Larchmonter, can you spare a dime? For vacation, that is. Some very good values in travel are calling out to be sampled and savored, especially this spring and summer.
Airfares are especially low this spring, and although summer fares to Europe are not exactly a steal, they are still better than last year. In 2008, round-trip tickets to Paris could range up to $1200 per person. In 2009, you can find non-stop flights to Paris in June for under $800 round-trip.
Airfare fluctuates constantly, according to the day of week, time, destination and month of travel, so it’s hard to generalize about what you’ll find. Better to decide on your destination and then look for the lowest fare available at the time you’d like to travel.
Deals on the Ground
Once you get off the plane, where are good values to be found? Resort hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico are very anxious for your business right now. The best hotels are trying hard not to cut their room prices, but rather to add value to the overall package. You’ll find extra nights, resort credits and breakfast offered as inducements. Let’s face it: a $200 per day resort credit can go a long way to taking care of your dining costs at an island resort. One major hotel brand just announced a very attractive families package that includes significant discounts on a second room for the kids.
For summer travel, cruises to Alaska and northern Europe offer especially attractive values right now. One upscale cruise line includes all shore excursions for its 2009 and 2010 cruises. That’s an enormous savings, especially for an itinerary focused on touring (as opposed to island hopping in the Caribbean). Other lines have minimized deposits and lengthened the cancellation without penalty period. Two for one pricing, even on the high-end lines, is common as are shipboard credits which can be applied to shore excursions, spa treatments, or beverages.
For organized group travel (such as a safari to Kenya or an introductory visit to Europe), tour companies are allowing lenient deposit terms and minimizing prices. There is a significant caveat on tour companies, however. Make sure you’re choosing a well-established company. One or two tour operators may fail during this recession, and you want to know that your deposits and final payments are protected through travel insurance.
Buy travel insurance and check that the tour company is included on the “covered supplier” list with your insurer to guard against an unanticipated bankruptcy.
Equally important, check to see if the tour you are booking is a “guaranteed departure.” If not, hold off on buying those plane tickets until you know that the tour is likely to go. A tour company always reserves the right to cancel a particular tour – which is unlikely but possible if enough passengers do not materialize. Generally, a big company will make those decisions around 90 days before the start of travel.
Iceland, Australia and England are all places where your dollar will go particularly far this year – and they’re a lot of fun, besides. The British Pound is currently trading at about £1=$1.45 compared to £1 = $1.98 in 2008. The Euro trades at about € 1 = $1.32 right now, compared to € 1 = $1.50 in 2008. Add the improved exchange rate to big room discounts in Europe for the summer and pack your bags.
Larchmont is a wonderful place to live, but the day always comes when you feel a need to get away. It may take a little more than a dime, but if you like a bargain, this is the time to go looking.
Diana Hechler is the President of D. Tours Travel of Larchmont and specializes in international and exotic vacations.