Since Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of the summer travel season, it’s quite apropos that I encourage you to travel. For two reasons…
First, you probably need a vacation. With the exception of the Japanese, Americans take the least vacation of any folks in the industrialized world. No wonder so many folks are stressed out. Second, traveling now is probably cheaper than anytime in the last nine months so now is the time to reduce that stress cheaply.
Can you hear that? I can. As a frequent vacationer, who regularly monitors car rental, hotel, airline and discount travel websites, I can hear the panic of the travel sector as it screams “deep discount!” in hopes of stimulating business to staunch the red ink. So it’s just a question of which deal you want to take, because they’re out there.
You don’t have much choice in going to the grocery store. But you do have a choice in whether to take a vacation, even if it’s just a long weekend. The travel folks know that if your choice is going to be in their favor, they need to make you an offer you can’t refuse. And that’s exactly what they’re doing….
Earlier this month, I received an e-mail from hotels.com trumpeting a “48-hours only” sale. I was about to delete it when my eye happened to catch “Las Vegas from $20.” Since I’ve made at least 20 visits to Vegas since 1994, I know what $20 normally gets you in my second hometown: a tired property in the boonies that needs to be demolished or, if you’re lucky, an older property on Fremont (downtown) that’s fairly adequate but not romantic or anything to take a photo of to show your friends.
But when I clicked on the link, my heart raced as I experienced travel shock and awe: there was the all-suites Rio, one of the top hotels, for an unbelievable $28 a night Sunday through Thursday. I then checked for rates at a sister property, the Flamingo, where I’d previously booked five nights in July at a very decent $49 rate I received as an MGM-Mirage casinos Total Rewards member. The sale rate was $27 a night with a number of bonus free or “twofer” deals on drinks and shows. I cancelled my prior reservation and rebooked. That gives me an extra $110 for poker!
Although Vegas is especially desperate for visitors because the economy has decimated its convention business (which was never that great for casino profits anyway) most other travel destinations have had to offer deals to attract folks like me who are still traveling but going where the best deals are. In March, I stayed at the Royal St. Charles in New Orleans for $55, half the usual rate, plus free parking (a $10-$25 daily value in New Orleans).
I read that Disney World has been offering a “pay for four nights and stay for seven” at its properties. Quite understandable since Disney’s second quarter income dropped 46 percent compared to a year ago. Disney’s also offering free park admission if it’s your birthday. That’s a $75 savings.
Other deals I’ve read about include $340 RT flights to Hawaii from the west coast. And $600 RT flights to Australia from the west coast. Within the last month, I booked RT tickets for November from Orlando to Puerto Rico for $200 each and that includes all the taxes, fees, etc. The “base” fare was about $75 each way. (Both AirTran and American offered that rate and AirTran flies non-stop.)
But it’s not how far from home you go that’s important. Just going is important. I make it a point to get out of town every three months, even if it’s just a weekend in Panama City or a long weekend in St. Augustine. Like exercise, even just a little bit of travel is good for you.
With fewer folks traveling, there’ll be less crowds at airports, hotels and destinations so the experience should be less hectic. (Flights will still be packed due to capacity reduction.) And I can tell you that I’ve certainly noticed a big change in hotel staff’s customer service. They understand too well that if your stay is not pleasant and you don’t return then maybe they won’t have a job to come back to.
Despite all the deals, you do have to keep your eyes open for attempts to increase the final amount from what you thought it‘d be. I’ve read that the auto companies are doing this with a variety of new fees.
The cruise lines (which often proclaim that your cruise is “all inclusive”) have been doing this for years with the photographs, drinks, special fee restaurants, etc. but more and more travelers are just saying ‘no.” I have no problem saying “no” to all sorts of extras. (Despite my outward appearance, I have Ferengi DNA: no profit for me, no business for you.)
But overall, this is one of the best times to travel that I’ve ever seen. Don’t look back a few months from now and say: why didn’t I?
Even taking four weeks vacation a year, I can’t change that “Americans take the least vacation time” statistic by myself. Help me and the travel sector out! It doesn’t need to be a two week vacation to an exotic locale; a long weekend to a nearby destination is fine. You know you need the break…
So ready (reservations), set (savings), go (travel)!
P.S. I’m following my own advice and spending the weekend in St. Augustine. So I probably won’t be able to respond to any comments until Monday or Tuesday.
Next week, I’ll continue the travel theme by reminiscing about my most memorable good, bad and ugly travel experiences over 25 years of business and personal travel.