by Donna Manz
If travel advisors have suggestions for summer vacationers, it is this: plan for summer travel as early in advance as possible, when you still have options before you, and learn how to get the most value from your vacation budget.
Remember that the longer you wait the more costly things are likely to be. Planes and hotels fill up during the summer, and costs are more likely to rise as airline-seat and hotel-room inventory shrink.
But even if you’re still in the vacation-planning stage for this summer, there are some things you can do to make your vacation dollar go further.
Don’t Be Solely Price-Driven
A destination is only a value if it is somewhere you want to go. Bratislava is cheaper than Vienna; Madrid is cheaper than Paris. But, if it is Vienna or Paris you have your heart set on, that could be the more valuable choice. The best way to ruin a vacation is to let your destination selection be driven solely by price.
Be A Matchmaker
Match your interests with your destination. Listen to friends and family and seek out a travel agent specializing in your interests. If you’re on Facebook “like” those page hosted by your favorite destinations or travel suppliers so you’ll receive a continual flow of information. I “like” Facebook pages dedicated to Paris, to cities in Bavaria, to London, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and more. In fact, just reading about the places I love to visit conjures up memories and dreams.
Forget Bargains, Look for Value
You aren’t going to find many “bargains” in the northern hemisphere during our summer months, but there are lots of good “values” out there. Orlando theme parks, for example, offer family-friendly packages from dining plans to park-hopper passes.
Keep in-mind, though, that Disney theme parks – whether it’s Disney World or Disneyland – are very busy, very congested and, in both locations, very hot in the summer months. Disney has “value” resorts that might be a good fit for your budget.
Keep in mind also that a room in an all-suite property usually costs less than two adjoining rooms in a non-suite hotel. Just be sure you also have two bathrooms if you are traveling with children.
Don’t Opt for Prime Real Estate
If you’re looking at beach resort destinations, keep in mind that accommodations just a couple of blocks walk from the beach are often much less costly than beachfront properties.
This is also true in major European cities. You’ll save plenty by staying away from the “tourist hub” in London, Paris and other European hotspots and taking public transportation into the center of the city. You may not wake up in the morning looking at the Spanish Steps but your wallet is sure to thank you.
Watch the Calendar
Dates, as well as seasons, influence pricing. Everyone wants to go to Paris in May or June. But that’s when Fashion Week and the Paris Air Show fill hotel rooms and sends prices upward. But prices drop in August, when many Parisians head southward on their vacations so you can get more “luxury” for your money in the French capital at that time.
The Caribbean is more affordable in the summer than in the winter because competition from stateside beach destinations drives rates down at that time. An added bonus is that you’ll find the Caribbean less crowded in the summer.
Come late summer and airfares and some hotel prices begin to drop, so if you don’t have kids in school consider taking a vacation from late August through mid-September.
Talk to People Familiar With a Destination
Search out others who have been to a destination and ask them about its attractions, hotels, restaurants and activities, or work with a travel consultant who specializes in your vacation market, from cruises to destinations throughout the world. A good agent can often provide good value and save you money since some travel specialists typically have access to non-publicized packages.
Regardless of what you are paying, you should always focus on getting the best value possible out of your budget. There are plenty of packages, resources and promotions that offer complimentary value-added benefits, from complimentary breakfasts to room upgrades and airport/hotel transfers. Seek out hotels and suppliers who go the extra mile to satisfy you.
If You’re Cruising
Since there are very few ships in the Caribbean in the summer, a family looking at a cruise at that time would likely be looking at ships sailing in Europe, Alaska or Asia, around the Hawaiian islands or, in the early fall, New England. Whatever itinerary you choose remember to shop early; although you hear of rock-bottom sales at close-in departure dates you’ll frequently find that only less-expensive (and sometimes less-desirable) cabins are available.
For multi-generational travel, consider Disney and Royal Caribbean. While Royal Caribbean works to appeal to every age demographic, Disney is ideally suited to families with younger children. Cruises should be matched to ages and interests and an ocean-cruise specialist can help you sort through the great myriad of options.
Consider Travel Insurance
Travel insurance can save a traveler thousands of dollars should an emergency arise. And that extends much further than the traveler. Family member illness or injury can upset the traveler’s plans, as well. Protect your financial investment.