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Cheap travel: Tel Aviv for $1,000 and reflections on Hobbit

Posted by: under Consumer travel, Deals, Travel deals Updated: December 24, 2009 - 12:36 PM

The Internet never sleeps, nor does it take a holiday.

So it should come as no surprise then, during this holiday, that the deals are still churning out there online.

That said, most airlines already have their quotas filled during this holiday rush -- so it's not like a slow weekend when you'll maybe see a dozen or so cities on sale.

In fact, the only big last-minute deal I could find this week was on U.S. Airways, where they were offering tickets to Tel Aviv, Israel, for $544 one-way.

But while it's a last-minute deal, fortunately it's not a last-minute flight.

Tickets must be purchased by Monday, Dec. 28; however, the travel window is through Jan. 24.

You can find all the deals and details here at U.S. Airways' website:

http://shopping.usairways.com/promotion/ESaver/Default.aspx?re=1
 

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If staying on  this side of the world is more your thing -- and if you're already clawing your way out of the winter doldrums -- then take a look at this fare from Minneapolis to San Jose del Cabo for as low as $296 roundtrip.

That fare can be found on fly.com -- a site I've really grown to like over the past couple of months when it comes to airfare hunting. You can view fares a month-at-a-glance by price, which can really help steer your decisions when there's a pricepoint.

The link can be found here:

http://www.fly.com/FlyWidgets/FareAlert.aspx?Origin=MSP&Destination=SJD&StartDate=01/01/2010&EndDate=03/31/2010&amt=296
 

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Of course, if I were going to book a trip to Mexico, my first stop would actually be WorryFreeVacations.com, where I regularly see airfare-only deals often well below that price. The WorryFree site also offers weekly last-minute getaway specials out of Minneapolis to a number of locations throughout the Caribbean. This week, I saw airfares to Mexico in the $280 range for specific dates -- which seems to be about as low as I've seen them in the past few weeks.

Now, I haven't traveled on WorryFree for a while -- and I'm sure like with any travel agency you'll probably find at least one grouser -- but my last experience with them was very solid. If I were looking to hit some sun on a getaway, I'd sniff around their site. (As well as their competitor Funjet Vacations -- though I usually don't see quite the breadth of deals there).

Here's the link to WorryFree:

http://www.worryfreevacations.com/specials/hotdeals/origin.do?originCode=MSP&ignore.x=8&ignore.y=11&ignore=submit

And here's the link to Funjet:
http://www.funjet.com/hotdeals/index.asp?OAC=MSP&plCode=
 

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And, remembering that not everyone wants to necessarily LEAVE the Twin Cities and would maybe want to either stay or visit here, Travelzoo this week was touting rates at downtown Minneapolis upscale botique hotel, the Hotel Ivy, for as low as $89 per night. Fine print: Book by Dec. 31.

Here's the link:

http://hotels.travelzoo.com/chicago-hotels/714722?ptl=done&rating=&tppct=
 

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Likewise, if hockey is your thing -- and you want to see the U.S. women's hockey team play in one of their last games before the Olympics in February -- check out this deal for ice level seats at the Xcel Energy Center, for just $12.50:

http://entertainment.travelzoo.com/entertainment/716310?utm_source=top20_us&utm_medium=email_top20

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And, finally, the sad news of course many readers know, but in case you hadn't seen, it's certainly worth a read.

My colleague Suzanne Ziegler's report on the closing of Hobbit Travel:

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/80032372.html

While it's understandable that these are tough economic times, it's beyond disappointing to hear stories that several customers who had already paid Hobbit for their trips are now learning that their itineraries were never actually booked after payment.

And customers are suddenly being told to deal with everything themselves.

Unfortunately, that's not just a reflection on the Hobbit company, but a reflection on the travel agents who did the booking as well -- whether or not they're responsible for the mess Hobbit's in.

The travel columnist Christopher Elliot was quoted in the article about the intermediary role that travel agents play for customers when those customers have issues while dealing with their trips. That's the no. 1 reason to use a travel agent: You pay them because they can navigate the system and help you get things done that you can't do yourself.

So now, if we don't feel we can trust them, then who can you trust (beyond yourself) for booking your travel?

The good news -- or, at least, if there's a silver lining -- it's that many customers had paid for their trips with their credit cards. And while we consumers can find plenty to grouse about with credit card companies and interest rates, etc., etc., most credit card companies at least offer a small token of consumer protection for their travels.

In other words, for those customers who purchased their trips on credit cards, they stand a strong chance of getting their money back. (Note to self: Always pay with credit card that will protect my purchase.)

Now let's just hope that Hobbit follows through and does right by its customers.
 

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