Is it the same hotel room?

 

I had the opportunity to answer a great question at work today.

“If Air Canada and WestJet and the other travel companies are selling the same hotel at different prices is it the same hotel room or different rooms?

My answer came in the form of an analogy. If you were buying a jar of Kraft peanut butter from Safeway or Sobeys, No Frills or Giant Tiger  it would be exactly the same Kraft peanut butter from the same Kraft factory. So it is also quite likely the same hotel room just being sold by two different vacation retailers.

Of course, different companies will feature or advertise that jar of peanut butter using different words (marketing descriptions). And each grocery store will put it on sale at different times or in different ways that suit their marketing agenda. But it would still be the same jar of peanut butter.

For example, a $1 off coupon, or buy 3 get 1 free promotion. Same peanut butter, and essentially the same savings, just presented to the consumer differently.

However there are some cases where hotels will block off a certain section of rooms and give them to one company to sell, exclusively.  Those rooms might have a unique view or exclusive proximity to the pool or entertainment area or something like that.  A privilege of this exclusivity is the airline/vacation provider can claim they have something to sell/feature that no other company has. So, yes, it absolutely could be a (slightly) different hotel room.

Ultimately the more buying power a company has the better deal they can negotiate with the hotel provider. So it does pay to shop around and focus on your own personal needs and situation when buying a vacation package. Prices can vary for exactly the same room. Or rooms could vary based on exclusivity rights.

To sum up with the analogy….you may not need four jars of peanut butter, even thought the deal seems attractive. The better deal for you personally, might be $1  off ONE jar of peanut butter.

So my advice is to not get hung up on the marketing words in the hotel description, but in fact analyze the description based on amenities and compare that way. “600 sq feet, balcony, king bed, mini fridge, and garden view.” That tells me what I am getting in the hotel room.

Whereas “modern, island oasis, perfect for your family, sleeps 4 and features unique herbal rainforest shower products” does NOT allow me the same insight. Yet both could be describing the exact same room.

Marketing and price are two ways that retailers can differentiate themselves in an attempt to earn your business. What YOU can do is to research, fact check, and enlist the help of an experience travel agent in order to wade through the marketing and online verbiage to get to the vacation best suited to you, at the best price.

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

How much does a hot vacation cost?

Here’s a handy, off the cuff guide to escaping Manitoba and going on a tropical, all inclusive, beach vacation.

In order of typical total cost. Least expensive destinations to most expensive: Cost on each island will vary by resort and room category.

  • Varadero, Cuba
  • Cayo Coco, Cuba
  • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Maya Riviera, Mexico
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Los Cabos, Mexico
  • Mazatlan, Mexico
  • Ixtapa, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Huatulco, Mexico
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Curacao
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Maarten
  • Antigua
  • Aruba
  • Belize
  • Barbados
  • Costa Rica
  • Turks n Caicos

A rough number, for a 4 star vacation, at a non-peak holiday time starts at $2000 per adult.  $1700 for your Air/Hotel package, $200 insurance, $100 gratuities & incidentals like resort fees/tourist card etc.

Peak travel is:  American Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, University Break (2nd week of Feb)  Plan for at least $2600 or more per adult for a 4 star vacation with insurance and incidentals.

Think of package vacation travel like buying a vehicle. There is everything from the Chevy Cruise to the Cadillac available. You just have to find the model, the style and the features that suit you.  Yes, they are all just “cars” but what comforts/conveniences do you need to be happy and satisfied? Travel is the very same.

My bottom line is this:  if the decision comes down to $300 and it’s the difference between being “satisfied” and “happy” choose HAPPY. (Cut out souvenirs or new clothes for the trip to cover the cost if you need to.)

When you feel like you are settling for a car/vacation because you like the price….you will start off on the wrong foot. When you find something you are EXCITED about, you also give yourself the gift of anticipation. Every day you know you have something to look forward to, even if it is 4 months away. Dare I say the hard winter days get easier, when I have something to look forward to and dream about.

Don’t do bad things!

Travel should be safe, happy and enrich your life. Don’t mess that up for yourself, or others.   Like these two:  Tourists facing jail time for graffiti

I’ll tell you a personal story, because I think it’s kind of sweet. When my son was almost 4 we were watching the Brandon Wheat Kings play and his favourite hockey player (Mark Stone) was sent to the penalty box. This was upsetting for my son. He absolutely hated seeing Mark in “hockey jail.” Later that night Calder (my son) got the chance to tell Mark exactly how he felt.

It was skate with the player night, and during the post-game event, Calder had Mark’s full attention. Mark, (all 6 foot 6 of him, on skates) was down on his knee to listen to Calder.

“Don’t do bad things!” Calder said. “Don’t do bad things.”  he repeated over and over. “No goals in hockey jail.” Which we as parents, interpreted for Mark … “you can’t score goals while sitting in the penalty box.”  Mark assured Calder that he understood the message “don’t do bad things” he repeated over and over. “Don’t do bad things.”  Satisfied that he had been heard, Calder was ready to skate. He and his hockey idol skated around. At the end of the the event Mark said goodbye to the little guy and assured him that he would “not  do bad things” and try his best to stay out of the penalty box. It was a nice moment. Very memorable.

So, that’s pretty much all I’m going to say, because the message certainly does apply to travel.  “Don’t do bad things.”  But honestly, I shouldn’t have to say this. It’s common sense.

1) Jail time isn’t a joke. Jail time isn’t two minutes in the penalty box.

2) Respect the culture and customs of the country you are in. You are a guest. Be on your best behaviour. Obey the laws.

3) If you have a conviction at home. Even if YOU THINK it’s minor, it could very well prevent you from getting a tourist visa, or being allowed entry into a foreign country. Assault, drug possession, DUI (Driving under the influence) are all potential barriers to you being free to travel. So before you buy a plane ticket, check with the embassy. Do your homework.

And most of all, the bottom line is that travel is a privilege. “Don’t do bad things!”

Air Canada to Antigua

Every time I get the chance, I ask a flight attendant about which Caribbean island is their favourite. I figure, they should know, right?  Antigua comes up over and over again.  So, I keep it on my radar looking for a bargain. It’s usually 30% more expensive than Mexico and twice the price of Cuba.  But…. what if it is twice as nice?  Well, finally a bargain. Someone should go and report back to the group!

AND take a look at Air Canada’s NEW price match guarantee. 

From Air Canada Vacations. NOW with price drop guarantee

Or, January 12th, if you can go right away!

Overnight in YYZ required, but you really will get a full 7 days of vacation on the beach. Great flight times

Westjet Roundtrip $192

Where to for this bargain?

Winnipeg to Hamilton! Lots of dates available. This sample is February 2nd to 5th. Paired with a hotel, through Expedia.ca you could have flight and hotel under $400 per person (2).

Screenshot at Westjet.com, January 2nd.

Or what about Edmonton at Spring Break?  Fly out March 26th and back on the 30th. You can’t even drive there that cheap. $177 tax in, and with Westjet, from Winnipeg.

What about renting a car or grabbing the train and making this a ski vacation in Jasper? Remember, Canada’s National Parks are FREE to see in 2017.

Screenshot, Westjet.com January 2nd. Prices subject to change without notice. For holidays and popular dates, it pays to book early!