The deals are as eye-popping as the destinations. Twenty percent off a gourmet cooking adventure in Tuscany. Free airfare when you book an Arctic voyage in Greenland. A hundred dollars off an Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
I come across deals like this every day in my capacity as SmarterTravel.com's adventure travel columnist. Are they too good to be true? Not if you know where—and when—to look for them.
Many of the most popular adventure travel companies in the U.S. and abroad offer significant discounts for late-availability trips. Two of the best at this are G.A.P Adventures and Intrepid Travel, both of which routinely offer 20-percent discounts on last-minute trips.
Toronto-based G.A.P Adventures reduces the prices on some trips that depart a week to two months in the future. All are discounted because there are open spaces on trips that are already guaranteed to run. "We change the last-minute departures every couple of weeks," says Kira Zack, G.A.P's Communications and Marketing Director. Recently discounted trips have included excursions in Greece, Kenya, Peru, and Bolivia.
Intrepid's last-minute deal program, Impulse, works in a similar way. These deals are automatically generated by the company's reservation system, and appear on Intrepid's website around two weeks prior to each trip's booking deadline. "On average, Impulse deals are offered three to four weeks prior to travel," says Jen Bird, Communications Manager for the Australia-based outfitter. "Trips also only appear on Impulse if there is sufficient availability on that trip to make it worthwhile offering as an Impulse deal." Recent 20-percent-off deals included trips to China, Tibet, New Zealand, Romania, and Italy.
While both G.A.P and Intrepid cater to budget-minded travelers, even the more upscale adventure operators occasionally offer discounts at the last minute. Mountain Travel Sobek, for example, is not a "discounter," but it does put some trips on sale when there are a limited number of participants signed up as the trip date approaches. "We believe it's better to operate trips in spite of low numbers than cancel them altogether," says Nadia Le Bon, Director of Special Programs for Mountain Travel Sobek. "Usually the offer is limited to two or four new bookings and amounts to a $200 to $500 discount on the retail price of the trip."
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