Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Does last minute travel result in the best prices?

In the last two weeks,we've had several clients call and ask for last minute vacations at resorts in the Caribbean for the following week or two, assuming they will get great deals. Why? Because they heard about them on t.v.

Did they get great deals? Absolutely not. In fact, two of them ended up booking resorts in the Carolina's that they could drive to. While we had no trouble finding hotel rooms, last minute airfares made their vacation prohibitive. Of the few flights we found that had any seats left, pricing for air alone was between $1200 - $1500 for two tickets to Jamaica, Mexico or California. That was the budget each client has in mind for their entire vacation.

Meanwhile, a client that booked a vacation in Cancun in April for four nights at a four star All Inclusive paid $1185 for two people including air and transfers from Newark Airport. Why? Because she booked early. We booked our own four night vacation from Long Island to Las Vegas four months ago for the week of Sept. 28. Direct flights on Southwest from Islip and staying 4 nights at Paris with round trip transfers. The price? $993 for two people. (That is the regular price, not a travel agent rate - another fallacy is that travel agents always get discounted travel). That same vacation today is $1106.

We receive daily notices from suppliers of what they consider last minute travel that are actually three to four months down the road. In July, we received reduced cruise rates from several cruise lines for sailings in October. Here is an example of something we received today with
discounted prices:

Mexican Riviera
Sail roundtrip from Los Angeles for 7 days
Ports: Los Angeles, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Cabo San Lucas

Sep 26;
Oct 3, 10, 17, 24, 31;
Nov 7, 14, 21, 28;
Dec 5, 12
Prices begin at $399* $499* $649*

See the dates? Earliest date for sale prices is Sept. 26.

We checked a cruise from New York to Bermuda for seven days for next week for one last minute client. There were very few cabins left and an interior cabin was priced at $1779 per person. Had the client looked six months ago, that same cabin would have gone for about $800 per person from NY during the summer (the most expensive time to cruise anyway).

Don't believe all the last minute vacation hype you hear. Last minute in many cases means a month or two in advance. By waiting until a week or two before you would like to travel, you are dealing with planes that are nearly full since most airlines have reduced the number of flights to avoid flying planes that are not filled. Of the few seats you can find, the price is two to three times what you would have paid by booking the flights three to six months in advance.

Book early for the best prices. We always check pricing several times before you travel and if we find a better price from the supplier, we will always try and get that price for you. But these days, it is rare to see a price drop when you've booked early, with the exception of some cruises.

Buy travel insurance with cancel for any reason coverage. Several travel insurance companies have cancel for an reason insurance available you can purchase. If something happens with your job or the economy worsens, you can cancel your vacation and get your money back. It is definitely worth looking at that type of insurance if you are worried about the economy changing after you book your vacation. This type of insurance is more expensive that insurance that covers for illness, but for some it definitely is worth the extra money.

This past June, when the swine flu outbreak resulted in people who were booked in Mexican resorts to cancel their vacations or to rebook in other areas, those who had cancel for any reason insurance were able to rebook and not have to worry about penalties - the penalties were reimbursed by their travel insurance. Those who chose insurance that covered for illness only were not so lucky. Unless they were sick enough before their vacation to cancel their trip for covered reasons, they risked having to travel or lose their money.

To sum it up - book early and purchase travel insurance to protect your investment.

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