When is a Deal Really a Deal?

hotdealsiYou get them from the cruise lines and tour suppliers as well as from travel agencies.  They come via email, newsletters, are posted on websites, and even occasionally they still show up in good old fashioned U.S. mail.  What are they?  Cruise and tour deals!  The often unasked question is: which ones are really a deal for you?

Many people are often wooed by the low prices being offered without actually considering if they will enjoy the trip.

So what should you consider when evaluating the deals that you receive?

First and foremost, ask yourself if the offer is suited to your travel “bucket list”?

In short, does the land tour or cruise deal offer an itinerary that you are actually interested in?  Don’t be wooed by the pricing and force yourself to consider an itinerary that you truly have no interest in.  Life is too short to spend precious vacation (or retirement) time doing something that bores you to tears.  If your deepest desire is to crawl through archealogical digs, you’d probably pull your hair out on a tour of British tea houses, even if the tour was free.   Or how about someone that wants to go on a European or Mediterranean cruise?  A Mediterranean crusie special as an attractive deal for them.  But someone who has their heart set on a South African safari probably won’t be enticed into taking a Mediterranean cruise, no matter how great the price.

Second, is the cruise line/ship or tour company a good fit for you?

Just as you might be miserable if the itinerary doesn’t interest you, you also may be miserable if the tour company or cruise line/ship doesn’t fit your lifestyle or travel needs.  If your tastes tend toward Ruth Chris Steakhouse, how satisfied will you be eating at Denney’s?  If your prefer staying at Hyatt or Renaissance hotels, would Motel 6 be acceptable?

There are those that prefer saving on accommodations, transportation and food in order to have more to spend on sightseeing tours, shopping, etc.  But some don’t want to compromise on the comforts and are willing to spend more for them.

It’s important to honestly evaluate your needs and what you expect out of your vacation, and to evaluate those needs compared to what is offered by the tour company or cruise line.  For example, take someone accustomed to staying at 4 or 5 star hotels.  An inexpensive tour might not be a good fit if it includes 2 star hotels and restaurants.  Or a tour company that caters to seniors might not work well for a family with small children.

Third, what additional costs might be involved?

The cruise lines and tour companies may be offering rock bottom pricing, but the airfare may be a budget zapper.  You might jump at the chance for a 10 day tour of Australia at $999 per person, until you find out that the airfare will be an additional $2,300 per person.  A 14-night Mediterranean cruise might be tempting at $1,999 per person compared to a 7-night Caribbean cruise that’s $1,599 per person.  But the airfare for the Caribbean cruise might be only $299 per person (or even better, within driving distance) whereas the round trip airfare to Europe might be $1,299 per person.   Onboard gratuities will also be more for a 14-night cruise versus one that is 7 nights long.  Another consideration:  how much are optional shore excursions/tours going to cost?  Those in Alaska and Europe are notably higher than excursions offered in the Caribbean and Mexico.  So if cruising the Mediterranean isn’t high on your travel “bucket list”, it may not make sense to pay considerably more for that cruise when you factor in the additional costs.

With tour company offers, carefully evaluate what is included in the offer like:

  • Airport/hotel transfers
  • Porterage fees at the various hotels
  • Are tips included for meals?
  • Sightseeing inclusions (there is a HUGE difference between “seeing” versus “stopping at” versus “visiting” a tourist attraction)
  • What meals are included (if any)?
  • Is the foregin currency exchange rate locked in or does it fluctuate until final payment is made?
  • How much do they offer for optional sightseeing tours?

What happens if a better deal comes along?

Chances are it won’t happen, but many people hold out too long assuming a better price will come along if they wait.  Most tour companies and cruise lines don’t drop their prices as departure dates draw closer.  In fact, prices historically go UP.   Most travel suppliers tend to reward passengers for booking earlier rather than later, with lower rates, better discounts or additional early booking incentives.

When deals are offered, they tend to be to fill the last few seats on the bus or staterooms on the ship.  I have had many calls from clients looking for a last minute deal only to be shocked by the fact that the cruise ship or tour is completely full.

Instead, know your budget and evaluate the offers based on what you are getting for the price.  Can you afford it?  Is there value in what’s offered?  How does it compare to similar offers from other tour companies or cruise lines?  How does it compare to the tour company’s or cruise line’s standard pricing?

In summary, do not assume that a deal is a good one simply because it’s called a “deal.”  What is good or not literally varies from one person to the next.  If you carefully evaluate the deals that you come across, and do not get caught up in simply looking at the price, you can make an informed decision which can make for a much more enjoyable vacation!