YOUR MONEY: Where to get the best winter travel deals
(Mitch Lipka is a Reuters contributor.)
By Mitch Lipka
Dec 20 (Reuters) - When the holidays end and year-end reports are out of the way, a nice trip could prove tempting. Even more alluring would be a travel bargain that could get you into that ski lift or beach chair for less.
Finding travel deals is in Pauline Frommer's blood. In addition to working on the family-named Frommer's guidebooks, she co-hosts the nationally syndicated "The Travel Show" radio program with her travel-writer father, Arthur Frommer. Here she highlights some travel opportunities to consider this winter.
Q. If you are really into winter, where can you go to get the best travel deals this year?
A. Last year was probably one of the worst on record for ski resorts because of the lack of snow. Ski resorts are bending over backwards - both the high end and the moderate - for anyone who will ante up long in advance for their vacation. If you're a skier and a gambler (on the weather) there are some opportunities. Put in now for end-of-January trips, but don't expect deals around Presidents' Day weekend. Check ski package deals from Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines. They both offer good lift ticket and lodging deals - especially if you're willing to go mid-week instead of weekend.
Q. What about if you want to get away from winter?
A. I've found some of the best values to be in Central America. There are fairly decent air fares there. They've risen less than other parts of the world. Guatemala and Belize have some good hotel deals and there are some great adventures to be had there. Hawaii has been stable, which is good. With some airlines adding flights there, that has kept the prices down. Hawaii has an abundance of condos, many of which are privately owned. You do have many, many options there because you can play "Let's make a deal" with these condo owners.
Q. Is there such a thing as affordable luxury? If so, where can you find a good deal at a high-end property?
A. There's always Las Vegas, which is chilly, but not freezing. The city is so overbuilt. They just can't keep the rooms filled - especially in this day of fewer conventions. You can expect to pay $400 a night to stay at a Four Seasons hotel. But go to Las Vegas and you can get that quality for $200 a night. All over the city they are upgrading rooms at all levels, adding bells and whistles to try and compete.
Q. Are there any other winter travel opportunities for travelers looking for a lot of value?
A. Cruises are a good deal. The Costa Concordia (sinking) happened in January 2012. That really hurt the cruise industry. It stopped a lot of first-time cruisers from trying it. You are really getting a deal on Mediterranean cruises and Caribbean cruises. Prices are artificially low, but you have to be careful when you're on board, because they'll get you every which way with extra charges. If you're disciplined, you can get a great deal.
Q. If money is no object, where would you go?
A. If money is no object, an African safari would be what I'd want to do. That's a once-in-a-lifetime vacation - not beach, not ski slope - just an experience you'll never forget. And New Zealand's going to be hot - with "The Hobbit" coming out. You're going to see how gorgeous New Zealand is. Of course, our winter is their summer. You go there to see incredible natural beauty or to challenge yourself. It is ground zero for adrenaline pumping adventures.
Q. What was your best winter getaway experience and why?
A. One of my best getaways was going to Guatemala. In March, they have the most wonderful processions and religious celebrations. It was just mind-bogglingly fascinating and affordable. It was kind of shut away from the rest of the world. You see people still wearing their native dress and it's not for the tourists. It's what they do.
Q. Any other great winter trips that folks might not know about?
A. I also got to go to St. Vincent in the Grenadines, a group of islands in the Caribbean that doesn't have an international airport. They are building an airport, but until then, you go to a place that doesn't really have the mass tourism that other parts of the Caribbean do. One of the less expensive ways to do it, believe it or not, is to rent a private boat (to get from an island that does have an international airport).
There are some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. There are some very, very high end resorts where rooms can exceed $1,000 a night. You're going to spend your days horseback riding, getting massages and eating fine food. It really is beautiful. I usually do budget travel, but it really is a hidden paradise. (Editing by Linda Stern and Dan Grebler)