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In this economy, you can’t afford not to travel

When someone inquiries about my profession I smile and simply reply: “I get paid to tell people where to go”! You can just imagine the puzzled looks that I receive.

But I’m being factual. I teach travel, I write about travel, I talk travel, I get paid to travel plus occasionally I sell travel. So I am not too far off the mark on my response.

This means that I’m very well tuned into the travel marketplace especially when it comes to the vacation and leisure sectors.

Today is a buyer’s market! Deals are everywhere. I frequently tell folks that in today’s economy you cannot afford not to travel.

Today we are seeing once in a generation prices and they’re not going to last. There are many vacation products available today that just last summer were priced outside the range of many peoples’ budgets. When business tanked last fall all companies re priced their products to spur sales.

I say all because even Disney, a notorious non discounter you have to buy at our price, is even playing the special “economic stimulus” pricing game.

Resort packages have been greatly reduced plus they are offering free Disney dining on select packages.

On select sailings cruise cabins are selling for $30 to $40.00 per person per day. These rates include your stateroom, transportation to exotic ports of call, on board entertainment, plenty to eat, free children’s activities and much more. Talk about a bargain!

All inclusive resorts like Sandals, Superclubs and Mexico’s Palace Resorts are offering unbelievable discounted packages and promotions. If you’ve ever dreamed on a destination wedding or a romantic island honeymoon now is the time to take advantage of the prices.

In the Tri-State region we are fortunate to have a couple of airlines that have focused on the vacation traveler in their business plans. Allegiant and Air Tran offer low air fares into Florida hubs then from there you can connect to flights continuing to Mexico or the Caribbean.

Drive a couple of hours to Columbus and you will greatly expand the number of low cost destinations.

Some vacation planning strategies you can use to catch some specials are:

Either plan early or wait until the last moment. Depending on your personality and scheduling demands bargains are often found well in advance 90 days or more before departure and/or within a week or so of the departure date.

Identify you vacation destination that you’re interested in then sign up on-line with the local tourism office for news and information. They’ll keep you updated with plenty of special package deals. Sign up on tour operators web sites that serve a destination you want to visit and they’ll forward their sales and reduced rate specials. For example Apple Vacations fly nonstop charters to Cancun Mexico and the Dominican Republic so they’ll email you all of their promotions and last minute sales.

Register your vacation interests with an online travel agency like Travelocity, Expedia or Orbitz. Browse www.travelzoo.com, www.hotwire.com or www.priceline.com as these firms consolidate offers from thousands of leading travel companies, cruise lines, air lines, hotels, etc from around the world and list their very best offers for you. Regardless of whom you register with all of these companies will keep your email inbox packed full of deals.

Bypass the intermediaries (travelocioty.com, etc.marriott.com) and go directly to the travel suppliers’ web site as they frequently post “available only on site” specials. For example Allegiant Air lists unadvertised specials for Huntington departure. Contact the hotel directly by phone and “haggle” for a discount.

Develop a professional relationship with one of the best available search engines-your local travel agent. Try to find one that specializes in the destination/product that you interest you. For example I’m a Certified Cruise Counselor but my areas of specialization are Caribbean, Mexican and European cruises. For Alaskan sailings I’m not the guy you want you need to work with an Alaskan specialist.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal as do they exist. Go beyond the 1st screen that is displayed or ask t he reservationist if that is the best offer.

Don’t be afraid to say no and try later. Inventory and pricing is always changing and what is sold out today may be available tomorrow.

Have what I call a pricing threshold. This is the low to high rate range that you’re willing to pay. Let’s say for a 7 day cruise with air you’re willing to invest between $800 and $1000 when you discover one that satisfies your criteria buy it.

Got travel questions? Contact the thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.