How to pick the best value for your beach vacation stay
For as long as I can remember, searching for vacation value has been my “job.”
As family CFO, planning trips to get the most bang for the buck, so to speak, has always been a goal. After all, the better the vacation value, the more vacations we can take!
The problem is knowing where to find the best value. Right?
Pre-internet, the best value was found through travel agents. It was so easy back then: here’s my budget and here’s where I want to go. What’s the best deal out there? The agent would present a few options, and we would pick one. Simple!
Online booking sites
Once the internet got going, the rules changed. Money saving travel websites popped up. Not affiliated with a particular brand, these sites sell a block of rooms at a discount to travelers. For years, those sites were a great way to find bargains.
Be sure to understand the drawbacks:
- Discounters may not get the best rooms at hotels, so expect the noisy, lower level rooms, usually near the laundry or the elevator.
- Understand cancellation fees. You can’t cancel directly through the hotel, but must cancel with the discounter. Often, cancellation is limited (or not allowed). Sometimes, there is a non-refundable cancellation fee.
- Review the accommodations carefully. The discounter might only offer bookings on a room for two when you need a room for four.
Independent vacation rentals
The next big wave, particularly near major tourist destinations, was the independent vacation rental. People with a spare bedroom in their homes or a vacation property list those places on independent booking sites to make some extra income on space they aren’t using. The advantage here is that families can book larger spaces, often with a kitchen, laundry and separate bedroom for the kids.
But, like online hotel booking sites, there are things to watch for:
- Some property owners are more dependable than others. Be sure to read reviews of both the property and the owner before booking. Once, we booked a property for two separate weekends. Two weeks before the first trip, the owner canceled both reservations leaving us to scramble for a place to stay for our son’s college graduation.
If you find an independent rental that looks good, be sure to check for added fees.
I almost booked a place, thinking it was a great deal, until I realized they had a steep housecleaning fee ($40 per person) and an extra guest fee ($10/guest over two for EACH night, or $60 for our three-night stay). To top it off, we had to bring our own bedding, towels, bath supplies and kitchen towels and soap. When all was said and done, that great rate was — well — not!