Archive for March, 2013

4 Travel Deals: Buy it or Bid for it? You be the judge.

March 22, 2013

It was not all that long ago that the travel industry was pinned down to one standardized method of distribution. Not that working through travel agencies is a bad thing but the quality of the service varies wildly and without any warning. You have some great industry minds who manage and run agencies and you have a lot of people who think working in travel is a sexy, glamorous way to make a living. (It really isn’t) What you have is a big wide world of possibilities and no one can really expect any agent to know it all, all the time.
Along comes the Internet and prospective travelers can not only do unlimited research they can also work with companies directly whose expertise can be narrowed down to their area of interest. It is safe to say that someone who sells Greece for a living knows a thing or two about it. So consumers, more and more, are purchasing based on their own criteria and not worrying about whether or not their local agent is selling them something simply because they are making some additional money in commission one product or another.
As empowering as it is to have real distribution choices, there are limited choices when it comes to finding the products you want to purchase for less money. If you really want a deal, you simply can’t rely on most of the sites that promise you as much. Daily deal sites are a joke when it comes to their travel offers. Most tour companies have to build in commissions whether or not they are distributed via a travel agent and rock bottom, net price online giants are battling more and more with hotel companies that simply won’t let them discount. So what’s the solution? I think it is auctioning.
For over 14 years we have been offering a wide array of top quality, brand name products at auction each and every day. We have quietly and efficiently saved people tons of money over our tenure. We are considered an “alternate distribution outlet” and hence, are not subjected to some of the rules other distributors find themselves constrained with. It all depends on whether the consumer wants to engage in the purchase process that requires them to study, understand, price and bid for the products they want to buy. I mean, people are saving hundreds on a single trip so, why not?
Check it out for yourself?

4 Travel Deals Observations on Travel Marketing

March 13, 2013

Product, Place, Price and Promotion are the good old 4 “P’s” of marketing.  Many people may not be familiar with this “precept” from working with it in the field, but all are influenced by the strength in the truth it represents every time you purchase something.  Yes, there are a hell of a lot of smart people influencing your every decision by manipulating one or more of the “P’s”.  

An interesting exercise is always to try and understand the relationship between this basic concept and how you make your own purchase decisions.  Some of us are influenced by price, some by pretty ads, and others only by the features and benefits they receive, and still others who want to purchase at their utmost convenience.  That is why when things are eye level at supermarkets they generally are the biggest profit generators. It is also why beautiful ads get our attention and normally create an image of quality or some higher standard in our minds.  Some products and services are created and offered by some very smart marketers who can bring all these elements into clear focus for prospective consumers, wooing them with ads, convincing them on price with an ease of delivery that would engage anyone and everyone.  These guys normally win.  Guys like this in the travel world normally win.  We all are familiar with a few of these companies that have branded themselves so well that over the years we don’t even need to see the product, we can hear a song or a slogan and our minds instantly register who it is, what they do and the value proposition they represent. 

Some of these companies deliver on the promises they make in their marketing.  Disney might be the prime example at the top of the travel pyramid.  They are who they are because their product is unique, it is priced right because they basically can get almost any price they charge, and in the world of attraction venues they do it all right.  Few who spend their hard earned money on a Disney product walk away feeling like they didn’t get value for their travel dollar.  The same can’t be said for many other products that tend to over compensate for market trends by applying the 4 P’s in unequal and disproportionate amounts.  Low prices can offset weak products and slick, well placed advertising can offset disproportionately high prices.  In my experience many of the best represented mega brands tend to use their promotion to engineer price more than to simply inform and entice potential consumers.  I remember working for a very large British airline where the CEO told me, “If you tell them you are good long enough, they will believe it, if you tell them your cheap, that is all they will ever remember”.  That could potentially sum up the universal marketing strategy of about 85% of the travel industry.  Some feel they are good and worth more, and some are cheap and can deliver less.  They have convinced themselves that consumers are lemmings and won’t examine the value proposition beyond the information they provide in their marketing.  

My experience tells me that for the most part, they are right.  Travel consumers have convinced themselves that there is little relationship between their physiographic profile (personal passions and preferences) and obtaining value when purchasing travel.  People are giving up their ability to study and understand products beyond the glossy ads and glowing “objective” reviews they receive, and are simply equating that slick promotion with higher value.  Do you really need that private Jacuzzi?  Moreover, would you pay a lot more to have that private Jacuzzi and is the resort earning the money they charge by providing it?  People will spend hours picking out new pillows for their living room and for the most part, sacrifice material construction for cosmetics or fabric quality for lower pricing but when it comes to travel the logic seems completely different.  As travel consumers we want low prices for airline tickets and aren’t all that concerned about little things like, safety.  Seldom does anyone question the credentials of those who man the cockpits and they are almost never aware of the maintenance violations an airline might have unless it hits the six o’clock news.  Of course, we want safety but would you pay more to get it when you could buy the same transportation for less?  It is an interesting question I have often pondered.

It all leads me back to the topic of the 4 P’s and some reminders for would-be travel purchasers.  I recommend you know what you feel is important and purchase that which meets your needs, desires or wishes.  Don’t buy anything based on nice advertising.  The world is a beautiful place and there are some amazing photographers in it that can convince you that staying in a tent on the beach is worth huge sums of money.  Remember to directly equate value for the money you spend.  If you want a Jacuzzi in your room and it costs an extra $150 per night, make sure it is worth that much to you.  If you buy cheap products ensure your expectations are also cheap.  You are way more likely to get what you pay for when you don’t pay all that much than you are when you pay a lot more.  It is most important to remember that travel is an individual experience, like a meal, some would sacrifice anything to have a slice of bread to eat, while most of us would consider that experience mundane.  Above all don’t listen to strangers.  Whether they are the strangers that run big ad agencies or the invisible online authors who don’t know you or what you like or don’t like. 

Make up your own mind.

4 Travel Deals to Oasis Resorts

March 11, 2013

Can I pay a bigger compliment to a hotel than gracing them with my own vacation?  While I am not sure that everyone would think so, I do believe, at the very least my family has always been quite satisfied.  Mexico, despite the constant bad news and horrible press it has gotten is one of the very best destinations for you vacation dollars, in my humble opinion.  I would never take my family to a place that I felt is extremely dangerous or even dangerous beyond other comparable destinations.  You can stay home, watch the cable news networks and literally become so scared and paranoid that you would never venture out of your front door.  The key to traveling safely is awareness and preparation and some of the other well placed commandments I mention in an older blog piece.  Shall I quote?

  1. Know where you are and stay where you belong:  roaming outside of those areas with infrastructure for tourism is risky in Mexico, just as it is in Chicago so don’t go looking for adventure or you might find more than you want.
  2. Don’t buy Drugs:  Yes, don’t buy drugs because usually the people selling them aren’t really the kind of people you want to hang out with and flash money and valuables around.  Many Americans are victims due to their attempts to purchase illegal drugs.
  3. Don’t let the party get out of control:  Getting drunk is bad.  Getting drunk in a foreign place is worse so if you have to party out of control do it in your hotel room not in a public place where others are scouting out potential victims.
  4. Don’t use ATM’s in public places:  Hello, hang a sign on your neck that you have money.
  5. Chill with a group of people:  People that are by themselves, especially at night are more likely to be prospective victims than people in large groups.  This is especially true for women.  Don’t go for long walks alone at night unless you are Chuck Norris.
  6. Spring Break:  Yes, a lot of the crime and deaths in the Cancun area arise from out of control young people who forget life is long, and the party a marathon, not a sprint, so be cool.
  7. Don’t go anywhere with people you don’t know:  Like your Mom told you, strangers can hurt you, better not to trust them then to make a regrettable mistake.
  8. Things are different here:  Everything from the money, to the roads is different than you are used to.  You can’t just expect everyone to abide by rules you are used to so adapt, be alert and be advised that you should expect the unexpected in the streets and on the road.

