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Guerrilla Travel Tactics: Hundreds of Simple Strategies Guaranteed to Save Road Warriors Time and Money

Guerrilla Travel Tactics: Hundreds of Simple Strategies Guaranteed to Save Road Warriors Time and Money

by Jay Conrad Levinson, Theo Brandt-Sarif

"Guerrilla Marketing” master Jay Conrad Levinson has done it again!

Guerrilla Travel Tactics is the most comprehensive book ever written on finding travel bargains. It’s absolutely packed with savvy travel tips, bargain-finding strategies, and insider secrets. You’ll discover how to:

Get upgraded to First Class, every


"Guerrilla Marketing” master Jay Conrad Levinson has done it again!

Guerrilla Travel Tactics is the most comprehensive book ever written on finding travel bargains. It’s absolutely packed with savvy travel tips, bargain-finding strategies, and insider secrets. You’ll discover how to:

Get upgraded to First Class, every time—guaranteed.

Know the quality of any hotel before you make a reservation.

Find the best price on a car rental in five minutes or less.

Maximize your frequent flyer miles—and fly free whenever you want.

Guerrilla Travel Tactics offers the inside scoop on every aspect of travel — the kind of tips you learn only by being on a first-name basis with the world's top concierges, getting flight attendants to speak off the record, and logging millions of air miles. This is the information hotels, airlines, and travel agents don't want you to know!"

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Jack Covert, syndicated columnist: "If you travel either for business or for pleasure, I have the perfect book for you. This book has given me countless ideas for making my next trip easier and less expensive."

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Read an Excerpt

Guerrilla Travel Tactics

By Jay Conrad Levinson Theo-Brandt Sarif


Copyright © 2004 Jay Conrad Levinson and Theo-Brandt Sarif
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-7170-6

Chapter One

Airfare Savings-Part I Saturday Night Fever and the Power of 7, 14, and 21

Two years ago, while making plans to attend the National Speakers Association's annual meeting, I diligently went to work, following the principles in this book to try and find a great airfare. My research paid off when I booked a terrific sale fare at the rock-bottom price of $252 for a Los Angeles to Philadelphia nonstop roundtrip ticket. Feeling pleased with myself-especially since I had a $100 discount coupon I could apply for additional savings, bringing the fare down to an unheard of $152-I stopped by a United office not far from my house the following day to pay for my ticket.

"With the discount coupon, your fare comes to $468," the agent told me.

"What?" I sputtered. "What happened to the $252 fare I was quoted yesterday?"

She gave me a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry. Evidently there's been a fare increase since then. And I'm sure you know that your fare is never guaranteed until paid for."


Pay strict attention to ticketing deadlines given by the airlines and other travel companies. Know the rules and apply them correctly. If you don't, you may find yourself paying more for an airfare than you anticipated-or losing it altogether.

She was right-I did know that. Even though the airlines will typically hold a reservation for twenty-four hours (or until midnight the next day), the price is locked in only when purchased. That little slip-up of mine cost me $316 overnight!

Don't make the same costly mistake. If you are quoted a really good price, either when talking directly to the airlines, working with an agent, or booking online, act that same day, making sure payment is made before midnight. If you wait till the next day, you may find that the wonderful price has vanished.

The following key steps will help you understand what it takes to obtain spectacular values on major airlines, assuming you purchase your ticket at least seven to fourteen days prior to departure and will have a Saturday night stay in your destination. If you can't fulfill these two conditions, there are still some creative methods you can use to get good fares, as we will illustrate in the next chapters.

Why Advance-Purchase Airfares with Saturday Stayover Are the Cheapest

With computer programs that use historical information and forecasting models, airlines know the cost of operating a flight, as well as the percentage of seats that will likely be occupied at different fare levels. From these complex calculations, which attempt to optimize the balance between demand and supply at each price point, the airline can estimate how many fares to sell within each fare category or class. This practice is known in the industry as "yield management," which estimates the optimal balance between selling cheaper advance-purchase tickets and holding over just the right number of seats for last-minute travelers who will be willing to pay top dollar. As part of this concept, flight load is assessed regularly, meaning that demand falling below prediction may result in an increase in cheaper seats being offered, and vice versa.

How Airlines Account for Different Price Points Customers Are Prepared to Pay

We all know that different passengers assign very different values to the price they are willing to pay for a flight. For example, the consultant or marketing professional who has been called urgently to solve a problem or close a sale in a remote city will pay whatever it takes to travel, while the annual vacationer seeking a summer break with his family will pay only a fraction of that amount.

