Travel expert Edward Hasbrouck on bargain airfares and destinations
Travel expert Edward Hasbrouck is the author of The Practical Nomad guide books. His latest book is a consumer guide to using the Internet for travel planning. Hasbrouck also does individual travel consulting for AirTrek.com and is considered an expert in cheap air fares and international travel.
CNN Host: Welcome to CNN.com Newsroom, Edward Hasbrouck. Thank you for joining us today.
Edward Hasbrouck: Welcome to all of you, and best wishes for all of your travels this summer!
CNN Host: What are a few of the best bargain travel destinations this summer?
Edward Hasbrouck: Certainly, the best bargain this summer will be England, especially outside of London. Americans are traveling overseas less, and they're scared off from England by fears of foot and mouth disease, so prices will be coming down in order to attract travelers to provincial England. There are still some restrictions, especially on walking in the countryside, but most American visitors to England aren't doing cross-country tramping and won't be affected at all.
Question from chat room: How about airfare? Is British Airways going to lower its prices?
Edward Hasbrouck: I don't know about specific airlines, but typically, the cheapest prices on any airline route are from the last airline you would think of, because it's the last airline you would think of. For example, the cheapest prices from New York to London usually aren't on British Airways or American Airlines. They're usually on Kuwait Airlines or Air India, both of which fly from New York to London non-stop. Because people don't think of them, they have to discount to fill their planes.
Question from chat room: Edward, what's the cheapest way to get to France this summer?
Edward Hasbrouck: Quite a few airlines are having sales now, if you can leave before mid-June. If you want to leave later in the summer, you may be better off waiting for prices to go down. Typically, the lowest prices are not directly from the airlines, but from so called "consolidators" or from discount airfare sites like hotwire.com or onetravel.com.
Question from chat room: Do you expect air fares to rise because of energy costs, and do car rental companies drop rates to compensate for the higher fuel prices their customers will endure?
Edward Hasbrouck: No, and no. Fuel costs are just one of many costs for airlines. The larger factor is how many people are traveling. And because fewer people are traveling, airlines will have to lower costs to fill their planes. As for cars, car rental places don't care how much you pay for gas. It's not their problem.
Question from chat room: Does Hasbrouck know where to travel for flyfishing?
Edward Hasbrouck: I don't know! Not my area at all. :)
Question from chat room: What would you recommend for travel in WY and MT?
Edward Hasbrouck: I think you'll find fewer people traveling in destinations like that that involve long road trips by car from most big cities, because people will be thinking more about the cost of gas, so this may be a better summer than most for that kind of trip. After all, while it may seem like a big price increase, gas isn't that big a part of the cost of your whole trip.
Question from chat room: Is priceline.com a good place to shop for tickets?
Edward Hasbrouck: Generally not. Priceline is a consolidator, but with a peculiar pricing system. Their "name your own price" system insures that you pay as much as you are willing, and no less. I think consumers get better value at sites that tell you the price, where you don't risk paying more than necessary.
Question from chat room: Do you follow the Australian mix up regarding takeovers Air New Zealand-Quantas and Ansett washout -- will this affect USA-Australian-New Zealand flights?
Edward Hasbrouck: As long as the same number of flights are operating between the U.S. and Australia, the biggest factor in prices will remain demand. The economy is down in the USA, and the Australian dollar has been falling, making it more expensive for Australians to travel to the USA. So, I don't expect this to result in an increase in prices between the USA and Australia.
Question from chat room: Is travel to China down a lot?
Edward Hasbrouck: Not so much. Tourist travel from the USA is a relatively small portion of travel to China. Most travel to China from the USA is either business travel, or travel by Chinese-Americans visiting friends and relatives. Those kinds of travel have been less affected by the economy or by concerns about fuel prices. Right now, there's over-capacity between the USA and China, and fares remain very low, relative to the distance.
CNN Host: Do you have any suggestions for good, reasonably priced family resorts this summer -- domestic or abroad?
Edward Hasbrouck: If people have a little bit of time and are willing to consider things farther afield, the best value anywhere may be in Bali. Despite the political and economic problems in Indonesia, the situation for tourists in Bali remains very safe. But the collapse of foreign tourism means that the prices, which were already very low, have become lower still. You can probably spend two weeks in Bali, including airfare, for less than the cost of a week in Hawaii. And... it's a fascinating place.
Question from chat room: Why don't states try to promote more tourism within their borders -- you'd think that they'd want to keep the dollar at home and it would work well in this high gas price economy?