Sorry to be redundant, I just thought it was worth mentioning again.

 

With the uncleanliness out of the way, let’s talk about a group of hotels in Mexico that I believe offer you an opportunity to have a great trip at a great price, Oasis Resorts.  These hotels are well run and recently revamped, not just in the bed linens and paint department, but in the very spirit of the resorts themselves.  Grand Oasis Cancun has been transformed into a quasi-Vegas style resort, with a Mexican twist.  They have gone from sleepy, seaside mega hotel to the very pinnacle of entertainment for the entire area.  They are bringing in top name entertainers of all types and they have nightly shows that turn the giant pyramid shaped atrium into a choreographed, acrobatic hot spot.  Big names like “Snoop Lion” and DJ Paulie D are rocking this place right now!  So if you’re up for a party, this is the place to be.

Oh yeah, the beach is great, the service is in the upper range of Cancun resorts and the value for the money you spend to get there is phenomenal. 

So if you want to party Oasis style check out some deals that can get you there for less!ImageImageImageM

4 Travel Deals Sivory Punta Cana

March 11, 2013

Just a few words about a great deal on one of my top picks for a quick getaway or a long week on the beach! The Sivory in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers traveler the ability to lounge on a fantastic stretch of white beach and enjoy a piece of heaven in the Dominican Republic.

With only 55 suites the Sivory is one of the few boutique hotels amongst the mega resorts in the DR. I have heard nothing but high praise for their service, accommodations, and cuisine. Considering the amount of customers we send there each year it has one of the best reputations and it comes highly recommended by all who have visited.

So if you want to get away, and you’re willing to sacrifice and take some time off work and away from this longer than usual winter then perhaps, just perhaps you should check this place out.
sivory_puj
Of course we have offers that can save you money, but no matter what you spend, I am sure you will be satisfied by this resort.

4 Travel Deals, you have to really want it!

March 9, 2013

Travel Relevance in the face of total Travel Irrelevance

How can anyone make a determination on what is a good deal anymore when purchasing travel? The noise is deafening! So many web marketing companies are mining for gold in the travel space that they have completely bleached the word “deal” into something less that white, it is nearly invisible! Even the savviest in the crowd can’t get a firm handle on where, when and under what restrictions you can gain access to a good place to go, at a good price. The web went from wonderful to wondrous, as you stare wide-eyed into a glaze of deals, deals, deals. I meet and speak to people every day who wouldn’t know a real bargain if it bit them in the butt!
You need to stop, get away from the groups and the people living socially and make up your own mind. There are some really great sites for research and photos and descriptions on just about every destination on earth. Get a feel for what you want to do and how much you would like to spend. With that said, here is my paramount piece of advice: DON’T BE A JERK! Sorry if that was rude but you don’t know how many people I run into that want to buy 6 star luxury for 2 star prices. Yep, they go and come back and rant about how they usually stay here or there, but decided to go for a deal and found it wasn’t here or there, it was somewhere completely different! What a shock.
So if you are realistic, and you can narrow down your choices to a few regions you can go out and shop your deal dreams on a few very powerful websites. This doesn’t mean these are the big, big guys alone, but a few that are in business to deliver high value for money spent.
That is where we come in, we make deals, that is all we do. We live to secure and deliver good deals to the people we do business with. Sure we offer some buy it now type stuff for those who won’t ever understand that in order to get real savings, the process might require a bit more “inconvenience” than on other sites. You might have to wait a while for a confirmation but you really have to understand that our unusual process saves you money at the end of the day. So if you really want something extraordinary, and you are willing to invest a bit more time, then you may be worthy of working with us. If you want to pay more to be with the group, then go right ahead.