Using a hypothetical roundtrip flight from New York to Boston, the business traveler may readily pay $400, while the vacationer will not pay anything more than $150. Naturally, the business traveler would prefer to pay $150-even though she will be willing to pay a higher price, if need be. To differentiate between the two types of travelers, airlines impose restrictions to close off the lower fares to last-minute travelers-the two most important being:

1. Requirements for advance purchase (typically at least seven to twenty-one days before date of departure, which business travelers may not be able to do)

2. The need to stay over a weekend (which leisure travelers are happy to do, while business travelers prefer to be at home for their weekend!)

So What Does This Mean for You in Your Quest to Get the Lowest Fare?

What this all means for you, the traveler, is that an airline ticket price is determined by a vast array of variables, including class of service (coach, business, first) as well as fare category (including 3-, 7-, 14-, or 21-day advance purchase, whether you will stay in your destination over a Saturday night, low or high season, whether purchased direct from the airline or from a travel agent or consolidator, and so on). When overall demand is lower, airlines may start a sale to boost cash flow. Conversely, seats for flights departing at peak times (such as Monday morning and Friday afternoon) will typically be higher because these are preferred flight times for business travelers.

Buyer, Beware-What If You Need to Cancel or Change a Nonrefundable Fare?

Nonrefundable airfare means exactly that-you cannot get your money back. But that does not mean you cannot change your date and itinerary, as long as you know the rules (which you should clarify with the airline before paying for your ticket). Most major airlines permit a change, provided you call to cancel prior to the ticketed departure time (although some may not require you to do so). Failure to call and cancel the scheduled itinerary in a timely manner will result in 100 percent of the ticket value being lost. Some airlines may give you one year from date of purchase to use the value of your ticket toward another trip-while others may give you one year from the date of the ticketed departure date. Change fees are typically $100 per ticket for domestic travel, and $200 for international. Some airlines may have rules prohibiting an unused international ticket being applied to domestic travel.

When exchanging a nonrefundable ticket for domestic travel on a major airline for a new itinerary at a lower price, the airline will likely offer you a travel voucher for the remaining dollar value. However, certain international tickets may only be exchanged for another ticket having the same or higher price, meaning that you will lose money when exchanging for a ticket of lesser value. Low-cost airlines, on the other hand, are usually less restrictive. For example, Southwest does not charge a change fee, nor do you have to call to cancel your originally scheduled flight when using a nonrefundable ticket. Note that the rules may be different when booking online at independent travel agent sites and for international tickets. As always, be sure to check before you pay!

Other Ways Airlines Deal with Last-Minute Seat Availability

Airlines face a dilemma that is quite unique-huge fixed costs and miniscule variable costs. This means that the expenses incurred in flying an aircraft from one city to another remain relatively constant, regardless of whether the flight leaves the gate with 20 percent occupancy or has a traveler in every seat. While the additional (variable) cost to accommodate one extra traveler is perhaps a $3 meal and maybe a small amount of added fuel, airlines dare not sell seats at low prices at the last minute through conventional channels, otherwise they will lose the revenue of the business travelers needing to travel at short notice who are willing to pay a premium price if they have to.

Airlines may offload discounted seats at the last minute through consolidators, but tickets purchased through these intermediaries may be associated with significant restrictions. Increasingly, airlines are offloading last-minute fares by way of the Internet, which we will discuss in detail later in the book.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies, have structured pricing systems that penalize last-minute travelers. This typically targets business people, many who tend to be less price sensitive because they work for a large company that can afford to pay an inflated fare. But the small business person, whose pockets aren't as deep, can also get caught in a situation where he faces higher fares for last-minute ticketing, and absorbing those costs can be painful.

With just a little bit of planning, you can save big, as airlines offer price incentives to book in advance. One good example of taking advantage of the airlines' restrictions is to include a Saturday night stay in your itinerary, which almost always brings down a fare. Another is to book at least 7 to 14 days ahead-in fact, the farther out from the departure date you can book, the better. For example, 21-day advance purchases may offer better prices than 7- or 14-day advance prices for domestic travel. And 45- or 90-day advance purchases may be the most favorable with respect to ticket prices for travel to Europe. Certain promotions may have advance-purchase requirements detailed in the "small print." Be sure to check.

Start by finding some benchmark prices direct from the airlines, from your travel agent, or best yet, on the Internet. (Refer to Chapter 9 for details.)

