50 percent off what?

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Perhaps you've seen the offers: certificates for 50 percent off an airline ticket or hotel rates.

But are they really a good deal? Generally not.

Airline certificates are usually only good for 50 percent off a full-fare coach ticket. Often 14-day and 21-day advance tickets and weekend tickets can be purchased for less.

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Hotel coupons are half off the standard rate. Rooms often come for less by simply asking for a discount price.

When making a reservation, ask about discounts for which you might qualify: corporate rates, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), and AAA (American Automobile Association) discounts. Or, if you are planning a hotel stay for the weekend, ask for a weekend rate or package.

A quick way to check on hotel rates is to visit a hotel chain's Web site. Type in your travel dates and a menu of rates will pop up, giving the regular rates, corporate and discounted rates, and packages.

Remember, it's in the hotel's and the airline's best interest to quote you the highest rate at the time of your travel, but by doing a bit of research, you're bound to come out ahead!

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