4 Travel Deals on Cruises

March 8, 2013

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Ok, so the cruise industry has taken a bit of a public beating lately.  Yeah, we all know that spending time on your vacation marooned on a ship without even the most basic of services isn’t all that much fun and no one wants to be there when something like this happens.  I don’t believe however, that this is the worst thing in the world to have ever happened to a traveler and we have to put some perspective on how many cruise ships there are sailing, every single day, and how many negative incidents are really reported as a result. 

It seems we have to start with the most basic element when it comes to travel, safety.  A fire on a ship is something that should strike fear into the hearts of even the most intrepid amongst us.  It is a very bad thing to have happen.  When you consider that these ships are holding thousands of people, accidents seem to be more of an eventual happening than something that should shock us.  Ovens are going night and day, lights, miles of electrical wires, stages, you name it, and it’s all on a cruise ship.  Like a neighborhood of homes, something is bound to go wrong sometime particularly with all those people milling about, all charged up night and day.  It is literally 5,000 people riding around in a big machine in unpredictable conditions where at any time things can change pretty extremely.  With all of that understood I feel the amount of real incidents has been relatively small.  I personally have been on many, many cruises all without even and insignificant incident.  That doesn’t mean that can’t all change in one second, but that could happen on an airplane, or in a hotel as well.  It seems to me that this latest cruise “catastrophe” did more damage to cruising and the Carnival brand, than to any one, single person on that ship.  If you ask me it could have been way, way worse considering it was a “fire on a cruise ship”!

Well, all of industry insiders know what this means, a new round of price lowering for the cruise industry.  Since Carnival controls about 50% of all cabins globally their attempts to woo back customers with low prices will definitely impact the balance of 2013 and perhaps beyond.  Americans are wonderfully predictable in that they don’t mind endangering themselves as long as they get a really, really good price to do it.  Airlines have recovered from worse catastrophes by using low fares, hotel brands recovered from fatal fires, publicized crimes and other incidents using the same tactics.  So why should cruise lines be any different.  The bottom line is this, things happen when you travel so suck it up, and don’t claim ignorance when something goes wrong. If you ride in a machine, car, plane, boat, whatever, they break down just be happy if it doesn’t happen when you are going 75 MPH on the highway and it’s your brakes, not the toilet in your cabin.

4 Travel Deals Vacation Rentals

March 7, 2013

We know that Vacation Rentals offers travelers some of the best values on accommodations to be found anywhere. With spring and summer coming and so many families looking to “hit the road” we want to make sure you get the most for your money so you can bring along the whole gang and not go broke just paying for hotel rooms. There are thousands of low cost vacation rentals waiting for you in most of the popular destinations, not just in the US but all over the world. These accommodations can range in number of bedrooms and kitchen sizes so you can get as much or as little room as you might need. In destinations like Orlando there are so many locations to choose from at prices that are sure to fit any budget. So if you are looking to save money on your next family getaway, make sure you take a look at all that vacation rentals have to offer before staying anywhere else.Image

4 Travel Deals to Cancun

March 6, 2013

 

 

A lot has been said recently about Mexico tourism in the last several years, some true, some not true.Many destinations are affected by security concerns but none so publicized as our neighbors to the south.Mexico, its people and its resorts could potentially the most welcoming of any tourist destinations I have had the pleasure to visit in my entire life.Are there areas of this vast country that aren’t safe or really suitable for tourists to visit? Of course, we all know that is the truth but if you examine the all the possibilities and probabilities, I think you will find there is way more positive than negative about Mexico.

 

Let’s address some common sense approaches to limiting your vulnerability to crime in Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter:

 

1.Know where you are and stay where you belong:roaming outside of those areas with infrastructure for tourism is risky in Mexico, just as it is in Chicago so don’t go looking for adventure or you might find more than you want.

 

2.Don’t buy Drugs:Yes, don’t buy drugs because usually the people selling them aren’t really the kind of people you want to hang out with and flash money and valuables around.Many Americans are victims due to their attempts to purchase illegal drugs.

 

3.Don’t let the party get out of control:Getting drunk is bad.Getting drunk in a foreign place is worse so if you have to party out of control do it in your hotel room not in a public place where others are scouting out potential victims.

