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Deals to Ireland

Aer Lingus (tel. 800/223-6357; www.flyaerlingus.com) is having a decent sale from the US to Dublin or Shannon, Ireland (follow links from homepage), with flights as low as $395 round-trip including taxes. You can depart from Boston, Chicago or New York at that price, or from Los Angeles for $60 more. We comparison priced this sale with what we found on Travelocity, and we actually found fares slightly lower on other airlines on same dates of travel, but in all cases if you wanted to fly Aer Lingus itself, you're better off buying on the airline's own web site since fares were usually $50-$60 less than buying Aer Lingus flights through a third party. Travel period is January 25 to February 28, except for Los Angeles where it's February 2-21. Seats were easy to find at the sale fare thanks to the site's excellent flexible search function.

Singapore's Asia Sale

On its web site, Singapore Airlines (tel. 800/742-3333; www.singaporeair.com) is offering sale fares to Asia. On some routes, we had little trouble finding seats; on others, fares were much higher on most if not all dates. One good example of savings we found was San Francisco to Singapore for $760 round-trip including taxes leaving February 5 and coming back a week later. That same route booked on Travelocity using Singapore as the carrier? $1,151 round-trip. And the lowest fare was $877 round-trip on United. New York to Singapore, same itinerary, using Singapore's site for $987 round-trip. But United would have charged you just $809 round-trip at United.com and American $815 over at Orbitz.com (both lowest available). So as is increasingly the case, with this sale you've got to play all the angles. Note that this Singapore sale can only be booked on Singapore's site, not by phone or through a travel agent.

Austrian Airlines Sale to Europe

Add Austrian Airlines (tel. 800/843-0002; www.aua.com/us/eng/flights) to the growing list of airlines that sell their best fares on their own sites and not elsewhere. Let's say you wanted to fly from Washington to Budapest on February 2 and return on the 10th. Austrian would sell you a flight for $514 ($240 base fare plus $274 in taxes and surcharges) round-trip including taxes on its site with a current sale. Same dates and flights via Travelocity flying on Austrian: $769 round-trip, a big difference. Absolute lowest fare: $654 on United via Travelocity.

Note that these sale fares are "no rebooking" (you fly when you say you're going to or forfeit the fare, so don't get a flat tire on the way to the airport) and there's no refund of any kind should you change your mind. Purchase by January 31 and complete travel by February 15. Fares are from Washington or New York JFK to Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Milan, Warsaw and Bucharest.

Tried Priceline Lately for Last-Minute Trips?

When shopping around for last minute deals, sites such as Site59 (www.site59.com) and Last Minute Travel (www.lastminutetravel.com) can come in pretty handy. But sometimes these sites aren't as literally last-minute as you need them to be, something we found out recently when a family emergency required us to fly out the following morning from New York to Savannah. Sure, we found those same great flight plus car packages that were still cheaper than the flight alone on other sites, but the dates were for two days in advance and we needed to travel the very next day So we tried our luck at Priceline (www.priceline.com). Our initial search on Priceline turned up the same fares we had been seeing on other sites, about $250 roundtrip. That's still pretty good for a (very) last minute fare but we felt we could do better and decided to try our luck with Priceline's name-your-own-price option. Offers do not include taxes, so aim low. We started with $80 (hey, you never know) and were promptly rejected via email. Priceline then shows you the average going-rate for your fare (ours was $255) and suggests a bid for you ($245 in our case), and you can continue with your own bidding, just so long as you change something besides your bid. For example, we chose the "I agree to take red-eye or over-night flights" option, and went ahead with our ridiculously low bids. $100, rejected. $125, rejected. $140, accepted! This is, of course, prior to taxes, so we end up spending $189 but Priceline tells us that we saved 70%, or $444.54 for what was basically a walk-up fare.

A Bit More About Flexible Date Searches

Finding the low unadvertised fares you read about on airfare listing sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com (www.airfarewatchdog.com) should be as simple as plugging in a few dates and booking a trip. It can be incredibly frustrating when you can't book the deal you've just read about. Of course, sometimes special fares expire or sell out, but often it seems that people just have difficulty navigating through the search itself.

Your number one ally in nabbing that low fare is a flexible search option, which not all booking engines have. Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) is pretty good for domestic searches, because in one search you can find fares up to 330 days in advance of the current date.

We've been listing an under-$300 fare (including taxes) from Newark to Cologne on our site for several weeks now, and although many people have booked it, many others have called or emailed us irately berating us for listing a non existent deal. Well, folks, it really does exist, and here's how to find it.

For international searches, we prefer itasoftware (www.itasoftware.com), the brains behind Orbitz.com (www.orbitz.com). Here's a step-by-step to ensure you find what you're looking for. Once on the itasoftware page, you'll click on the 'looking for airfares?' option, which will open the search tool in a new window. At the top of the page, you will see three search choices; specific dates, weekend search, and month long search. Check the third option, and begin to enter your departure and arrival cities (New York to Cologne, in our case) and enter the date you'd like your 30 flexible days to start from (let's say February 6). Also, please note that the trip request box is set to round-trip by default, so if you're searching for one-way ticket you must click on the one-way tab above the box. Make sure your number of travelers is correctly set and, for best fare results, leave the 'stops' area marked as no limit, and click go.

You'll see a "Please wait...Searching" page which will give way to a calendar high-lighted in yellow to indicate the lowest fares. For our particular search, New York to Cologne, we can see February 8-12, 18, 24-26, and March 4-6 are all the lowest fare; $288. Choose one of these dates as your departure date (we'll choose February 8) and you will then be taken to a page with airline details. Your selected lowest fair will remain highlighted. Also, underneath, you will see a list of flights, connection info, and arrival/departure times. Click on "Details" to see the flight you'd like and then, if you're happy with this flight and would like to purchase, click on "show booking details."

Once on this page, you will need to find your fare codes. Round-trip fare codes are broken down by each segment, so you'll have two individual fare codes. From here, you can plug the routes and dates into a travel site such as Orbitz or Travelocity, or use the airline's own Web site.

Additional reporting by Tracy W. Stewart.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and other fare sales.

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