last-minute

The holiday season may be in full force, but it’s not impossible to book a quick winter vacation without paying through the teeth.  The CBS Early Show outlined a handful of tips to get the best deals on winter trips, even booked now at this late stage in the season.

“You can’t get any more last-minute than December 20th,” says Early Show Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, adding there are still some great deals out there.  Here are a few of Greenberg’s tips:

1.) Don’t go where everyone else is going:  There are some great deals along the Atlantic seaboard with hotels (like the Sheraton Atlantic Beach) starting rates as low as $79 per night.

2.) Avoid the obvious:  While everyone else is heading to the beach, you can get some great deals and beat the lines at wine tasting tours or ski resorts for instance.

3.) Want the beach?  Think Jamaica or the Bahamas.  Peter spotlighted deals at The Wyndham Nassau & the Richmond Hill Inn in Jamaica.

4.) Check dates:  Even just a few days difference in your plans can result in a huge drop in prices such as air fare.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

Continental Airlines said Monday it will introduce a new fee for passengers that allows them to lock in a fare for up to a week and then cancel without further penalty.
The FareLock service is a first for the U.S. airline industry but mirrors similar fare option fees used by European carriers including the KLM arm of Air France-KLM SA (AFLYY, AF.FR), and is part of a broader unbundling of services in the industry to boost ancillary revenue.
FareLock went live on Continental’s website Monday, but a spokeswoman couldn’t comment on when it might be extend to merger partner United Airlines. The two merged on Oct. 1 to form United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), but will operate independently until they receive a joint operating certificate, which is targeted for the end of 2011.
Continental’s version allows a traveler to lock in ticket prices on “some” domestic and international itineraries. A three-day option costs $5, and a seven-day option costs $9.
The airline will continue to allow passengers to cancel a reservation within 24 hours at no cost. This flexibility is one provision of proposed new consumer rights regulations for U.S. airline passengers.
  • Last week Continental Airlines introduced a new fee for passengers that allows them to lock in a fare for up to a week and then cancel without further penalty.  The idea behind the new “FareLock” is simple:  Pay a fee to lock in the fare for 72 hours or seven days, depending on how long you need to mull the flight purchase.  If the airline hikes its price in that time, you’re protected.  The service starts at $5 for a 72-hour hold and $9 for a week.  The cost is variable based on the number of days until departure, the itinerary and the length of the hold.  The FareLock service is a first for the U.S. airline industry but mirrors similar fare option fees used by European carriers and is part of a broader un-bundling of services in the industry to boost ancillary revenue.
  • The Wall Street Journal recently noted that “competition among credit-card companies and a shake up in airline promotional partnerships due to mergers have led to a sweetening of travel rewards.  To get consumers to switch allegiance, several cards now offer double miles on all purchases, plus rich sign-up bonuses that make it quicker to land free tickets.  And playing off consumers’ unhappiness over fees, American Express now offers cards that cover baggage fees, change fees and even on-board sandwiches.”  Bottom line:  It’s a good time to reassess your card choice, but be careful to pick a card suited to your travel needs.  Read this article for more details.
  • International airline passengers on edge about making their connections when their flights into the United States are late may have reason to relax when they’re headed to Chicago and New York, where federal authorities are using new procedures to help travelers bypass long, snarled customs lines.  As soon as an airline knows a plane is late – sometimes even before it takes off for the U.S. – staff scan passenger lists to see who has a connecting flight and when.  They flag those passengers who look like they may be in danger of missing their connections.  Once the plane lands, arrival-gate attendants hand them bright-orange cards that allow them into the short, fast-moving customs lines.  The program could be introduced at other major U.S. airports with large numbers of international flights.  Los Angeles International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are among those that have expressed interest.