 

4.Don’t use ATM’s in public places:Hello, hang a sign on your neck that you have money.

 

5.Chill with a group of people:People that are by themselves, especially at night are more likely to be prospective victims than people in large groups.This is especially true for women.Don’t go for long walks alone at night unless you are Chuck Norris.

 

6.Spring Break:Yes, a lot of the crime and deaths in the Cancun area arise from out of control young people who forget life is long, and the party a marathon, not a sprint, so be cool.

 

7.Don’t go anywhere with people you don’t know:Like your Mom told you, strangers can hurt you, better not to trust them then to make a regrettable mistake.

 

8.Things are different here:Everything from the money, to the roads is different than you are used to.You can’t just expect everyone to abide by rules you are used to so adapt, be alert and be advised that you should expect the unexpected in the streets and on the road.

 

There is no genius in the above.It is as true for Cancun as it is for Rome or New York.I wish there was a common sense injection people could get before they travel but there isn’t so listen up, pay attention and have a good time.

 

There are so many resorts in Cancun where do you start?My recommendation is with the creation of your own budget by asking several questions:

 

·How much do I want to spend?

 

·Do I want all-inclusive or room only?

 

·Do I want luxury accommodations or something more moderate?

 

·Where do I want to be? Cancun, Playa del Carmen or somewhere on the Riviera Maya?

 

·Are you flexible on your travel dates?

 

It is always best to understand the basics before you search for any accommodations.How much do you have to spend, do you want all inclusive, and of course, where exactly do you want to be.Cancun and the Riviera Maya region have a vast and varied array of hotels and resorts all of which can offer a very different type of experience.

 

ACTION:Cancun is my official party central destination.It is cheap to party and there is always some kind of activity going on.The transportation is cheap and many hotels have organized party buses that can bring you to clubs for a fee, with admittance and booze included.If you are looking for action this is the place to find it.

 

The Cancun Tourist Office can fill you in on almost any detail you might need: here

 

NATURE:I am recommending the Xcaret area of the Rivera Maya for anyone who wants to experience nature in this region.It is an experience I never get tired of and is only about 1 hour south of Cancun.Find all you need to know about it here.

 

THE REST:The Rivera Maya and Playa del Carmen offer so many wonderful opportunities to play golf, shop, sightsee or just lay back and relax that it is almost too much to choose from.There is something here for everyone who loves beautiful weather, friendly people and top class resorts.It is affordable and easily accessible from Cancun airport.

 

For more info on the Rivera Maya click here.

 

For more info on Playa del Carmen click here.

 

Now that we have established the basics, how can I get a great deal on my accommodations?

 

1.Search the region for the area you would most likely want to spend time in.

 

2.Find hotels that offer the range of services you want, at the price you have established.

 

3.Compare those prices on all of the major hotel discount sites.

 

4.Check Skyauction.comfor auctions that allow you to bid on resorts and get a better deal than you can on other travel sites.

 

That’s right, bidding for hotels and resorts frequently saves hundreds of dollars for travelers particularly in places like Cancun where there are tens of thousands of rooms available every single night.The average Skyauction.com customer saves between 25% and 50% off the nearest other travel site.Image

Atlantic City, for Bettor or Worse.

March 3, 2013

 

Atlantic City, this almost reborn jewel on the New Jersey coast has recovered nicely from its recent bout with Hurricane Sandy.  As someone who has been known to frequent this town from time to time, I have always been puzzled by AC’s schizophrenic nature.  A part of the city is big and gaudy and loud, and the other part seedy, and unattended and shot but together they make up a really freaky intertwined mess of place that is generally a lot of fun to visit.  I mean, there are not too many places you can go that offer you the ability to see a slice of history along its streets and sleazy boardwalk, all while being showered in the glaring lights from hotels that are as out of place here as they possible could be.  Strolling, you are moving through a maze of carnival games, homeless squatters, pretty girls dressed to kill, and fat, middle aged men with that, “Forgetabout” look and pinky rings.  The Casinos offer you an opportunity to sit shoulder to shoulder with people you would never get a chance to meet if left up to your own devices, and I mean never.  I love to walk around and just watch all the different types of people mesh together in what can only be described as a bastion of universality, it is a melting pot for every one of every shape, size and background.   

