True story: Today I received an email from a client that was planning to book a car for his upcoming Hawaiian vacation; he forwarded me an email from Hertz offering 50% OFF for prepaying his car rental. Sounds like a good deal, huh? Of course, when I clicked though the offer and tried to book, it was only $100 of the rental, not the 50% touted in the bold headlines. Okay, but still a good deal, right? No. His 50% off was over twice what I could book his car for, yes with Hertz. Same car. Same company. Better terms.
So in the age of Groupon, online booking engines, and websites that track your every move, is there such a thing as 50% off? Sadly, the answer is almost never. I recently saw a Groupon for Bora Bora – 50% off! Aside from the fact that I cannot imagine why anyone would spend $8,000 on a Groupon, but apparently, some people did. Again, this deal was not in fact 50% off anything. I checked the hotel, and I could have booked that very same hotel, for less than the $8,000 people were willing to handout practically sight unseen because they believed they were getting a deal. With all consumer purchases, and particularly travel it pays to do your research.
First, find out what, if any limitations the deal comes with. Are there blackout dates? Does the fine print allow you to be bumped to another hotel? This one is common in the travel industry. Another ploy? The deal that requires attending the 90 minutes presentation. Notice they almost always omit the word timeshare, but if you have a “presentation” to attend at a vacation destination, I can virtually guarantee you, that you are in for a miserable afternoon of browbeating. There are some people out there that like timeshares, and they can be a good option if you like to go back to the same resort year after year, so if you are looking for a timeshare to purchase, there are some generous offers for reduced travel, however I have yet to hear from someone that booked that “great deal”, and didn’t spend their entire vacation ducking some very persistent salespeople.
Next, find out if you are protected if the company selling the deal goes out of business before you travel.
Check the resort or hotel’s website and see if the deal really is in fact a deal. Forward the offer to a trusted travel agent. Most travel agents are happy to see if a deal is legitimate or not, as most travel agencies can almost always price match any legitimate deal. And if the deal is actually a sparrow billed as a majestic bald eagle, better you know before you are parted with your hard earned money.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly finding how much your total costs will be including taxes, required add-ons, resort fees, transportation costs.
IF YOU HAVE TO GIVE YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION BEFORE THEY TELL YOU ALL THE DETAILS, OR IF THEY ARE NOT WILLING TO PUT THEM IN WRITING, RUN!
Does that mean there aren’t any legitimate travel deals? No, they usually come in the 20-30% ranges. Shoulder season (April & May, September & October) for tropical destinations can be a great time to snag a deal on a great resort that offers you everything you are looking for. Big events can also be a boon to travelers. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan had bookings to Hawaii down which resulted in great prices for travelers from North America. The recent devastation in Fiji had people canceling travel plans, but the truth is some resorts are already up and running and since bookings are down, now is one of the best times to score an incredible deal – last week a promo for air came out at 795! Prices have not been that low in 10 years.
Value added offers abound: free resort or cruise credits, free drink packages, spa treatments, romantic dinners at the beach are out there if you know where to look. Many companies would rather give you extra and keep prices stable, so take advantage of these common legitimate offers.
Fluctuation in air prices are more common than gas prices at the pump. Changes often appear to be for no particular reason, or perhaps for a reason only a silver haired rocket-scientist clad in a rumpled white coat complete a pocket protector worn as a badge of honor can ascertain. Perhaps the wind changed, the stock market is up, the stock market is down. A good rule of thumb to save on airfare is booking early (but not too early, usually), and under no circumstances less than 6 weeks before you travel. Sometimes combing your air and hotel can result in savings, but not always. Another area you need to look at both ways to ensure you are getting value – or have your local travel agent do the research for you. It is less painless albeit not free. Most agencies, Midwest Travel Solutions charges a fee for domestic air only bookings, this fee waived if you are booking international or a complete package or cruise. If you have no idea how much air should cost, take a look at Google flights – there you can see trends that should give you an idea of what a fair price is.
Additional Ways to Save
Repeat customers often get a discount for brand loyalty, usually in the 5-10% range, including many big companies from Sandals to G Adventures loyalty does indeed pay. Prepaying can also garner significant savings of up to 20%, but you must be very carefully with this one, as most prepaid bookings are nonrefundable. Not even for the best, most heart wrenching of reasons. Because my business is travel I hear from agents all over the country with truly sorrowful stories of couples that have paid thousands for a dream trip, declined travel insurance, and then been victims of circumstance. So before securing a deal that is prepaid understand all penalties clearly. Find out about travel insurance in the event circumstances change. If you don’t understand something in the fine print, call customer service and ask. If there is not a clear way to contact customer service, you might want to question if this is a company that you want to give your heard earned money to.
50% off in travel? It is a myth, but there are plenty of ways to find value in travel, make your money go further, while have an exceptional, stress-free vacation. Do your homework, call Midwest Travel Solutions, or a trusted travel agent, next time you are tempted to “book a deal” and you just might find out that value saves you not only money, but the angst from not knowing if those pretty pictures you saw online will deliver the vacation that you have been dreaming of.
Midwest Travel Solutions is your local travel agency located in Parkville, Mo., serving the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area including north of the river, Johnson County, Lee’s Summit, and Blue Springs. Dream. Plan. Go.
Call (816) 801-8558 for help planning your next vacation!