Where have the bargains gone?

I was just about to start writing a column about my frustration in travel bargain hunting lately, and a Westjet Flash Sale popped up in my in box. Great news I thought!  Crisis averted. Something good to write about!

The ad was for 35% off fares of the first 2000 bookings. The sale stared at midnight. My clock read 12:35AM. Excellent! Time to nab a bargain for myself….. but no luck. That code was only good for the first 2000 people and I wasn’t one of them. So, I have to say that was disappointing. Imagine the early risers who think they have a chance at 6am and go through the same frustrating process I did.  Westjet would be more realistic saying it’s a 15 minute sale, not a “flash sale.”

But OKAY, I thought, will use the consolation code for 15% off. So I took a look, absolutely nothing caught my eye. The code is valid for US destinations. Well, frankly the Canadian dollar is worth 65 cents. So, a discount of 35% would be required for it to be a deal at par.  15% discount does NOTHING to bring a trip to the US into favour. Never mind, the political issues.

So, I’m another hour invested in bargain hunting and nothing to report.

This winter has been harsh in Manitoba and more people than ever are travelling. The increased demand for vacations has seen many flights and routes, and resorts sold out. Never mind a deal, there’s nothing “in stock” to buy. A last minute hot vacation is almost akin to a Cabbage Patch Doll at Christmas in the 80s or a Fury in the 1990s.  Elusive and if you spy one, you should grab it.

What’s left is Cuba, lots of Cuba.

Maybe time to turn our eyes to Europe and start planning Spring and Summer vacations?

My Golden Rules of Bargain Travel

  1. If it doesn’t sound like you, don’t force it. It’s not the trip for you.
  2. Read current reviews and visit Oyster.com to see what the real travellers are saying. (Go back to rule 1.)
  3. Don’t put too much stock into what the tour company says. Whether Westjet’s marketing team is describing the room, or Sunwing’s, or Air Canada’s…. it’s the same room. Whether it’s “modern” “chic” “spacious” or “deluxe” that’s just an adjective. It’s the same room.
  4. Check your flight times. If the price is outstanding, but the flight connections are miserable, is it a bargain? No.
  5. Know your prices. Have a general idea what the trip typically sells at so that you can recognize a bargain.
  6. Seek out less-busy times of the year to travel. (Right after school goes back in session. Right after national holidays.)
  7. When you spy THE bargain, the right deal for you, go for it! Be decisive. Act quickly. That price, or the last two seats on the plane might be gone tomorrow or they might be sold out in an hour. You’re not the only one who’s tuned into travel deals, reading blogs and scouring Twitter trying to save money and travel more.
  8. If you don’t have all the money and the trip is more than 60 days out, call your Travel Agent, put down a deposit and lock in that price! It’s easy to do. Payment plans are available for future travel. (Does not apply to last minute travel, booked 60 days or less in advance.)
  9. If you find a bargain that you love, but can’t go… share it! Maybe it’s exactly what one of your friends has been looking for.
  10. Don’t get hung up on rewards points. Like an ugly sweater, you may have paid lots to get it, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile or a good fit for this party.

Happy travelling!
xoxo Cathie

3 Tips to a lower price on the vacation you want.

You’ve found the vacation you want, but it’s just a little out of budget. Now what? Here’s a few tips that could potentially save you 10% or more.

  1. Change your dates. Even if it’s one day earlier, or later, it could save you hundreds of dollars. Pro tip: Choose “flexible dates” in your search whenever that’s an option.
  2. Take the long way. Rather than the direct flight, take a look at a flight with a connection. Think of this as talking the bus to work rather than driving yourself. The bus is less expensive, will take longer, and is less glamorous, but you’ll still get there. BUT if it eats up another half day of your vacation, is the lower price worth it?
  3. Look for re-sellers like “Sunquest Vacations.” They don’t operate their own flights, but rather purchase packages from other providers (like Air Canada) and re-sell them. Think of them as the Winners (discount clothes/housewares retailer) of travel packages. They are more likely to cut prices than to sit on inventory they’ve already paid for. They will not have the same wide selection of packages, but what if they actually have the one you want? Same as shopping at Winners…. always worth a look. And lastly, just like at Winners, if you see a deal, GRAB IT. Don’t hesitate. If you go back tomorrow, it’s very likely to be gone… sold to someone else.

