FREQUENT-CEREAL MILES

MONEY How can five boxes of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran save 25 percent off your air fare to Hawaii, Europe, or the Caribbean? When will a one-day car rental in Florida earn a free Bahamian cruise? Ask TOM OARSONS of Best Fares Magazine.

Eight years ago, as the cost-conscious sales manager of a national retailer, he began an interoffice memo to clue his salesmen into the proliferating air fare specials. He cut the company’s $2.5 million annual travel bill by one-third. That memo has become Best Fares, based in Arlington with 18,000 subscribers, 15 employees, and annual revenues of $1,5 million. The magazine lists the lowest quoted prices, plus discounts of up to 70 percent without advance purchase.

Parsons’s initial success came when he made public the “hidden city” concept, in which travel to a city beyond your destination is cheaper than where you are going. Chicago to Austin with a stopover in Dallas, for example, might cost 25 percent less than Chicago to Dallas. Parsons’s readers take their bags aboard and get off in Dallas. It’s strictly legal, though the airlines say it’s breaking a contract.

In May, Parsons could have sent you to Paris from Dallas for $286 round trip, with beaucoup bonus miles. A quoted Seattle-Atlanta fare of $1,396 could be purchased for $298. He saved a Dallas family 75 percent on air fare and hotel to Orlando, then earned them a free trip to the Caribbean. The deal was so complicated that the airline called Parsons to explain it!

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