Thinking of skipping the family vacation this year because of a tight budget? Don’t. There are great travel deals to be had during this economic downturn.
“There are killer travel deals lurking on the Internet’s virtual back alleys,” says travel expert Elaine Lee, editor of online travel resource guide Ugogurl.com and author of Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure.
The Internet is exactly where Ruth Robinson, associate curator of the California African American Museum, turned when arranging a vacation to Las Vegas for her family. “I booked everything on the Internet. There were all kinds of Web-only deals,” she says.
According to Lee, if you know where to look, you can find affordable online deals. “Discount airfares, cruises and vacation packages are available at sites like Lastminutetravel.com, Travelzoo.com,” she says. Also, check out online travel newsletters to stay abreast of travel trends and upcoming promotions. “Free online independent weekly newsletters like Smartertravel.com and Budgettravel.com also feature cheap travel specials,” Lee says. “Sign up with Farecompare.com and get email notices of reduced fares to desired destinations.”
In addition to the online travel sites offering deals, many hotels and airlines have slashed prices. “It seems that everywhere is on sale,” says Margie Jordan, president of Jacksonville, FL-based Jordan Executive Travel. And due to a slowdown in business travel and conventions, hotels have cut room rates–even in usually expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco.
Cities are also offering special promotions in hopes of luring tourists. In fact, certain destinations are cheaper this summer, especially warm-weather locales such as Miami, Arizona, and the Caribbean.
“While not normally considered a family destination, Las Vegas is currently very inexpensive and the strip hotels are offering some fabulous weekday rates,” says Jordan. That’s one reason Robinson selected Vegas. “Just walking around Las Vegas is fascinating. There is much entertainment for free, from the real circus at the hotel Circus, Circus to the pirate battles at Treasure Island to Siegfried & Roy’s White Tiger Habitat, and the Fremont Street Experience. Also, there are many great buffets where I can feed three people for around $20,” says Robinson.
As far as the Caribbean, “destinations there are offering excellent deals; particularly luxury resorts,” says Trica Jean-Baptiste, founder of NY-based Trica Jean-Baptiste Communications, a public relations firm specializing in travel and tourism. “Dominican Republic has the best hotel and air deals [for summer travel].”
European Vacation Deals
Bargains can be found in Europe as well. ”A lot of people are surprised when I tell them Europe has great deals now,” notes Lazette Jones-Carswell, Georgia-based owner of King Davids Travel. “There are discounts for airfares and hotels all over Europe.” Lee agrees, “The dollar is actually stronger against the euro and Pound than it has been in years.” Meaning you’ll get more bang for your buck, especially in countries where the dollar is strong. Among such destinations consider: Argentina, Bali, Costa Rica, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Vietnam, Japan, China, Thailand, South Africa.
If you travel with a group you can really land a great deal. And don’t be afraid to bargain for any number of rooms you book. “Call the hotels directly and ask for ‘Best Available Rate’ or BAR,” says Jean-Baptiste. If you want to book online, “Go directly to property sites as opposed to Expedia, Hotels.com, etc. for package deals. Another great option is DealBase.com, where hotels directly post their best available offers and the site calculates a cost-savings percentage.”