Use a travel agent. While there is a service fee attached to using a travel agent, he/she has has access to superior search engines, travel consolidators and the inside scoop on promotions. Using an expert (and paying $40+ service fee)  could genuinely save you hundreds of dollars over booking a standard vacation package yourself.  Think of a travel agent as a coupon…if you have one, you should use it and save yourself some money.

Park MGM Experience

I have been to Vegas twice this year. Twice I have stayed at the Park MGM.  And twice I have been very happy with the experience .

I went to Vegas in May for the U2 concert. The concert was taking place at the T-Mobile Arena which happens to be right next-door to Park MGM. Literally, a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the line up to enter the arena.

So, do take note if you’re heading to a hockey game or concert at the T-Mobile arena, the Park MGM is ideal.

From TMobile Arena balcony lounge, looking towards the ParK MGM Hotel & the Park Theatre. (Where Aerosmith, Cher, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars have residency.)

But what is the hotel like?  I really like it. It is modest by my measure of Vegas hotels. It is the old Monte Carlo, but completely redone and rebranded as Park MGM. The rooms are fairly basic (no mini fridge)  but they are modern, the bathroom showers are perfect and they’re nicely decorated.

Think of it as a little sister to Bellagio. It is part of the same hotel chain and even connected by a free tram.  By my estimate it’s 1/5 of the size of Bellagio.  It’s pretty hard to get lost at Park MGM. That’s a good thing.

While the hotel doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants, the courtyard of the arena does. So all you have to do is walk outside the hotel and you have plenty of choices. Also across the courtyard is the NYNY Hotel & Casino which offers a little more action.

The second best asset of Park MGM is the pool area. There are 3 separate pools, lots of great loungers, the poolside food is excellent and there’s plenty of sun.

The 3rd best feature of the Park MGM is the price. It typically falls in the bottom 1/3 of Vegas Strip hotels, depending on events and time of year. Regardless, of whether it costs $50 or $129 per night,  it will be comparatively less then other hotels of equal quality. Based on this I find it is excellent VALUE.

**not a paid endorsement. I’m in no way affiliated with the hotel or MGM chain. I’m just a frequent Vegas visitor with high regard for this renovated hotel. I hope you find benefit in my review.

 

 

Copenhagen on a Dreamliner

BARGAIN ALERT!

If just reading “Copenhagen” and “Dreamliner” isn’t enough to make your eyes bubble with joy and anticipation, maybe you don’t deserve this bargain!  Just kidding. Read on.

I can’t explain it, other than to say, these prices have been hanging around a couple weeks already. There’s so much turbulence in the US market right now that it’s left some routes open for fierce competition, in my opinion. And now that there are low-cost carriers (like WOW and Norwegian) flying in/out of some select US coastal cities (Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, New York) there are price wars.

But the prices are crazy. Cray-cray. $316 Canadian dollars to fly tax in, and return (in economy class) on a Dreamliner. I repeat…. 787 Dreamliner.

Sure, this particular bargain is out of Boston, Mass but surely you can get there. Enjoy a few days on the harbor eating lobster rolls and watching the Bruins or Red Sox. Surely, you can see how to make this a winning combination.

Skyscanner.ca is the quickest way to track down these bargains and see what’s out there. And right now, there are so many it’s a little overwhelming for this rabid traveller. I want to see Europe. This is THE year. But where to start?

 

From Montreal to Stockholm Sweden, with WOW Air

Montreal to Boston $148 tax in, return

I’m not even sure why this bargain is on my radar, other than I need something to look forward to and this outrageous bargain fits my Kraft Dinner budget right now.

The hot prices on this route are for October and November 2017. Travel on Tuesdays for the best price.

Boston is high on my list of cities I’d like to visit. I’d love to see it in the fall when the leaves are turning colours. I’d love to sit on a dock and eat a lobster roll and visit some of the diners featured on Diner’s Drive Ins and Dives.

You could also catch a game in Boston. Epic sports franchises in this city.

Typical price for this route is around $300. You can even fly from Winnipeg, quite often, at that $320 price point. But my thought is that you could build an epic fall trip around it. Whether you take the train and see Canada’s east coast, or just cash in some Air Miles for a weekend in Montreal before heading to Boston, you could definitely incorporate the bargain into something bigger.

To start your planning and see why Boston should be on your list too…click over to www.masstourism.com

Screenshot Feb 18th, 2017