Wait for the Sale

Another valuable money-saving strategy for getting great airfare values is to wait for the sale, just as you would when shopping at a department store. But there is one advantage in exploiting airline sales over department store sales: Every airline seat is a commodity that rarely changes from day to day, season to season. You never pay for undesirable, out-of-date, or defective inventory! Furthermore, for domestic travel on most major U.S. airlines, frequent flyers who hold elite or premier status-having flown at least 25,000 paid miles on that airline in the previous calendar year-are eligible to upgrade, even when purchasing air tickets at a sale price. Finally, with the notable exception of Delta and Continental Airlines, earning frequent flyer miles or acquiring elite frequent flyer status is generally unaffected on major U.S. airlines by purchasing tickets on sale. A sale is usually started by one airline seeking to boost its cash flow, and its competitors match the sale price within hours. Airlines may sometimes offer added discounts to travelers who will fly at off-peak times or slow days. Taking advantage of sales ties in well to the concept of planning; if you know well in advance when you will travel, you can wait for the sale that will cover the time period you need to travel-typically two to six months following the start of the sale. For example, an airfare sale in early January will typically offer travel at reduced fares from late January or February through May or June.

A few important points about airfare sales:

* Frequency. Airfare sales for domestic flights occur with staggering frequency, and typically within eight to twelve weeks of each other. This means that the traveler who can plan at least sixty days in advance will have a high probability of being able to purchase his ticket on sale. But sometimes it's difficult to detect "real" sales from "phantom" sales. For example, the marathon three-month-long sales that Northwest Airlines has on occasion promoted are "phantom" sales, offering a measly 25 percent discount on selected routes. While this can still be a good value for summer travelers late in making their vacation plans, it doesn't compare with "real" sale prices, where you should receive a savings of at least 30 to 40 percent off the "standard" leisure/nonrefundable fare. How do you know what are the standard airfares? Simply keep track of fares for your desired destination(s) on a weekly basis for one to two months.


A phantom sale is an advertised sale where fares drop 20 to 30 percent from their standard level. You ideally want to purchase your tickets when fares have decreased at least 33 to 40 percent from their standard (or "typical") price. You can find out the standard price by periodically checking fares to your desired destination(s)-say twice each week over three to four weeks.

* Keeping in the Know. To find out about a sale, just open any major city or national newspaper. If there's an airfare sale at that time, you won't be able to miss the full-page advertisements placed by the airlines promoting their discounts. Internet sites for travel agencies and airlines will also include sale notices on their home pages. Better still, register for e-mail updates to receive prompt notifications of a sale. This is best accomplished by requesting e-mail frequent flyer statements rather than updates by way of regular mail.

Occasionally an airline will have a sale for a specific city pair or region, which may last for just a few days or even a few hours. These are typically not advertised in newspapers, so the only way to find such specials is by checking Internet sites such as Bestfares.com on a daily basis or at least twice each week. Another site is Travelocity.com, whose Fare Watcher enables you to be notified by e-mail when airfares for your selected city pair(s) have dropped below the threshold price you have designated. Similarly, Orbitz.com's Deal Detector will watch for deals on up to three destinations you specify, at a price equal to or below your desired price.

* Notable Exceptions. As with every rule, there is an exception to "waiting for the sale," and that is for travel on peak dates, such as the Wednesday before or Sunday after Thanksgiving, and the weekends before and after Christmas and the New Year. These used to correspond to the dreaded "frequent flyer blackout dates," which were eliminated by several (though not all) major airlines in 2002, although available award seats for peak dates of travel are few and far between! Sales never occur for these days, since every seat can be sold at a premium price. The ideal time to purchase a ticket and ensure the best price for peak dates is approximately 330 days in advance of travel, corresponding to the actual day the seats are entered into each airline's computer system. Prices then increase progressively as the date of travel gets closer, with virtually no possibility of a sale on airfares for travel dates corresponding to blackout dates some airlines (such as Southwest) still impose on free (award) seats over peak holidays.

* First Class. Airfare sales may sometimes include discounted fares for first and business class, frequently offering 40 to 60 percent off standard premium prices. When booking online or by telephone, always check out the price of a premium seat.


Excerpted from Guerrilla Travel Tactics by Jay Conrad Levinson Theo-Brandt Sarif Copyright © 2004 by Jay Conrad Levinson and Theo-Brandt Sarif. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Jack Covert
"This book has given me countless ideas for making my next trip easier and less expensive."
syndicated columnist
From the Publisher
"This book doesn’t merely save or make you money, it turns you into a travel genius."

— Jay Abraham, Business Growth Expert

"An indispensable resource for travelers of any kind, especially the money-saving kind. I don't have to just book the latest low-cost airline anymore. With its ten chapters devoted exclusively to saving money when flying, Guerrilla Travel Tactics shows me how to choose whichever airline I want and still get low fares."— Randy Petersen, Editor and Publisher, InsideFlyer Magazine."

Meet the Author

Jay Conrad Levinson (Marin County, CA) is the author of the Guerrilla Marketing series, the best-selling marketing series in history, plus 24 other business books. The Guerrilla books are required reading at leading MBA programs worldwide. Theo Brandt-Sarif has more than 15 years of experience researching and developing travel strategies, and is an internationally recognized consultant on savings strategies for sophisticated small-business and leisure travelers.

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