Every year literally millions of singles, couples, families and groups of friends go on summer vacations together. Summer vacations are popular, and it’s that popularity that can make planning and booking one a challenge, especially for families and groups of people. The demand for seats on airplanes are limited by demand, as are available accommodations. The demand to attend events or visit tourist attractions can also be affected by the higher demand summer vacationers pose.
There are a number of ways that you can make affordable bookings and reservations.
Obviously the first step to making summer vacation reservations is deciding on a summer vacation destination. When selecting a summer vacation destination, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration. Some of these factors are;
- Are you going to be traveling with children and, if so, what are the ages of your children? Not every accommodation provider accepts infants, or even small children. This is especially the case with bed and breakfast operations or guest houses. Not every destination is suitable for children either. Some destinations are focused on honeymooners and couples seeking a place to go for a romantic getaway. While others target young adults seeking adventure or exciting nightlife. Destination catering mainly to adult vacationers offer little in the way of amusements for children.
- Costs of airfare and accommodation are generally fixed, but services and amenities are often forgotten until vacationers are in country and being confronted with costly meals, beverages, admittance fees to visit museums, historical sites or other places of interest, souvenirs, and so on. Incidental costs can add up to a significant amount. If you have an overall summer vacation budget you need to stay within, these costs prove a problem.
- Do you, or anyone traveling with you have food or other allergies to take into consideration? For example, if you or someone traveling with you is allergic to bee stings, areas famous for flowering gardens isn’t the safest choice for a summer vacation destination.
- Do you, or anyone you’ll be traveling with have medical issues that could be exasperated by environmental factors, such as dry air, humidity, dust, elevation, and so on. This writer once worked with a tour operator that allowed an obese man with a heart condition to book himself onto a Nepal tour. He got off the plane, which was not disembarking passengers at a gate, but rather on the tarmac almost 100 meters from the terminal entrance. This is a common practice in many places, and especially at smaller airports. In such cases, passengers are expected to walk to the terminal to collect baggage and clear customs and immigration. The obese man collapsed halfway to the terminal and died shortly thereafter. The elevation, combined with his obesity and existing heart condition was a recipe for disaster, and it came to be.
- Do you, or anyone you travel with have mobility issues, such as needing a walking aid or requires a wheel chair? If so, consider the width and surface conditions of sidewalks, accessibility to accommodations for anyone mobily challenged, and pedestrian congestion. You must take into account that mansions and heritage buildings that have been converted to hotels or bed and breakfast accommodations are not likely to have elevators. Many historic sections of European cities are paved with cobble stones, while sidewalks can be very narrow or non-existent. Both make navigation difficult for anyone with a mobility problem. For anyone needing to use a cane, a walker, or who is wheelchair bound, the congestion in market squares or bazaars can be nightmarish, as can the pedestrian traffic in cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Fez, Cairo, etc.
Keeping these factors in mind will enable you to select the summer vacation destination that will best fit your needs and address any limitations you or a travel companion may have.
Once you’ve selected a summer vacation destination you can look for accommodations to book for your stay. A large number of amusement parks, campgrounds and hotels in the USA, Canada and at overseas destinations don’t require reservations. However, it’s advisable to reserve accommodations anyway. Summer vacation periods are short, and the demand is therefore much higher than normal. This can cause available rooms to be filled with vacationing tourists quickly. By making a reservation, you not only assures that you have a room, but that you have accommodations that fit your needs.
When booking a summer vacation, a great many travelers will count on the services of a travel agent. Using a travel agent is more convenient than searching online for vacation packages, calling hotels to negotiate a booking rate, or sourcing your own rental car deal. However, there are two things to remember when using a travel agent to organize you summer vacation:
- A travel agent only knows what you tell him or her about your needs. If you research your own summer vacation and make your own accommodation arrangements, you’re unlikely to book yourself into a hotel that can’t cater to the kosher, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc., dietary needs you or someone you’re traveling with requires. Nor would you book yourself into a room with a beautiful view from a 20th floor balcony if you suffer from Acrophobia (a fear of heights). A travel agent may do so if you did not specifically mention these or any other limitations.
- Travel agents obviously don’t provide their services for free. Most are paid a percentage of the amount you’ll pay, and many add on a service fee as well. If you’re planning a summer vacation and are on a budget, you may want to book your own flight and make your own reservations. There are two reasons. Firstly, a travel agent will organize your transportation and stay based on what earns them the highest return. This may not be what provides the best service or value to you. Secondly, with very little effort, you can save the portion of a hotel reservation set aside to compensate travel agents and tour operators. Simple research the hotel rates online, then call or email and offer 30% less. It will either be accepted, but if not acceptable the hotel will respond with a quote. It will probably surprise you when you learn what the savings can be. Also, be sure to mention any mobility issues, allergies or special diets that may be relevant before you book. Discounted rooms are not usually entitled to special services without added charges, unless it’s including within the reservation package.
Aside from traveling by car, air travel is a preferred method of travel to reach summer vacation destinations. If you’re booking your own airline reservations, do so online and look for all of the alternatives to get you from point A to B. For example, a direct flight is convenient, but it can be costly if even available. Many departure to destination flights are simply not available because of the need to refuel. In cases where a direct flight is available, a flight with a stop over or two may be half the price. Likewise, for the same price as a direct flight, you can often choose to organize a tour for yourself.
When flying from Vancouver, BC, Canada to Quito, Ecuador, a peak summer season flight is just over CAD$1500 with taxes and surcharges. For the same price you can book a charter tour to Cancun, Mexico, spend a week there, accommodation included. After a week in Cancun you can take the train, a bus or fly to Mexico city. There you can stay a day or two, then fly from Mexico City to Quito, Ecuador. The cost is virtually the same, if not less, and you have an enjoyable tour. The original flight Vancouver to Quito requires at least on stop, most two. So does the alternative Vancouver, Cancun, Mexico City and on to Quito route. The difference is you have a stay in Cancun and Mexico City at no extra cost, rather than wait in an airport for your connecting flight. It takes a lot of searching to find these deals, but they are available. This is because, as the saying in the airline industry, “A plane that takes off with an empty seat lost revenue.” Airlines will do anything to fill every seat, even if that seat sale is drastically discounted.
If your summer vacation is centered on enjoying the outdoors, then you probably want to be camping. Even when planning a camping vacation, you should still make a reservation. Public and private campgrounds are limited as to the amount of camping space they have. By reserving a camping space you’re guaranteed a place to set up your tent or park your RV or trailer.
To book a popular vacation destination at a discount, check out online travel websites. Travel websites offer discounts on popular hotels, airlines and restaurants around the world. There’s a downside to using online discount travel websites though. The travel sites mostly focus on the more popular summer vacation destinations. That said, you can often find a better hotel deal that falls within your budget than you would booking elsewhere, saving nothing but enjoy far greater luxury at the same price.
There is a final, very important consideration to planning and booking your summer vacation flights and hotel reservations. Do your research and book well ahead of your intended departure. Deals on flights are rarely available under 21 days from departure, other than through last minute seat sales. The problem with last minute seat sales is that they’re limited in both availability and usually in the amount of luggage you can bring. This is because the weight luggage would take is allocated to freight, which is actually more profitable for the airlines than transporting passengers. Plus last minute means last minute. You do not want to risk your entire summer vacation on being able to secure last minute seat deals. Likewise, hotels will rarely make deals at the last minute either, unless you show up at the desk at 2:00AM and there are vacancies. Even then, the desk clerk has parameters as to the discounts he or she can give. When you start negotiating for rooms well in advance of your arrival you’re dealing with management, who generally have greater latitude when it comes to granting discounts to secure bookings.