There is one question I get asked more than any other question. Where can I find great deals? That is a tough question because it depends on where you are going and what kind of vacation you might be looking for.
My rule of thumb is that it is only a good deal if it is the vacation you want to take. We all have our own tastes in vacations, so don’t get talked into a vacation because the price is too good to pass up. The price might be right but for most people, vacation time is earned and once it is gone, you have to earn some more. Price is important, but your time is more important. Don’t waste that being on a vacation you bought because it was so cheap.
Price vs. Value
Vacation prices can be difficult to compare. There can be big differences in what is included in the price. Nobody is trying to be deceptive, there are just a lot of different ways to price out vacations. Beware of the word “From”. That is usually the lowest price, for the most basic accommodations, during the lowest demand dates in the season.
If you are comparing different vacations, build two columns to do a comparison. Make sure you know what is included. Big categories include food (remember, you are paying tourist prices), drink, transportation, lodging, and entertainment. If something is not included, estimate what you will have to pay for those categories. Once you get a total, divide that by the number of days on your vacation. That will give you a per person, per day rate. That way you can compare vacations of different lengths.
You might need to do a comparison within a category. Even within the cruise category, different lines include different amenities in their price. Typically, luxury cruise lines include the most amenities (including adult beverages) and the contemporary lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian) have less in their advertised prices. All the cruise lines are trying to “market to sell” meaning they add amenities rather than drop prices. You can find great deals that include the most popular amenities. Beware of taxes and gratuities that are not quoted in the price! Some local governments add on tourist fees, convention center fees, even daily registration fees on car rentals. These can add up.
Define your objectives
This is one of those conversations to have with your partner over a glass of wine. It is often a quantity vs. quality conversation. It might be a year that you want to celebrate a major milestone. It might be a year you just want to focus on getting away more often. The focus might be on a family vacation or a reunion.
Nobody likes to talk budgets, but let’s face it, we can’t spend money like politicians! Ultimately, trade-offs will be required. If you are on the same page with each other, you can get your travel agent on the same page with you!
Look for the shoulders of the season and find value
I am going to drop some knowledge on you… You will not find great deals when your destination is in the middle of its high season!!! Impressed, right?
So, when can you find good deals? In the travel business, we call the very beginning of a season and the very end of the season the “shoulders” of the season. In some markets, that is very defined. In Alaska, the cruise season is from May to September. Those are hard dates because the ships enter and leave the market. For resorts, it is a little more subtle. Usually, they are weather-related. Your travel agent is a great resource for this information. We can look up dates on the shoulder of the seasons and tell you when the rates start climbing.
Are the kids in school?
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that if your destination or cruise is attractive to families, the rates are going to be higher when the kids are out of school! If you are looking for good rates, you are not going to find any deals during these times.
If you are traveling with kids and you are deciding to travel when the kids are out of school, my advice is to plan ahead, especially if you need cabins that hold 3 or 4 people or you want connecting cabins. These cabins are in high demand and will be sold out quickly.
Can you travel during the week or for less than a week?
If you can travel during the middle of the week, sometimes you can find deals. Obviously, this works better for resorts than for cruises, the ships leave when they leave! But if you are traveling to a resort, what about checking in on days other than Saturday and Sunday? You can find some great deals because many people are stuck on starting a vacation on Saturday for 7 days. This can make your resort rates higher and your airline tickets more expensive.
Even if you are taking a cruise, if you fly in a day or two early or stay a day or two late, you might find some better air rates that make up for the additional hotel bills. The airlines know the cruise ship schedules and they adjust their rates.
You can’t time the market, and you don’t need to!
There is an old line about Wall St., You can’t time the top of the market and you can’t time the bottom either… it is just too hard to predict. In travel, I have a similar theory and a better solution. Remember, there are two aspects to booking the vacation you want, the price you want and the accommodations you want. If you wait too long, the accommodations you want might be gone.
Here is the good news! You don’t need to worry about this! Many of the suppliers I work with have a rate guarantee. If you find a lower advertised rate, they will match that price. There is a lot to terms and conditions for this, but I have had rates adjusted for my clients.
For cruises, we have the ability to check the rates on your cabin and the cruise lines will make adjustments if it is prior to final payment. When there were amenities at the time you booked the cabin, we might have to determine if a lower price is worth you losing amenities. Sometimes your original deal is a better value.
The easiest solution… call me.
If you think about it, you probably book one or two vacations a year, I am booking them every day. I might not have the pulse of every market in the world, but I have some great resources to back me up. Make sure you tell me what your flexibility is and what you want to spend on this vacation. Is it a getaway? Is it a special date? Do you have a budget you are trying to stay under? Every bit of data I get can help me find the right vacation for you! Ultimately, you will remember the great time you had… probably not the price you paid.