A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

31 July 2008

The Art of Researching Stuff

About a week ago I delivered an internet thumping to someone who posted a long screed about how Michelle Obama is some sort of Black Panther just waiting to leap out and set fire to whitey, or whatever. I seized his Limbaugh-derived talking points and beat him severely about the head an' neck with them until he bled from the nose and mouth all over his keyborad. Why? Well because it was plain from word two that the putz was just using Wingnut Wurlitzer fables that could have been dispelled with a visit to such rarified information sources as, say, CNN.

And forsooth I am much prone to SIWOTI syndrome.

So what exactly does this have to do with my vacation? Well, it's all about the power of internet research. Putz-face could have made a far stronger argument had he found credible, quotable back-up sources instead of just confirming his biases over at the Freepazoid forums. A bit of research could have saved him a lexical beating.

Me, I almost accepted the price of my holiday as a given, but I did a little research:

Mme Metro and I are planning on visiting some of her relatives Back East (partly because from here there's really very little Out West to be had).

I've had good results with some of the travel sites. Roughly five days before Mme and I got married, I scored a flight deal from Yahoo Travel that saw us jetting across to honeymoon romantically in Paris for $1000. Not "each". Both of us went to Paris (though not, I should explain, Paris Hilton) for $1000. Which would have been far too pricey for the Paris Hilton.

[We did not stay at the Paris Hilton, I have never been inside Paris Hilton though I understand the Paris Hilton's pretty plush. Nor do I have any Paris Hilton nude photos and video, and you'd likely be somewhat peturbed if I did.]

I'm also fond of Travelocity, Kayak (which is a meta-search engine for several of the other sites) and Expedia.

Now we intend on going to a madhouse of a place. A wasteland where centuries of conflict have left barren, bitter, scorched earth and where the peasants tremble under the dark shadow of the Gothic building that governs their lives, knowing that their freedom is at the pleasure of man with the heart and ticking brain of a machine, whose very word could send them to prison.

That's right--Ottawa.

I don't consider myself the Sultan of Stingy, the Duke of the Deal, the Prince of Penny-Pinching or anything. But I think any fool can spend more than they need to, and most do.

The odds are agin' you in travel, particularly, since ... well look how the world would work if airlines sold paint.

So I began researching a flight-car package a while ago. And I found there was no consistency. It was actually insane. I might find a flight at $X at one site, go check it out at another, and after doing that I'd return to site one minutes later to find that the price was now $X+100.

Then when Mme discovered that we might have to stay with her relatives, I had to add a hotel. The six-day package I eventually found through Travelocity was estimated at $2,410 or so.

Flight: $689 per person (the previous week it was $750 or so).
$1,400 total.

Hotel: $600-plus-a-bit
(just under $100 per night. There may be better deals, but YOU try finding them)
Car rental: $322 or so.

Which roughly adds up.

I found that there were few ways to save. Most car rental companies, for one thing, are distal arms of the same octopus. Competition is more-or-less a sham. Air travel--well in Canada the competition is digital. It's either Air Canada or Westjet on most national routes. Hotels? Well they just don't seem to get cheaper than $80 per night in the Capital.

But because when it comes to money I am thrifty, frugal ... "cheap", as Mme might say, I started to look at the airline sites.

Westjet had a seat sale that made it $199 one-way plus taxes and fees per person, or roughly $1000 round-trip for both of us.

The hotel could be booked from its own site for the same rate as, or lower than, the one I got from the travel sites.

Then I tried booking the car by itself through Travelocity or possibly Expedia. They sent me to Dollar Rental. Bingo--from $322 we went to $250 or so.

Travelocity package deal: $2,400
Plus--let us not forget--the fees to have T'city do the booking (about $18 per transaction, adding up in this case to two airline tickets, a hotel reservation, and a car rental or $76).

Metro package:
Flight: $1100
Hotel: $650 or so (taxes etc weren't included in the initial booking rate)
Car: $250 or so.

Total: $2000-plus-a-bit.

So yesterday we took the "saved" money and went and bought a digital camera (I notice it's cheaper at that site, but ours is new, not refurbished). 'Cos when you're going on a trip you want memories of it.

And I'm waaaay too cheap to buy souvenirs.

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At 11:01 a.m., Blogger Silverstar said...

I've found you can almost always do better booking the airline, hotel, etc. from their site than from the "combo" places. I just use them to get an idea where to look, and how much it's gonna cost. After all, they're not doing it for free, any more than a travel agent used to. Do they even have travel agents anymore?

At 12:49 p.m., Blogger The Nag said...

Metro, you are a man after my own heart! I just booked a 10 day trip to Paris:
Airfare: $1179 for 2 - we fly Zoom and I like it because it lands at the small, less congested Terminal 3. I made sure to book when they had a seat sale.
Apartment: $900 for 9 nights. The owner threw in 2 free nights because we stay there every year,
Car: $0 because we walk everywhere when we're there.

At 1:27 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Historically I haven't travelled much using the 'net. Most days the farthest we go is about 400 km. So this is newish to me.

I think the "last-minute-deals" look good. I recently noticed Quantas was flogging Sydney from pretty much any major city for $1000 or so, which is dead cheap.

My parents finally stopped using their travel agent about three or four years ago. I went and saw him in 200, and he did me a really good job. But even at that time he said outright that his job was on the way out and he was modestly glad to be retiring.

However, I think there will be a few survivors--someone has to book the football club trips and the CAA bargain packages.

@the nag
Wicked! Paris is always a good destination. Mme found us a spectacular little apartment, in the 5ieme, I think, via a booking service called "my-apartment-in-paris". And at that, she was looking at the wrong one! Her friend had reccomended "AN-apartment-in-paris".

At 1:29 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

"I went and saw him in 200."

Because, you see, he's a time travel agent.

Now you know my secret, I shall have to take you with me. Just step into the police/public call/box over there, would you?

At 7:04 p.m., Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

Ugh. Ottawa.

At 8:39 p.m., Anonymous PJ said...

I always check before booking a hotel or B&B, and I write reviews for them as well. Worth checking out.


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