Travel Auctions. There are two kinds of travel auction sites. One allows you to enter your preferred travel dates, destination, and class of service (such as economy or business class), and travel companies compete to offer the lowest-priced trip that meets your criteria. Flightfox is one site that operates this way: It charges a per-trip fee, and while the exact price depends on the trip itself, you can expect to shell out around $30. The other type of travel auction operates the opposite way: Companies offer flights, hotels, or packages, and users can bid on the trips. When the auction closes, the top bid wins. SkyAuction.com operates using this model. It’s free to bid – though you should be aware that additional taxes and fees are unlikely to be included in your bid price, so you will end up paying more than your bid if you win.
For prices that include airfare, all government-imposed taxes and fees, including the September 11th Security Fee, are included. Fares are for round-trip off-peak Main Cabin travel and are in U.S. dollars. For vacation packages that include domestic flights (within and between the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), a checked baggage charge Opens in a new window of $25 each way for the first checked bag and $35 each way for the second checked bag may apply. For vacation packages that include international flights in Main Cabin for travel to or from the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), a checked baggage charge Opens in a new window up to $100 may apply for the second checked bag. Exceptions may apply. Opens in a new window
Using a website like Hotels.com or TripAdvisor, set your minimum guest rating level high (start with four stars and above) and be open to hotels at any star rating. Once you’ve eliminated all but the highest-reviewed hotels, sort by price from low to high. As long as the hotels on the list have a reasonable number of reviews – around 100 or more – it’s a fair bet that the hotel makes the best of whatever amenities they have.
According to USA Today, the Better Business Bureau files well over 1,000 complaints in a single year from victims of “free” cruise scams. Other “too good to be true” deals may not be actual scams, but may require you to participate in a sales presentation, commonly for a time-share. Be alert, be skeptical, and be willing to put in the time to verify anything that doesn’t feel right.
U.S.: Alabama: Birmingham; Alaska: Anchorage; Arizona: Sedona; Tucson; California: Burbank; Long Beach; Ontario; Palm Springs; Sacramento; San Jose; Santa Barbara; Colorado: Colorado Springs; Connecticut: Hartford; Florida: Clearwater; Daytona Beach; Ft. Walton Beach; Naples; Marco Island; Key Largo; Melbourne Area; Cocoa Beach; Vero Beach; Miami; Pensacola; St. Petersburg; Tampa; Georgia: Atlanta; Savannah; Idaho: Boise; Illinois: Chicago; Indiana: Indianapolis; Kentucky: Louisville; Maine: Portland; Maryland: Baltimore; Michigan: Detroit; Flint; Grand Rapids; Traverse City; Minnesota: Minneapolis/St. Paul and Mall of Americaopens in a new window; Rochester; Mississippi: Gulfport and Biloxi; Jackson; Missouri: Kansas City; St. Louis; Montana: Billings; Bozeman; Kalispell; Missoula; Nebraska: Omaha; Nevada: Reno and Lake Tahoe; New Hampshire: Manchester; New Mexico: Albuquerque; New York: Albany; Buffalo; Rochester; White Plains; North Carolina: Charlotte; Greensboro; Raleigh; North Dakota: Fargo; Ohio: Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus; Dayton; Oklahoma: Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Oregon: Portland; Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh; Rhode Island: Providence; South Carolina: Charleston; Greenville; Hilton Head; Myrtle Beach; South Dakota: Rapid City and The Black Hills; Tennessee: Chattanooga; Knoxville; Memphis; Texas: Dallas/Ft. Worth; El Paso; Virginia: Newport News/Williamsburg; Norfolk; Richmond; Washington: Spokane; West Virginia: Charleston; Wisconsin: Green Bay; Madison; Milwaukee; Wyoming: Casper; Cody
Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
Northern California also has many riches and wonders to offer. Nothing beats the morning mist swathing the Golden Gate Bridge during a San Francisco vacation. Be sure to hike at Batteries to Bluffs Trail and take in the expansive ocean views. If you’re craving sparkling pools, shimmering night skies, and majestic mountain scenery, instead of bay views, spending your vacations in Palm Springs is the way to go. Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven is the ultimate desert playground for people-watching and wandering through art galleries.
Why: Canada, eh? The good news is, our neighbor to the north(west) has a favorable exchange rate of .80 cents to the U.S. dollar. So luxury hotels like the Fairmont Pacific Rim in the naturally stunning city of Vancouver are super affordable. The city is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada: 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. “Van” is literally set within a rainforest, so nature enthusiasts will love walking along the waterfronts with views of the nearby mountaintops. For the culturally curious, I suggest weaving your way through the cobbled streets and shops in the historic Gastown neighborhood. Don't miss Kimprints, a shop supporting underprivileged street artists, or the Ok Boot Corral, a local bootmaker who has been in business since 1833. For an unexpected insider experience, get your sea legs on to go fishing for what’s in-season with sustainable seafood supplier, Organic Ocean. Afterward, you can bring your fresh catch to the kitchen of the Fairmont Pacific Rim to make fresh sushi. And let’s be real: What’s sushi without homemade sake? Check out Masa Shiroki, an artisan sake maker on Granville Island, for his locally made bubbly sake. Watch Oh the People You Meet's video for more insider tips on Vancouver.
The all inclusive package usually contains the price for the room, hotel taxes, 3 meals a day, access to various activities on the hotel’s or resort’s premises, and airport transfers. Some hotels include the drinks, tips, and other perks in their packages. The rule of thumb says that the more luxurious the hotel is, the more services are included in the all inclusive package.
* Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. All rates are displayed in USD unless otherwise noted. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency.