The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel.com's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
I have a confession to make. I am a fan of reality television, —well, one reality television show, anyway. The Amazing Race first caught my eye by offering a $1 million reward for winning a race around the world. I would do it for free, but apparently some people need the added motivation. The reason I share this with you, loyal readers, is because Travelocity is now offering a Race to Savings deal that honors the new season of the show (which returned on September 28).
Deal or No Deal?
Though I am a fan The Amazing Race, I promise to remain unbiased in my investigation of whether this is a deal or 'gnome' deal.
The facts: More than 4,000 hotel properties around the world are offering savings of up to 75 percent, when you book a flight-and-hotel package, and up to 40 percent off regular rates through Travelocity. The offer ends November 15, and you must travel by January 15, 2009.
The promotion is intended to help offset high airfare prices, but does it succeed? First off, I report that I had trouble applying this deal in the booking stage. Several times I got caught in a maze of entering and reentering information, and feeling like I was far from the initial savings. It was only after I clicked through to the end that I was able to see the discount. So, my advice is to stick it out and double-check to be sure it's there when or if you decide to book.
As for the deal itself, I compared the final prices for a Los Angeles hotel-and-airfare package on Travelocity (40 percent savings on hotel) and Expedia, and found that even with the discount Expedia was nearly $200 cheaper. I then compared a Fort Lauderdale air-and-hotel package between the two websites (Travelocity offered 50 percent savings), and I found that once again Expedia was less expensive, this time by about $30. This may not be the case with all the hotels participating in the sale, but it does reinforce my belief that you always must compare.
Verdict: No Deal.
Question of the Week
Ledette asks, "My boyfriend and I are looking for an inexpensive ($1,000/couple or less) vacation for about three nights, [in] the beginning of November to celebrate his birthday. Traveling from Florida, we'd rather go somewhere warm than cold. We are interested in relaxing, water sports, and sightseeing. We are thinking Jamaica since we have not vacationed there or another Caribbean destination. We could also be open to Vegas (though the temperature would be chilly at that time of year) as he has yet to vacation there. If there, we'd be interested in whatever that destination has to offer - though not focused on gaming. We're very open to suggestions from you."
While there are a number of warm-weather places to choose from, if you have your heart set on the Caribbean, first consider a trip to Nassau or Grand Bahama Island with the excellent Spirit Vacations deal I mentioned last week.
Jamaica, of course, is another good fit for your criteria, and I've found the perfect place for you to stay. Let's not forget that we're under a tight budget of $1,000 for two people, so we have to be extra-thrifty.
Let's begin with lodging. Located a short drive from Port Antonio in eastern Jamaica, the Zion Country-Eco Beach Cabins is an ideal place to relax in a hammock, play on a private beach, or explore the virgin rainforest. The guesthouses are situated miles from any sign of commercial tourism, and therefore provide an escape from the ordinary. From here, you can fish, snorkel, climb a waterfall, canoe through mangroves, see manatees or dolphins, hike along the rocky volcanic coast, swim in natural pools, or enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Plus, rooms start at $50 per night for two, and include a view of the ocean, a balcony with a hammock, and breakfast.
Since these cabins are about a two-hour drive from the Kingston airport, renting a car to get there is your best bet. There are a slew of public transportation options, but I can't guarantee prices. I was, on the other hand, able to find rates starting at $757 for airfare and a four- day car rental through Expedia.com traveling between Orlando and Kingston from November 6 through November 9.
The total price thus far for transportation and lodging for two comes to $907, meaning you have $83 for food and activities. Most of the things I mentioned above are free, and the area surrounding the inn provides plenty of places to grab a bite to eat for cheap. I also recommend eating extra at breakfast to cut back on food costs.
Best of luck in your travels, and a very happy birthday to your boyfriend.
If you have tips for Ledette on what to do in Jamaica, please feel free to share below.
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