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Dear Deal Detective:
My best friend and I (we’re two women ages 45 and 60) want to go to Egypt in 2010. We’d like to see the pyramids and the other great relics that people go to Egypt for, but we’d also like to get off the beaten path and away from the tourists … maybe a trek out to the desert to stay with Bedouins? We don’t want the same trip that millions of other people take. A package is fine as long as it’s a small group and not cookie cutter. We’re both adventuresome and would love your help. We’d like our budget, including airfare, to be around $2,500 or less per person if possible.
Egypt is truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime destinations for many people, and I think you and your friend are going to have a wonderful time. Since you won’t be traveling until 2010, there’s really no reason (or advantage) to booking this early. You can, however, start scouting providers to see which ones match your general interests and price range.
My top pick for you is Adventure Center’s 10-day, $510 Nile Felucca Sailtrek, which is operated by the British outfitter Explore. It meets all of your criteria: a low-price, a reasonably sized group (16-20 guests, max), must-see tourist sites like the Pyramids and Sphinx, and off-the-beaten path extras such as three days on a traditional felucca boat sailing the Nile and a donkey trek to the Valley of the Kings. It includes five nights in hotels, three on the felucca boat, and one overnight train. Some, but not all, meals are included. A small local payment is due when you arrive in Cairo.
Any time a price seems too good to be true it’s worth asking around to make sure it’s legit. I took the liberty of checking with a past guest on this trip to see what you really get for the money. “I was leery of joining a tour group for a vacation in Egypt,” says Patricia Frye, who selected the trip because of its price. “But the ‘tour’ was organized perfectly. When other groups were riding a big, boring bus to the Valley of the Kings, our group was riding donkeys up the steep mountain trails, and then we hiked down into the Valley of the Kings. We felt like ancient tomb robbers. It was a great experience.”
“They’re serious about the word ‘adventure’ in their title,” adds Frye. “But the location of each hotel was perfect, and the price included all those annoying tips and entrance fees. I also liked the focus on ecology and respect for the local culture and traditions.”
Another provider worth checking is G.A.P Adventures (whose Machu Pichu trip I wrote about a few weeks ago). Its Egyptian Journey offers a similar itinerary spread out over 15 days for $795, plus a $250 local payment.
Also consider Intrepid Travel’s 15-day Egypt Explorer for $605 plus a local payment of $250. This trip would allow you to spend a night under the stars at a desert oasis and “experience the nomadic life of local Berbers on the windswept dunes of the Western Desert.”
All three trips sound great to me, so it’s really a matter of preference. I encourage you to keep an eye on these deals and continue to look for others. For a 2010 trip, don’t worry about booking until at least the middle of 2009.
Letter of the Week
Terri Pignone of Hartsville, South Carolina, writes: “In response to the two females with different traveling styles, I’d like to make a suggestion. Jaguar Reef Lodge in Belize is a small, all-inclusive optional resort that I think would suit them perfectly. Daily excursions are offered, some quite adventurous, then guests return to the resort each afternoon for a delicious meal served in their open air dining room. Because of its small size and relatively remote location, you won’t be surrounded by obnoxious tourists, and while you’ll enjoy all the creature comforts, you’ll still get the feeling of an outdoorsy vacation. We were a family of five with two teenagers, and we met and thoroughly enjoyed the company of a honeymooning couple, a couple of older, empty nest bird-watching enthusiasts, and another family of scuba-diving teens while there. Each guest can choose his/her own level of activity desired, from cave tubing (highly recommended), touring ancient Mayan ruins, snorkeling the famous barrier reef, or relaxing in the hammocks on the beach or by the pool. According to their website, a spa is due to open soon. My kids are well-traveled, but when asked what their favorite trip has been, they will unanimously say Jaguar Reef. We would all highly recommend this resort for these two traveling ladies.”
Become a Deal Detective
Below are a few of the best questions from the past week that I wasn’t able to research for this week’s column. Can you help? Email me your suggestions for these readers and I’ll publish the most helpful ones in an upcoming column. You will, of course, get full credit for your efforts.
Robin Delaney writes, “Help! I’m trying to plan a summer vacation for me and my three teenage sons. I’m adventurous, but not athletic. They are athletic … but not so adventurous. They’re at the age (13, 15, and 19) where their friends and summer job mean more to them than a vacation. I want to make our time together meaningful and fun for all of us. Of course, my budget is limited, and living smack in the middle of the U.S. means it’s equally expensive to get everywhere! Cruises are out … I get sea sick. I’ve considered eco-tourism camping trips to Costa Rica and cabins at Georgia’s Calloway Gardens. Any advice?”
Speaking of seasickness, Rhonda Peterson says, “I was reading one of your articles and I saw where a reader had responded about a sea sickness patch for behind the ear to wear on Cruise Ships. I realize you are not a doctor, but some of your readers may be. It might be worth a shot to see if you could find out the answer to a question for me. We have been on three cruises now. Every single time, I am healthy when we leave, and about halfway through the week I develop a sinus/ears/throat infection. I was assuming I was having an allergic reaction to some cleaning agents being used in our room or on the ship. When we would exit the ship at the ports I would start to feel better, then it would all wash back over me again within minutes of being back on the ship. We even reached the point of trying to sleep with the balcony door and window open to try to help, but with no luck. The last cruise we were on, I ended up in the ship’s medical clinic feeling downright awful. The physician told me I was most likely reacting to the internal heating and cooling system on the ship. He sees people on almost every cruise with the same symptoms. He prescribed me some antibiotics to fight what had turned into a raging upper respiratory infection. Is there anything preventative out there that could help with this? We are taking another cruise the end of June, and I would really like to have a vacation that I am not spending sick!”
All right, readers—especially you doctors—please help! Note that I’ll print your full name unless you ask me not to. And of course I’ll never share your email address with anyone.
Have a question for the Deal Detective? Please send your request using the “Submit your own comment” box below. Be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question, the better the chance you’ll be selected for an upcoming case.
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