The inside scoop on everything from booking to traveling.
One Saturday morning, my husband Sean and I were running a couple of errands. We drove by the furniture store and saw that they had a lot of furniture and appliances out in the parking lot and on the sidewalk in front of the store. “Look! It’s a sale!” I said. We stopped, walked in the store…and a little while later, walked out having purchased some new dining room chairs.
I bought those chairs because of the great value they presented. I’d needed to replace our current ones, but the thing that helped me buy on that particular day was the value they were giving me. Everyone loves getting great value! Today I thought I’d offer some tips on how to get the most value out of travel.
1 – Book early.
Remember those days when you could sometimes get a deal on those last-minute trips? Well, my friend, that was pre-Covid. Remember how the world shut down to travel, and the whole travel industry suffered because nobody was traveling? Travel is returning, but all of those hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators need to recoup some of that lost revenue. People are back to traveling, and booking early. I’m amazed (in a not-so-good way) when I see some of the last-minute prices out there right now! Rates are sometimes double what they would be if someone had booked earlier. If I were looking for best vacation value, I’d reserve my trip at least 6-9 months in advance if possible. If you book that early and the supplier has a sale, you can also often get first dibs on the better price.
2 – Start with flights.
The flights can make a huge difference in your total trip price. Unless I’m locked into some dates when I HAVE to be somewhere, I like to start with a date range and check for flights within that range. It’s easy to add the rest of the package once you know you’ve got the best price for your airfare. If I’m pricing the package for you, give me a range (even if it’s “any 7 nights within this 10-night window”), and I’ll start by finding the best flight options, and then adding the rest of the components. If you’re booking more than 11 months in advance and flights aren’t available yet, no worries. Just book the package without flights, and then there’s plenty of time to buy the airfare.
3 - Travel during the off-season.
The off-season will vary by destination, so you really could travel any time of year and it would be off-season somewhere. If you’re willing to wait, sometimes just a few weeks or days can make a huge difference to pricing in a destination.
4 – Avoid car rentals right now if you can.
During Covid, the car rental companies had to sell off most of their fleets of cars because they weren’t being used and they didn’t have space for them. (Before Covid, car rental companies typically had 70% of their cars rented out all the time.) Now that people need rental cars again, you wouldn’t think it would be a big deal to add to their car rental selection. Except…did you hear about that car computer chip shortage? New cars are on waiting lists everywhere, so car rental companies are running extremely short of their pre-Covid inventory…which means their prices are much higher than pre-Covid rates. They’re predicted to be this way for awhile…so if you don’t need a car, save money by not renting one.
5 – Pre-book your excursions and tours.
This practice saves time AND money. If you wait till arriving in destination to book your excursions, how long will those lines be? Will the excursions be sold out? And how much will they charge you on-site? They know that they’ve got a captive audience, so their prices can be whatever they like. Pre-booking the excursions that are high on your priority list will give you peace of mind and save you money.
6 – Bring snacks!
I’m a foodie, so I’m always remembering to pack some snacks. It’s happened to me and clients many times: you’re in the airport, and your gate is at the end of the terminal late at night, with no food services open. If you’ve got some snacks, you’re not worried. Sometimes you just need something to get you by, and if you’ve brought some snacks from home, it can help a lot. Nobody wants to be “hangry” on vacation!
7 – Choose a destination that prices well.
In every location, there are destinations that price better than others. For example, in the Caribbean, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are typically the three locations with the best pricing.
Europe, the South Pacific, North America, South America... they all have certain places that price better than others. And if you want to get to one of those more expensive locations, try going during the off-season like I mentioned earlier.
8 – The U.S. is not necessarily lower-priced.
WHAT?! Yes, I’m absolutely serious. Sometimes people say to me, “If you can’t find me XYZ (out of the country) at the price I want, then maybe I’ll just stay in the States.” Flights in the U.S. can be as expensive as international ones right now. And most destinations in the U.S. require a car rental (see #4 above), gasoline (have you checked the gas prices lately?), plus the rest of the package. Food can be more expensive than it is at home, and U.S. hotels and resorts are also trying to make up for lost (Covid) time and not always giving low rates.
9 – Use a travel advisor!
Seriously, a travel advisor can be your best travel friend ever. Why wouldn’t you want someone working for you who has great relationships with the hoteliers and suppliers, and has the insider tools for getting you exactly what you want? If you love spending hours, days, and weeks researching your travel, then please book your own—a travel advisor probably wouldn’t be very helpful to you. But if you want to free up your time and just tell them all the details of what you want, and then sit back while they get you some amazing options—I mean, what’s not to love about that? Travel advisors work so hard and want so badly to create exactly what you want. Why not let them? It’s a win-win!