If you have never been to Atlantic City, it is someplace to be seen.  People like me are left to wonder if this is what they set out to create, and if it is, what bizarre mind came up with the idea?  Nothing here seems to fit right, not the structures, not the boardwalk, not even the people.  It seems always one step away from being anything cohesive, and it kind of works, but you’re never quite sure how it does.

The only thing that would be worse than spending time here is never doing so.  It isn’t funky chic, its sleazy chic. This is the East Coast baby, NJ’s version of hip meets trailer park meets the down and out, over a latte with frothed soy milk while being walked down the ocean front in a foot driven pedi-cab by an Angolan kid who speaks better English than you do!

Don’t be confused just check it out.

It shouldn’t be hard, it’s just a deal.

March 2, 2013

 

 

Value for money spent, that is all any of us can ask for when making a purchase. No one wants to overpay and no one wants to buy something they feel isn’t worth the money they put out. It doesn’t matter if it is $50 or $50,000, because it is all relative at the end of the day.

The Internet has revolutionized our ability to grab information at lightning speed on almost any topic, item or service you will ever need to purchase. There is so much damn information you can easily overdose on research. Hours and hours and hours are spent reading, comparing and using sites that read and compare for you.

This is particularly true when it comes to travel. We have information that stems from global sources and work their way up through a complex maze of distribution channels, twisting and turning and contorting all over the Internet. We have smart companies that can take away leg work and put a few hundred deals clicks away from you, but after it is all said and done, are you getting the best deal for the money you are spending? The answer might be more complicated than you think. Ever wonder why you have the ability to search multiple sites when visiting some Internet Travel giants searching for something as simple as airfare? It is because your clicks are more profitable than them selling you that ticket. They hope you want to search all over the place because if you buy from them, they don’t make much of a return. Is it possible to really get a good deal using these sites? I often wonder about people’s physiological purchase process, and if they buy more out of research fatigue than out of pure hard facts. Maybe it is the pretty pictures that motivate them, or better yet, the thousands of reviews telling you what you should do. They are all objective, right? Here are my handy reminders for you if you really want to get a deal on travel:

1. Have an idea of what you want to do: Yep, don’t go at it with a wide-eyed, the world is yours within a few clicks, attitude.
2. Have an idea of what you want to spend: You can buy anything you want with enough money just make sure you are getting value for whatever money you’re spending.
3. Don’t be a jerk: You can’t stay at Ritz Carlton for the same price as Motel 6. If you want to go about this task, stay home.
4. Be an individual: Know your own passions and preferences, don’t listen to others who you don’t even know. Buying something by following the group or being social as others have, is often the source of problems in the experience, Take it from me, I know these things.
5. Compare the price: There is often no difference in the service level received from one travel provider to the next so get the best deal you can.
6. Have some fun: Planning travel isn’t like cleaning out the garage, it should be a fun experience so lighten up.
7. Try new places to purchase: Some sites are good, some not so good, but there are lots of second and third tier websites that are offering amazingly good deals and are well worth your, non-brand name worship.

So there you have it, my 7 commandments for being a smart travel purchaser. It isn’t hard, it is mostly common sense and individual fortitude. Remember, just because others do it doesn’t mean it is good or right for you. So many articles have been written about how “objective” reviews, aren’t entirely objective. We should all know by now that daily deal type sites aren’t in the travel business and are just using their email lists to spam you into submission. “Oh, 200 others are buying this”, yeah right. If they were jumping off a bridge would you follow them? (Thanks Mom) So work with professionals, large and small, select you destinations and products and then compare like hell.