Sunday, August 2, 2009

Last Minue Travel Deals - Yeah or Nea?

In the last two weeks, we've had several clients call for last minute vacations in the Caribbean. They wanted to travel within the next five to 10 days. The assumed they would get a great deal. Where did they hear this? On t.v.

Did they get great deals? Absolutely not. In fact, two of them ended up booking hotels for a few days (instead of a week) within driving distance. While we had no trouble finding hotels, last minute airfare made their vacation prohibitively expensive. All of these clients said they wanted to spend less than $1,500 for an entire weeks vacation. At this time, there were very few seats available on flights to either Mexico or the rest of the Caribbean and the prices for two seats alone ran from $1200 - $1600. The few rooms remaining were also higher priced than they were three or four months ago.

Meanwhile, a client who booked a four star all inclusive resort in Cancun back in April for 4 nights spent $1185 with air and transfers included. Another example - we booked our own Las Vegas vacation for September in March with round trip direct flights on Southwest, 4 nights at Paris and transfers for $993 - for two people. (This is the regular price that clients pay - another myth is that travel agents travel for free or low cost. We paid what a client pays.) Today that same exact trip is priced at $1106.

Last minute travel deals don't mean plan your travel the week before you plan to go. Travel agents receive last minute "deals" every day. What do suppliers consider last minute? Anywhere from one to six months in advance, not a week or two.

Cruises are frequently sending us cruise sales, but for several months in advance. For the clients I first mentioned, I also checked last minute cruise prices for them from New York. Of the few cabins left, the pricing started at $1700 per person for an inside cabin - which is what they could have spent in total for two people had they booked six months earlier.

When should you book early? If you are flying, you usually get better air prices early rather than late. If you are using frequent flyer miles, you should always book early. You will almost never get low priced airfare a week or two before you plan to leave.

If you are cruising and want a particular cabin, book early. If you want a suite for a land vacation, book early. If you must have a balcony - book early. There may not be suite or balconies left when you choose to book late. Many cruise lines also offer early saver rates - to receive those you must book early.

If you need to budget your money and pay a little at a time for your vacation - book early.

When is later booking an option? If your job doesn't allow you to book too early but you must be prepared for the trade offs. (Although there are more and more travel insurance companies that are offering cancel for any reason policies). One trade off is that you can't be particular where your room or ship cabin is located (some of the last minute cabins or rooms available are not the most desirable areas - the very front or back of the ship, or over a nightclub or dining room, or near the front desk in a hotel). You will be able to book what is left. And you must be able to pay in full for your vacation and may receive a surcharge to have your documents overnighted to you.

As a footnote, when you book early with Promal Vacations, we always check prices before your final payment and if we find a lower price you may be entitled to, we will work with the supplier to get that price for you.

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