Our travel adviser Susan reminds us to read between the lines and gives us some questions to ask when we’re looking at those reduced fare trips …
TRAVEL 2009: UNDERSTAND WHAT’S INCLUDED
As we consider travel plans for 2009, the economic situation is certainly on all of our minds as it is with the tour operators who are trying to sell us their excursions. Many are looking for ways to offer reduced priced trips — a noble and wise thing to do. However, the ways in which some are achieving lower cost offerings may or may not make sense for you. So, before committing, read between the lines and ask about the following:
Hotel Locations: Some groups are saving money by locating outside of larger cities, rather than sacrificing hotel quality. This sounds great at first but if it will cost you extra dollars to get into town for your independent touring (using taxis or other means) the savings may not add up. Other groups are simply scaling down the level of hotels but staying within the city proper. Location, location, location is the priority — pick a group whose tour is staying within the city and compromise on quality by a notch (such as going from a 5 star to 4 star property).
Number of Excursions: Some groups are also saving money by cutting back on the number of included excursions in their tours. This is fine if you are comfortable doing independent exploring, but you will have to add back the cost of your own touring which may include transportation, admission fees and meals (such as lunches) that are often part of group excursions. If you pair the reduction of included excursions with a remote hotel location, you may find your sightseeing much more limited and/or more costly in terms of your own add-ons.
Length of Trip: Another way that some groups are offering lower cost excursions is to reduce the total trip length. This is a great way to keep costs lower without compromising the travel experience. After a certain amount of time on the road everything tends to blur — shorter, smarter travel is often the way to go.
Group Size: Although increasing group size to reduce costs has not been cited as a current trend, always ask what the group size will be on any tour you are taking. There’s a big difference in traveling with a small group (up to 20 people, but even fewer are better) than with groups double in size.
Single Supplement: Many operators are forgiving the single supplement or are willing to negotiate the amount they will charge. Don’t be shy — it never hurts to ask.
If you are traveling independently: Do your homework and see what deals you can find – especially on hotel websites. Speak with the hotel property directly — not the central reservations line — to ask if they can upgrade you to a better room and/or include breakfast in your room rate. Once again, it never hurts to ask!!! And, if you work with a travel agent, always check on what can be found for you. Agents are constantly being updated on hotel, cruise and other tour offers by suppliers and will be most up-to-date on the status quo. Remember, agents do not typically charge for booking hotels, cruises and tours (both group and independent), so you have nothing to lose by asking.
Regardless of whether you are planning to travel as part of a group or independently, make sure to secure your air travel at the same time as the rest of your bookings. With reduced capacity on most airlines lower cost fares are harder to come by, making award redemptions even more difficult to obtain as well. That great deal you think you got for your land arrangements could be erased by higher than expected air fares and/or terrible route options. If you can’t upgrade or don’t want to pay the cost for a business class seat, consider the premium economy option offered on many carriers — you’ll get extra leg room if not other amenities and arrive at your destination better rested.
Share your travel tips with us at snoety and happy travels in 2009!