Art of Travel: Who pays the price of ticket surfing?

Last year I booked and took four return  journeys by plane to view art in Edinburgh, Stockholm, Venice and Basle. All well and good, but in the process I also lost about five days of my life fiddling with online booking systems.

How much? Well, I would like to say that I booked my flights in a few seconds, and to be honest the last  flights were booked in less than an hour, but like an increasing number of people I dabbled with the illusion of shopping around online – which does have its benefits – but that all depends on what value you put on your own time. You may hunt down a saving of £30 by flipping airlines but if it took you two hours to pin it down, was it really worth it?

I have long suspected that each year we are losing more and more days of our lives to online activities that take far, far too long. But while the benefits are there, and while airlines’ sites continue to leave much to be desired in the useability stakes, we will continue in such a fashion.

This suspicion has been confirmed now that I have read this superb piece in the New York Times which lists in fine detail the many sites used by an experienced online traveller. What used to be a simple exercise (phoning an agent to book a flight) has now become a complex game of online sleuthing to track down the best rates on a whole range of sites with differing levels of benefits.

Some of the sites mentioned are not available here yet, but you can be pretty sure they will, so in many ways this piece is also a glimpse into the future. If you think online ticket bargain hunting is complex now just wait.

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