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© D W travel tips
by Rebecca Brite

Tips on booking vacations on-line

ven as the Web opens up new travel vistas, it can also bring a new set of frustrations until you get the hang of it. Here are some tips for would-be on-line travelers, geared to those using the increasing number of French sites.

1. To find the best deals, be patient. Many French travel sites have not quite made the transition from the old Minitel-based technology to the full flexibility of the Web. Dégriftour/Réductour, for instance, is a long-established virtual “bucket shop” where great discounts are often available. But getting the information you need, then finding out whether there are actually seats left for the flight, hotel rooms, tour packages or whatever you’ve picked, takes several steps. ( for last-minute bargains, to book farther ahead)

2. When planning a US trip that involves domestic travel, try using two separate virtual travel agencies — a French-based one for the transatlantic leg and an American one for the internal reservations. Most American sites are geared to users over there and do not always list the best rates for flights originating in Europe. Similarly, French sites rarely offer the full range of US airlines (especially no-frills carriers) or car rental companies. The cheapest option may be an “open-jaw” reservation ( is the only French site I’ve found so far offering this possibility) combined with one-way domestic flights on US budget carriers.

3. Pay attention, and read the Web equivalent of the fine print. The prices listed on most European travel sites do not include airport taxes. Another problem, noted above, is finding out whether a given bargain is actually available. The only French site I know that always gives the total price and only lists deals where space is available is the speedy, user-friendly (see No. 2) does list both before- and after-tax prices. However, determining availability is relatively easy. The confusingly similar-sounding gives its prices toutes taxes comprises or TTC, but after its site has given you the basic info, you have to order by... Minitel. Once I nearly finalized an order on before noticing that the itinerary the site had proposed was for departure a day earlier than I asked, and there had been no warning of this change. The Nouvelles Frontières site also has a disconcerting tendency to “suggest” alternative dates without pointing out that it is doing so.

4. If you are worried about security, pick an agency that offers the option of “pre-reserving”: your booking is made but not finalized until a human being has contacted you and taken your credit card info over the good old-fashioned phone or fax. Travelprice and Voyageurs du Monde ( are among the sites with this service.

5. Be aware that growing pains in the virtual travel industry can throw a wrench into the works. The first time I used Travelprice, for instance, my ticket never arrived — I placed my order just at the moment that Travelprice tripled the size of its operation, and in the resulting disarray, my ticket fell through a crack. And a recent attempt to book through brought up a screen warning of a bug resulting in flights being listed as available when they’re not really.

6. If you’ve waited till the last minute to reserve, don’t despair. The Web is full of travel sites for procrastinators. One of the most interesting is, which offers links not just to travel deals but for other “sales” by many different kinds of retailers. The highly touted doesn’t always live up to its billing, but every now and then it features a travel deal so incredibly cheap that it bears keeping an eye on.

Other popular French travel sites (all the URLs start with www) include: — Like many French offerings, this is an established leisure travel agency (you know, the red monkey) now operating on-line. Best for package deals. — The French version of a well-known British site; it now owns the highly regarded (La Compagnie des Voyages) and features travel planning info from Lonely Planet. — The Web site of the French travel channel on TV, full of info and occasional deals on package tours.

Rebecca Brite is a Paris-based American editor and travel consultant specializing in northern France. She can be reached at