This is an exciting time of year for many people – the holidays are finally upon us, it’s almost 2013 (thank God), and just as the cold, winter air settles in for the season, it’s time to start planning that warm, beach vacation with your family, friends or significant others.
When it comes to beach vacations, one of the most daunting tasks is finding the best place to go. I’m currently just beginning this process, and have finally narrowed my list down to an island in the Caribbean. Well great, there are almost 7,000 Caribbean islands (source: Ask.com) – how the heck am I going to narrow down the list and find the best location that will fit my budget?
Since I’m sure there are tons of people out there doing the same kind of research, I thought this would be a great opportunity to enlist the help of my good friend Stephanie Kohn from SniqueAway – one of my favorite new private travel sale sites. I love SniqueAway because it’s like a RueLaLa – but for travel – and they offer some pretty fantastic accommodations at surprisingly affordable prices.
Stephanie was kind enough to provide responses to my questions about finding the best beach vacation deals (including a few great deals available today,) so I hope you find her feedback as helpful as I do.
Travel deals Q&A with Stephanie Kohn, Director, Brand Marketing at SniqueAway:
How is SniqueAway different from other online travel sites?
- SniqueAway only features hotels that have been top-rated by travelers on TripAdvisor. Any hotel on SniqueAway has to have at least a four out of five circle rating, so when you come to SniqueAway, you know that whatever we offer is of superb quality.
- Not only are you going to find a selection of amazing hotels, but you have access to these hotels at up to 40 percent off—a discount you won’t be able to find elsewhere for as long as that sale is live on SniqueAway.
- The catch is that while the inventory is available for dates far into the future, the sale itself is only live for up to 7 days, so you have to act fast to take advantage of the deal!
Take a look at some of the deals currently available on SniqueAway:
What advice can you give people looking for good hotel deals during peak travel dates like spring break?
Start with the flight. It’s easier to find deals on hotel rooms once you’ve locked in where you are going. Typically, I look on some airline sites like JetBlue or American to see where they are flying direct and for how much. I also like to check out Airfarewatchdog.com. They have a “fares from” section where you can see all the fares from your home airport. You can often find deals in places like Mexico, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Avoid travelling in March. If you are looking during spring break period, try to travel in February or early April and avoid March since that’s when the college kids invade some of the same low-cost areas. Or if you do select a place like Mexico, travel a little farther—such as Playa Del Carmen instead of Cancun. It’s worth the extra 30-60 minutes to have more tranquility.
Consider flying mid-week. You can get better deals on flights that are not Saturday to Sunday (e.g. Thursday to Tuesday), and you also get two short work weeks as a result!
Book more than one hotel at a time. People don’t realize that hotel room rates fluctuate nearly as much as airfares. Don’t be afraid to book more than one hotel at a time. The trick here is to keep track of cancellation policies (I often set reminders in my calendar). Personally, I like to book a hotel (or two) on Tingo.com – a site that tracks the price of your reservation for you and then automatically rebooks you if the rate drops. I book a couple of hotels through Tingo and then watch to see which one has the best price drop.
Keep an eye on private sale sites. While Tingo keeps track of those reservations for me, I keep an eye on private sale sites like SniqueAway to see if my destination comes up. You can usually do this just by monitoring email subject lines, so it isn’t a lot of work. While the same hotel that I booked through Tingo could come up on SniqueAway, SniqueAway will often have higher-class rooms at a great discount, just for a limited time. SniqueAway.com is non-refundable, so if you are lucky to find a match with your destination, your search is over. Be sure to cancel all other reservations!
What should travellers consider eliminating, or what shouldn’t they ignore when looking for a good vacation package?
- Always check to see how the costs are included/itemized. Always weigh the trade-offs– if you think you can do better on one of the metrics (like hotel room rate or airfare), compare that to a metric that may be the better deal.
- Always look to see if small things are included like airport transfers, taxes, even breakfasts. I often go direct to the hotel websites for any hotels included in a package. I compare pricing if I were to book it myself and then I also see what they include—sometimes hotels include breakfast. Does the vacation package carry that forward?
- Vacation packages are typically never set in stone, especially if you are looking to add children or upgrade. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by using the base package and then negotiating from there.
What other tips can you provide in finding the best hotels or vacation packages that provide the most value?
Consider booking a private home or apartment. Not only can you get a better deal per night, but you have the ability to cook some of your own meals, maybe do some laundry and even get a true sense of what it’s like to “be a local”. FlipKey.com is a great site for this, and TripAdvisor recently launched a section for reviews specifically around vacation rentals so you have a better idea of what you may be getting into. I find apartment or private home rentals great for city trips since you can save on the accommodations and some meals and then splurge on dinners and activities. You can also pack lighter since you have laundry… leaving plenty of space for bringing what you buy home with you!
Have any good travel tips of your own? Feel free to provide some helpful hints or recommendations below. Happy travelling!