PhillyGayCalendar Winter Vacation Travel Tips

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Recently I was thinking of many of us in the Philadelphia LGBT Community were probably thinking of a short respite from the “deep freeze” soon. Philly’s been damn cold of late!

For years, I have been taking ladies and gentlemen like us from all over the United States into the Caribbean and Mexico. The destinations become more valuable as the weather contrasts grow. January and February are the most expensive but one can take advantage of “the system” if you understand it and work within it.

After summer vacations end, warm weather destinations and their hotels will be slow through fall and early winter. Cities, islands and resorts are preparing for the December holidays and are doing some big business.   

A hotel should be thought of in terms of a “space that generates revenue.”  Simply put, a 300-room hotel shows a profit by pricing each room to sell, not to look spectacular and stay vacant. A suite and the “least expensive” room actually hold the same value in every hotel. Most hotels simply “count the doors” and do a cost average. If the Presidential Suite has two doors it is counted as two rooms, but, no more. That, ladies and gentlemen, is basically how a hotel is run.

The best suite at the finest hotel in the world is worthless if no one wants to pay to stay in it.  

If you know when the “slow/weak spots” at a destination are, you can usually find a pretty good deal. Be warned however, that I was in Jamaica one Thanksgiving weekend and it was actually uncomfortably quiet. Christmas week is the total opposite. From December 22 to January 2 of 2013/14, warm weather spots like Aruba and Cancun are going to enjoy awesome profits that are going to crumble to dust right after the “Ball Has Dropped.” By January 3rd the hotels will empty. By mid January, the crowds and prices will escalate once again. This “High Season” will peak on “President’s Weekend” and slowly dissolve to spring’s “Shoulder Season.”

The airlines are all in such major financial trouble right now that I sometimes think that any one of them could fold at any moment. I can also see where they all are constantly changing pricing and schedules indicating failure to identify their market. It is scary or exciting depending on your point of view. Our major carriers are merging and I see it as a time for possible deals.

Planes no longer fly half full and the price on every seat is different.

Deals seldom manifest themselves. You must do a bit of research and never assume that any price at any time is firm. You also need to speak to real people and sometimes more than one. My rule of thumb is always “three tries” and I generally find this works.

Allow me to give you an example: My partner and I had decided to have a long weekend in St. Barth’s. We not wealthy but enjoy the challenge of capturing the good life whenever possible. Some of the richest guys in the world are constantly broke. It’s all in the playing.

Air: Don’t depend on the Internet or travel agent. The prices change several times a day and, just like a hotel, profit is a matter of average seat price. You really have to speak with a sales rep from the airline (the numbers are generally available) and if it feels right and he/she sounds knowledgeable, go for it. If not, tell them you will think about it, hang up and call back in to their “crazy/confusing” system. I really do believe some telephone systems are deliberately not user friendly to keep the companies from being bothered. Persevere! Get in there and talk to another rep. Somehow they are all always different. I go with the one that gives me what I want. Pretty simple really. The schedule will probably suck but saving a couple of hundred bucks for a bit of inconvenience buys a lot of Pina Colada.

Hotel: Same thing. Call the hotel directly and ask. The international reservation system will not work. If you are online, forget it. If you are speaking with hotel sales rep looking at the “master room chart” showing which nights are empty/full at the hotel, I promise you will be able to get a deal. If you are flexible, the rep will guide you to where he/she wants you. If the hotel is empty at a particular time, chances are the air schedules are not filled up, either. Sometimes it all works out beautifully.  

The trick is to study your destination a bit, do some research, network a bit and make a deal. It’s not rocket science but supply and demand. If someone gives you attitude, move on. The next person could be completely different and have the power to give you what you want.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I simply love a good value. Sometimes it just has to be requested. More often than not, the guy/gal who does not ask, simply will not get. Use your most sincere voice and say thank you a lot. Also, use a good sun screen!      

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