Edward Hasbrouck: Most states do have a government tourist board, and many of them do expect to get more domestic tourism because of Americans traveling abroad less this summer. What's missing is any national effort by the U.S. government to promote travel to the USA. It may surprise some people, but foreign travelers spend more money in the USA than Americans spend abroad.
Question from chat room: Any thoughts about places that may not be a good idea to go to this summer?
Edward Hasbrouck: Major resort areas in the USA, particularly ones relatively close to big cities, will probably be more crowded with people who might otherwise have gone farther afield. So, for example, more people from southern California may stay near home and go to Disneyland, rather than going farther away.
Question from chat room: Can you suggest some good winter getaways in the southern hemisphere?
Edward Hasbrouck: I'm not sure if you mean southern hemisphere winter, which is our summer, or our winter, which is their summer. If you mean our summer, which is their winter, one of the most interesting and affordable places right now is Ecuador. That's on the equator, so it's not really southern hemisphere, but it's one of the cheapest places in South America, and one of the most diverse, including tropical coastal areas, Andean mountains, and Amazon rainforests, all within a couple of hundred miles.
Question from chat room: Is it cheaper to fly to Paris or to arrive in London and take the train across the channel?
Edward Hasbrouck: Fly to Paris.
Question from chat room: What do you think about air couriers - is this a good deal or not?
Edward Hasbrouck: Traveling as a courier isn't for everyone. Air cargo companies subsidize tickets for couriers, in order to accompany shipments of business documents. The subsidy is greatest if the destination is most unpopular, and the subsidies for tickets for couriers to popular tourist destinations are minimal. If you want to go to Zurich or Tokyo from New York in midwinter for a week to visit a friend, it might be a good deal. If you want to go to a tourist destination, rather than a business destination in midsummer, it probably isn't.
Question from chat room: Can Aussies get any freebie flights-motels as advertised on the Internet?
Edward Hasbrouck: I'm not sure what the question means. Most advertisements for prices that seem too good to be true, are. Typically when a travel scam advertises free flights, you have to buy over-priced hotels or tours to qualify for the free flights, and the total price is more than it's worth.
Question from chat room: Any tips for good Internet travel sites?
Edward Hasbrouck: For airfares, my favorites are the two I mentioned earlier, hotwire.com and onetravel.com. These aren't for everyone, but for people who are flexible in their plans, and care more about the price than anything else, these are usually the best starting place. But there's no one site that's best for everyone or every kind of travel. If you're trying to be your own travel agent on the Internet, you need to do more work comparison shopping than if you were paying a travel agent to do that research and comparison for you.
Question from chat room: What do you think about traveling to Taiwan or Malaysia
Edward Hasbrouck: I've enjoyed my visits to both those places. Taiwan gets very few American visitors other than Taiwanese Americans. The major drawback is that Taiwan is wealthier, and therefore more expensive than China. Malaysia is one of my favorite countries. It's very diverse, and has a lot of lessons for the USA about multi-culturalism and national identity.
Question from chat room: When is the ideal time to travel?
Edward Hasbrouck: Whenever other people aren't going there. The more experienced travelers are, the more they tend to avoid peak season, and the marquee attractions, and to seek out places and times that are less crowded, and cheaper.
Question from chat room: Can you explain these one-way tickets around the world, where you can stop in any four or five cities as long you go in one direction?
Edward Hasbrouck: You can get tickets around the world in two ways. Certain combinations of airlines offer them for prices starting at about $3,000, or you can go to a travel agent who puts them together on a customized basis, for prices starting at about half that. On the Internet, you can go to airtreks.com , put in your desired destinations, and get an instant online estimate for how much that sort of ticket will cost.
Question from chat room: We know the dollar has recently strengthened against the peso. Are there other areas where there are currency values for American tourists?
Edward Hasbrouck: The most obvious one is the closest at hand, Canada. Some others that I've mentioned are Indonesia and Ecuador. The US dollar is also doing better this year than in most recent years against the British pound, the Euro, the Japanese yen, the Australian dollar, and the New Zealand dollar.
CNN Host: Do you have any final thoughts or travel ideas for us today?
Edward Hasbrouck: If there's one most important piece of advice I have about travel, it's to do it. Never before in world history have ordinary people had the kind of opportunity to explore the world than Americans and people from a few other wealthy countries have today. That's a precious opportunity, and one to take advantage of, before the brief window of affordable intercontinental air travel closes, when the oil runs out, and the jet age ends.
CNN Host: Thank you for joining us today, Edward Hasbrouck.
Edward Hasbrouck: It's been my pleasure! Bon voyage to all of you!
Edward Hasbrouck joined the chat via telephone from San Francisco, CA. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Tuesday, May 29, 2001.
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