Fall buying guide 2005
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Last-minute travel tips
How to save when booking a trip; how to get a seat at a hot restaurant.
August 10, 2005: 8:08 AM EDT
Fall buying guide 2005
MONEY shopping guides

NEW YORK (Money magazine) - Whether you trying to save on a vacation this fall, or squeeze in last-minute reservations, these strategies can help.

Bundle it: For family vacations, it's hard to beat package deals and all-inclusive resorts, particularly for U.S., Mexican and Caribbean destinations.

Search online at Sidestep.com and Kayak.com, which recently added the ability to search for vacation packages. Or go through a discounter tour site like Affordabletours.com.

Get a deal on luxury: You don't always have to pay top dollar for splurges. Hit Luxurylink.com, which has weekly auctions on high-end packages for well below retail. Small Luxury Hotels (slh.com) and Virtuoso.com are also excellent deal sources.

Call a travel agent: Even in the Internet age, sometimes a human being has the best connections. Most agents charge a fee, but it can be worth paying a few hundred dollars for their experience if you're planning a complicated trip or if you're heading to an unfamiliar international destination. Look for local agents accredited by the American Society of Travel Agents at astanet.com.

No reservation? No problem

Here are some tips for last-minute planning from Domenic Alfonzetti, chef conceirge at InterContinental the Barclay, named New York City's top concierge of 2005.

Call the restaurant: Those hard-to-get-into restaurants and say, 'I'm in the neighborhood, has anyone canceled?'" Alfonzetti says. "Tell them you're new in town and you're dying to try the place." Better yet, show up and offer to wait at the bar. Even at peak dinner hours, a cancellation or no-show can snag you a quick table.

Go to the source: Hit the box office for a play an hour before the curtain goes up. Some theaters reserve tickets for actors' friends, and those seats come up for grabs if they're left empty.

Steer clear of street-corner advice: People handing out fliers in busy areas don't necessarily have your best interest in mind. "Be wary," Alfonzetti says. "That 'free' show might come with a $50 cover and a three-drink minimum." Get ideas from established sources, such as the arts section of the local newspaper, that aren't making money on the deal.

Ask a concierge, any concierge: Even if you're not staying in a particular hotel, don't feel awkward approaching the concierge for advice or help making reservations. In their eyes you're a potential guest at their hotel, and they'll be happy to help. "As long as it's legal and it doesn't hurt anybody," Alfonzetti says, "we can make it happen."

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