected hotels in its collection of close to 2,000 hotels in over 100 countries.

To gain access to the private sales, you will first have to book a hotel via Tablet.

Each booking also earns you a US$10 rebate, which can be used for future bookings or to buy Tablet Plus, its annual US$195 benefits programme. Members get to enjoy perks such as an additional 5 per cent discount during private sales.

http://www.priceline.com.sg

What: This website allows you to 'Name Your Own Price' for a hotel room. Simply select your destination, the area you want to stay in, the desired star rating of the hotels and put in how much you want to pay. Then enter your credit-card details.

The website will match you to any hotel that is willing to accept your bid and you will be notified if you are successful within a working day.

While you will not be charged if your bid is unsuccessful, the downside is that you are not allowed to cancel your payment made on Priceline or make any changes to your request.

Social media

Facebook/Twitter

What: More travel companies are engaging their customers on these social media platforms by offering their followers exclusive deals and promotion updates.

For instance, Jetstar's recent Take A Friend For Free promotion, where you buy two tickets for the price of one, was offered a day earlier to its Facebook fans and subscribers of its e-mail alerts before it was offered to the general public.

Travel agent ASA Holidays also uses its Facebook page to alert fans of promotions and last-minute deals. 'Our Facebook fans have always been the first to know of such deals,' says its head of marketing and communications Eileen Oh.

STA Travel also plans to use its Facebook page to give out special promotional codes to its Facebook users. 

Flights

http://www.CheapTickets.sg

What: CheapTickets.sg is an online travel agency in Singapore that offers a wide variety of budget airlines such as Tiger Airways, AirAsia, Lion Air and Cebu Pacific, along with full-fledged carriers.

It has more than 400 airlines in its inventory.

In the next few months, it will include more budget carriers such as Jetstar and India's GoAir and IndiGo. This means you do not have to trawl through the various budget airlines' websites to search for the best prices for your short-haul trips.

http://www.Webjet.com.sg

What: Save tens of dollars for a short-haul flight and hundreds of dollars on long-haul ones at this website, a one-year-old local version of online travel agency Webjet Australia.

It displays the prices in a clear grid format, arranged from the lowest to the highest, of various flights at different times of the day of travel. This enables users to know which airline offers the cheapest fare.

Webjet's flight search engine is connected directly to the airlines' seat reservation system, so its inventory is synchronised in real time.

Look out for the website's joint promotions with companies such as banks, which give users freebies such as airport transfers with online purchases. The promotions are held quarterly.

The prices stated are the final prices of a one-way flight.

Enjoy the bright lights and action of Las Vegas with cheap tickets to live entertainment. -- PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Last-minute deals

http://www.goldstar.com

What: Travelling to the United States and hoping to catch a musical or live entertainment show? Sign up for free at Goldstar, a California-based website that offers unsold tickets to live entertainment shows in major US cities at almost half the price.

For example, a ticket to the Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour in Los Angeles on Jan 24 and 25 costs US$79 (S$102) instead of US$129. And the Broadway premiere of Margaret Edson's award- winning play Wit at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in New York costs US$59 instead of US$116.

The site charges a few dollars as a service fee. You cannot choose your seat but you will know which section your seat will be in.

There are more than 200 events offered at any one point. Tickets are usually listed two weeks to a month before the performance date and are collected at the box office.

You can now fly to London on the cheapest flight available, by using pricecomparison websites such as Wego and Skyscanner. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

Price-comparison websites

http://www.Wego.com.sg

What: Time-strapped bargain-hunters will find Wego Singapore a godsend. The meta-search website tracks the prices of more than 150 websites, 350,000 hotels and 500 airlines and shows users the cheapest source filtered according to their budget and date of travel.

It helps that it includes popular websites such as Expedia, hence saving you time comparing prices on the individual sites.

Its DateWise Fare Finder tool is especially useful. It shows you the airline offering the lowest rate on any particular date of travel and directs you to the airline's website to book. Its price graph also shows the cheapest dates in any given month to travel. However, the tool tracks only flights from Singapore to 10 destinations in the region.

For hotels, it compiles consumer reviews on various websites such as Hotels.com so you can be sure that the hotel you book is worth the money.

A small information box on top of the homepage is handy in reminding you of the upcoming public holidays so you can plan your leave dates wisely.

Wego also has a flash-sale section called Fast:Deals that discounts up to 72 per cent off hotel rates. What sets it apart from other flash-sale websites is that it lets buyers pay a small deposit of a few dollars and fork out the remainder when they check in at the hotel. This minimises consumer risk if the hotel does not honour the deal.

http://www.Skyscanner.com.sg

What: Cannot decide which dates to travel? Check out the local version of Skyscanner, which tracks the cheapest flights from Singapore to any destination at any time.

