You were bogged down with work, blizzards and head colds all winter – and now the prospect of booking a summer vacation amidst high prices and the chance of insane crowds and airport mayhem is a bit intimidating. Erase your fear! With a little strategic planning and travel know-how, you can eliminate some of the season’s downfalls – even though you are late to the game.
According to Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, you can always hunt down a last minute travel deal if you are flexible with your dates and accommodations. One money-saving tactic is to choose the days and times of your flights carefully.
“Most people start their vacations on Saturday or Sunday,” Freed says. “Weekend flights are very popular. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the off-days and flights are typically less expensive.”
Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, the largest home-based travel agent network in the cruise industry, also suggests that early morning flights are the lowest priced and there are fewer chances of delays than there are with later flights.
To help sort through the travel options out there, consider working directly with a travel advisor like Garcia.
“We know how to read and decipher the offers, and as your advocate, we are here to find out what you and your family are looking for, even if you’re not sure yourself,” says Garcia. “A big myth buster…it does NOT cost you more to book via a travel advisor. In many cases, a travel advisor can either save you money or add value to your trip.”
Even if you strike gold on flight and hotel deals, however, all of the activities, entertainment and meals involved with a summer vacation are inevitably going to add up. To get the most bang for your buck, cruising is the best vacation value out there.
“When you think about what is included, cruising ends up being 15 – 20% lower than any comparable vacation, assuming you can even find a comparable vacation that has all the same bells and whistles,” Freed says.
For families, a cruise eliminates the concern of having to run around from crowded amusement park to crowded beach to crowded movie theater, all while fielding arguments from various members about what they want to do that day. Couples without kids, on the other hand, will find more peace and quiet on a cruise than they would at other family-oriented vacation destinations.
“Most of the cruise lines have children’s programs, so while there may be hundreds of kids on the ship, you may never see them because they are occupied and having their own experience during the day,” Freed says.
Booking that less expensive Thursday flight for a cruise sailing on a weekend will put you in a good position to arrive in the departure city early, relax and be the first to board the ship at the port of departure. If for some reason your flight is delayed, you will have plenty of buffer room to make sure you get on that ship. If you must fly in the day of departure, choose the earliest possible flight. By doing so, Freed’s daughter was able to narrowly escape missing her family cruise.
“She had to teach the last day of school before the holiday break and was flying from Boston to meet us for a cruise in Sydney, Australia,” Freed says. “Her first flight was late and she had to get that next flight or else she would have misconnected.”
Whatever your profession, now may be the only time of year where life opens up for a chance to get away. If you do your due diligence, peak season travel need not be daunting.