Several people have asked, so here's the answer:
The cheap airfares posted below are good for travel through various spring and summer dates, and in the case of the China deals, through mid-April. So how to get to the Olympics without breaking the bank?
A couple of strategies:
- Look for a flight to Hong Kong or Shanghai via your regular fave carrier (many of them go to both places), then look to snag a reasonably priced ticket from your pacific destination to Beijing on a Chinese carrier. Expedia sells tickets on several Chinese carriers (Travelocity and Orbitz don't.) BEWARE: If you take this approach and your first flight is cancelled or runs late, you could miss your connection. You can protect against this by (a) Leaving lots of time (like an overnight stay) between flights, and (b) Buying travel insurance. Two sources: Insure My Trip and Quotewright.
- Follow the same process above, but buy a train ticket to get to Beijing. You will want to prebook this. Many Chinese travel agencies can handle this for you; last year I used CITS and it worked well for me. (They've got offices in New York and L.A.)
- Check out Cathay Pacific, which sometimes offers an Asia pass to all its Asian destinations. I didn't see one there today but you never know.
- Consider going via Europe. You could buy a ticket to, say, London, then buy a cheap ticket via a London discounter (such as Trailfinders) to Asia. Again, you want to buy well in advance, and you want to leave plenty of time between your flights.
- Buy an Olympics travel package that includes air, lodging and tickets. WARNING: These are NOT cheap. Cosport is the official U.S. ticket seller; it and other companies offer Olympics travel packages.
- Grab a cheap flight to the West Coast, then hop onto Air China . (Yes, I've flown them, yes it was fine though the legroom was best suited to midgets.) Other options include China Eastern, which flies from L.A., New York, Dallas, Chicago and Vancouver, and Eva, which flies from Vancouver, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and New York. (I have a friend who swears by them.)
- Try to snag a budget tour during the Olympic period that doesn't include Olympic tickets, then dump the tour. For instance, Ritz Tours offers a 10-day China visit during the Olympic period for about $2,500 that includes air from L.A. SmarTours offers a similar package that costs slightly more but includes more cities and a Yangtze River cruise.
- Try other unexpected airlines. Both Air Canada and Korean Airlines offer flights.
Like to live wildly? You could just wait and see if an fare sale pops up. But given the interest in the Beijing Olympics, I wouldn't count on it.
PHOTO BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE / COPYRIGHT THE MIAMI HERALD