Orbitz: Great search engine; competitive prices BUT you can avoid the fees
Feb 21, 2004 (Updated Oct 18, 2005)
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I usually check several sites for airfare (expedia, orbitz, travelocity) but I most often find what I need on Orbitz. I like their search engine and find the site easier to use than most others. I also find the air fares as cheap or cheaper on Orbitz.
I really like the search engine on Orbitz because it not only lets you search for a particular airport, but there is also an option to search airports within 70 miles at the same time. This is a very handy feature if you live close to several airports or your destination has several airports in a cluster (south Florida, for example). Other sites make you do these searches individually which is time consuming and can get confusing.
Orbitz also lets you prefer non-stop flights. When I travel with my kids, I only consider non-stop flights. At this stage in my life, no matter the extra cost, nothing is worse than dragging small children and luggage across a terminal or missing a connection.
PRICES - AIRFARE
One important thing to know about Orbitz, and other travel sites as well, is that they don't show prices for all airlines. Some airlines don't have agreements with Orbitz in particular but might be found on other general travel sites. Some airlines, such as Southwest, don't use general booking sites at all. If you really want to see what is out there, you may have to get familiar with all airlines that operate in your area and check out some sites individually.
Another thing to consider is that if you are flexible with the times you can travel, you might get a better price on Hotwire or Priceline for airfare.
With all of that said, I think the prices on Orbitz are competitive or better than the other general sites out there. This may vary from market to market. All my flights originate in Boston so I speak from somewhat limited experience.
BEWARE - AIRLINE BOOKING "SERVICE" FEES - AND HOW YOU CAN AVOID THEM
The price quoted by the Orbitz search engine does not include a $6 per ticket "service fee" which is added late into the payment process. If you are booking tickets for a family of 4, that adds $24 to your bill.
You can try to avoid the fee by first finding your airfare on Orbitz. Then try finding the same flight on the Airline's own booking site. For example, if you book on the American Airlines site (www.aa.com) you can get the same price on Orbitz but not paying a booking fee. Plus, American Airlines will award you an extra 1,000 frequent flier points just for using their site. (Of course all of these fees and awards are subject to change over time.)
The thing to remember is that time is of the essence - you should book a flight immediately after seeing an airfare you like. I lost a fabulous $140 round trip from Boston to Florida because I hesitated a few hours while shopping around the internet. When I returned to the site - the price had gone up to $240.
OTHER AIRLINE TICKET FEES
If you agree to accept e-tickets, there are no additional charges. If you want paper tickets, you have to pay a surcharge. You also will need to pay a fedex charge if you need the tickets quickly. I always use e-tickets and find them convenient so I haven't paid these extra charges.
PRICES - HOTELS
I have never booked a hotel on Orbitz because I always seem to find them cheaper elsewhere, either on the hotel's own site or at a site that specializes in hotels, such as Hotels.com.
The customer service is very, very good. You can print a confirmation page at the time of payment but it won't have your e-ticket number yet.
I print out the paper receipt of my ticket and bring it to the airport with me. I have always had a good experience - my reservation has never been lost.
I think Orbitz can be a great site for locating cheap airfare. However, a complete search will probably include other sites as well because Orbitz doesn't carry all airlines. Also, remember to check the airline's own site before booking and paying a fee on Orbitz. Sometimes you can avoid a fee entirely and even get a bonus of frequent flier miles or other promotion when you go off Orbitz's site. I am giving Orbitz three stars based on the quality of the seach engine. I deleted two stars because of the fees.
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Clothing and Home Goods: Lands End; Bluefly; Soft Surroundings; Garnet Hill; Sundance; L.L. Bean.
Home and Garden: Smith & Noble; Restoration Hardware; Gardeners Supply Company; Unicahome; Homeclick; FaucetDirect; Gardens Alive; West Elm; Crate & Barrel; MyKnobs; CB2.
Books and Magazines: Amazon.com; ValueMags; Magazine Values; Dover Publications.
Office Supplies, Furniture and Services: Staples; Officemax; Topdeq; Efax.
Electronics: HP Shopping; Buy.com; ABT Electronics.
Travel: Amtrak; Hotwire; Hotels.com.
Discount: Overstock.com; Target; Smart Bargains.
Photo Developing: Shutterfly; Snapfish.
Baby Stuff: Babystyle; Babys Here Birth Announcements; Baby Universe; SoZo; Baby Center; Baby Age; One Step Ahead.
Miscellaneous: 1-800 contacts; Movie Tickets.com; Drugstore.com.
Rebate Sites: Upromise; Ebates.
Before you start shopping, check out my tips on how to save money by shopping on the internet . I have also included some coupon codes and plan to add more as I find them.
What product did you purchase or try to purchase? airline tickets
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