The United Kingdom-based online company, which recently opened an office in Singapore, compares prices for more than 600 airlines.

For instance, if you plan to visit London in July, select the 'view whole month' option when choosing your departure date.

A calendar will display airfares for each date. The cheapest dates to depart are July 12 and 13 on Singapore Airlines from $964 one way and the cheapest return date is on July 23 at $966. It then directs you to the website offering those rates. 

Group-buying and flash-sale websites

http://www.groupon.sg, http://www.deal.com.sg,

http://www.alldealsasia.com and http://www.twangoo.com

What: For travel packages at up to 70 per cent off, turn to group-buying sites such as Groupon and Deal.com.sg. Both have a dedicated travel section listing deals, from flight and hotel to accommodation-only packages, to nearby destinations.

To keep track of what different local group- buying websites are offering, use AllDealsAsia, an aggregator of deals from group-buying sites in Asia, including Singapore.

To stretch your dollar, sign up for city-specific Groupon sites. Groupon has a presence in more than 40 countries, offering deals on dining, shopping and sightseeing. For instance, Groupon Australia had a recent deal for a three-hour Sydney Harbour Cruise with buffet dinner at A$39 (S$52) instead of A$100.

Remember to read the fine print and make sure that the voucher does not expire before your travel dates and that they can be used for tourists.

For upmarket deals, join Twangoo, a flash-sale website for lifestyle services and products.

Under Twangoo Urban, you can find deals for Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila.

Recent deals include a 42 per cent discounted package which comes with a couple spa session at Macau's award-winning Altira Spa and two tickets to The House Of Dancing Water, the world's largest water-based show in Macau's City of Dreams (above right).

For Twangoo Escapades, you can offer any price you want for its luxury hotel packages, which include extras such as spa treatments and gourmet meals. This is because Escapades uses an auction method where users are given a short period of time to bid for the featured package. The minimum bid is US$1 (S$1.30) and the winner with the highest bid gets the deal at his desired price.

So far, Escapades has held 12 auctions and each is worth an average of US$1,800. These deals usually close at 60 to 80 per cent off their actual value.

Hotels that have been up for auction include the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Maldives and Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort.

Do note, however, the black-out dates during peak periods or hidden costs. To minimise the risk, read reviews of the merchants before purchasing deals. You can also call the merchant to make sure that the deal is still available.

Travel packages

http://www.Zuji.com.sg

What: Free-and-easy travellers should make use of Zuji's flight-and-hotel bundle package, in which the combined price is cheaper than booking the same options separately.

Zuji also often throws in freebies such as dining and massage vouchers, airport transfers and admission tickets to attractions.

For example, a five-day-four-night Hong Kong hotel-and-flight package for two is currently on sale till Jan 31 for about $1,343.40 for travel from Feb 13 to 17, with a free pair of Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car tickets worth HK$374 (S$62). The hotel used is Nathan Hotel, while return flights are on Jetstar.

In comparison, a four-night stay at Nathan during the same period costs $1,026.26 on the hotel's website, while a return flight on Jetstar.com costs $520 for two. That comes up to $1,546.26 in total.

By booking Zuji's package, you save $264.86, which includes the price of the Ngong Ping tickets.

Zuji's Trip-A-Weekend feature is also handy for weekend getaways. Key in your desired date and length of stay, and it will display a chart of nearby destinations and how much hotels and flights cost on each weekend that month.

http://www.Expedia.com.sg

What: A new player to Singapore's online travel agency market, Expedia bundles flight and hotel packages, which can be 10 to 20 per cent cheaper than separate bookings. It is helpful because it also states how much you save by bundling the package.

It has an inventory of more than 145,000 hotels and over 400 airlines. But Expedia may be more useful for those planning a long-haul trip because currently, it has only AirAsia in its inventory of low-cost carriers.

http://www.TripZilla.com

What: This one-year-old local website lists deals by a large number of brick-and-mortar travel agencies here.

It goes one step further by listing deals from group-buying websites, credit-card companies, airlines, hotels, tourism boards and even travel insurance companies. It does not take bookings but directs users to the travel company.

You can search for travel packages by keying in your destination in the search engine and it will churn out the list of packages offered by various travel partners.

Travel fair junkies should check out its travel fairs section, which lists selected deals from ongoing travel fairs in Singapore. Its general manager Winnie Tan says users can save up to 20 per cent on hotels and flights when they use the website to find the source of the cheapest fare.

 

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