Tuesday, July 14, 2009


So driving to your vacation spot is not for you? If you have nightmares about screaming kids in the back of a sweltering minivan or if you don't have the time or the energy or if you even are dreading the drive to the airport, call a shuttle and get out of the car! The obvious alternative is to fly. In times past you would call your local travel agent and tell her where you want to go and she would do all the research for you. Show up with a credit card and it's all done. Did you get the best price? Who knew? The only way you would find out is if the person sunbathing next to you mentioned that their travel agent got them this great deal! But today is a different story! Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia are all household names! Long gone, is the loyalty to a travel agent and even if you called one they wouldn't want to just book a flight for you without charging a fee. So what now?

First, which airline will you choose? The cheapest? The most advertised? The one with the name that is on your credit card earning you miles? First you should know that the best airline is the one that has a hub or that caters to the area of the world that you are traveling too. For instance, American Airlines caters to the Caribbean so most likely they have the best schedule, the most seats and the best price if you are traveling there. Are you going to or near Salt Lake City? Then Delta is your airline! Try to get a cheap seat from L.A. to Anchorage on American, it probably won't happen because they don't cater to that part of the world.

What about those cheap regional airlines, like Spirit which has flights to/from Florida and mostly east coast cities? Well, you may save some money but what happens if they have a mechanical problem or a delay? Will they be able to route you on another plane or is that the only flight for the day? What happens if you don't make it back to work at 8 am tomorrow? Now that cheap flight isn't so cheap. Think about this when you are booking the unknown airline. My family and I travelled to Hawaii on vacation one year on a charter airline booked through Pleasant Hawaii. It was very cheap, which my husband liked, but I warned him that if there was a mechanical problem we would be stuck in Hawaii. He thought it would be a dream come true. Well we flew from Maui to Oahu to take our trans-pacific flight home and then there was a mechanical problem with the plane in Oahu. The airline had no agreements with other airlines and they couldn't get another plane to us until the next day. They put us up in a decent hotel way off the beach and they gave us food vouchers for the hotels restaurant, which lacked eatable food and the next day we went home. We were prepared but most people aren't.

I always suggest using a website like http://www.kayak.com/, which will search several websites for the lowest price. Then I go to the official airline website to make sure they are not cheaper. Also watch out for extra fees. It's not a deal if you have to pay fees. Don't make a mistake with your dates or times because the airlines and some websites charge fees for changes. Some of those fees may be more than the cost of your flight, so make sure you have definite plans.

So where will you go? Our favorite vacation spot is Hawaii. In fact in a different life I worked for a Hawaii tour operator called Classic Hawaii. I travelled there for fun and for business. So here is a sample itinerary for a family of 4 travelling to Maui, my favorite island:

Day 1: Fly to Maui (west coast arrives 5 hours after departure, east coast 8 or more). Check into your hotel (Deluxe - Grand Wailea, Superior - Sheraton Kaanapali) for 7 nights.

Day 2: If you are arriving from the east coast, make sure to get as acclimated to local time as soon as possible. Check out your hotel, hang out at the pool, talk to the concierge about local not-to-miss attractions and book one today for Day 3 or 4 if you didn't do this from home.

Day 3: If you are at the Grand Wailea you may never want to leave and I'm sure your kids don't. So after spending some family time on the water elevator, break away from the festivities and go to the Spa Grande (make reservations in advance). After spending sometime in the Roman bath or taking your turn in one of the aromatic baths, your personal spa attendant will give you a complementary Honey Mango Loofah Body Polish. No your spa treatment hasn't started yet! You can then meet your significant other in the open air waiting area overlooking the pools and ocean. If you are staying at the Sheraton, the spa and pools are open to you as well but you also may want to explore the Kaanapali area with your family. Or hit the golf course while others shop. There is no shortage of things to do here.

Day 4: OK if you have an activity planned do it today if you didn't do it yesterday. If not take a drive to Hana. Have the hotel prepare a picnic lunch and get on the road early. If you are staying in Wailea you have saved yourself about an hour. Don't rush though enjoy the drive. Don't hesitate to stop and take pictures at the waterfalls, and beautiful vistas. Ask a native how to find the black "sand" beach. At the end of the road you can hike to the waterfall or on a clear day you can take a plunge in one of the seven sacred pools (not pools like at your local YMCA). Then head back home.

Day 5: After that excursion you will want to rest today. Now either tonight or tomorrow you will want to go to a luau if you've never been. The best of the best is the Old Lahaina Luau. So authentic you'll want to carve out your own canoe! There are many others on the island that will say they are the best and cheaper but if you can swing the price you won't regret it.

Day 6: Today is a good day for shopping. Ask the Concierge at your hotel for any local artists that sell there wares. Some of the hotels have a day when they come in and showcase them. Make sure to go to Lahaina. If you are staying in Wailea it's a 1 hour drive on a 2 lane highway and depending on the season you may see whales and you are bound to see windsurfers. It's beautiful! From Kaanapali it's 15 minutes away. This is a quaint little town with great local restaurants and shops. It's a great way to spend an afternoon.

Day 7: Today is the day to do whatever you haven't done! Need more time at the pool, do it! Need more shopping, do it! But don't over do it. Make sure to have reservations at a special spot on the water where you can have the waiter take a family portrait with the sunset in the background. Now that's a souvenir!

Day 8: Well it's almost over and hopefully you are rested. If you live on the east coast your flight is probably later in the day so get down to the front desk if you haven't done so already and ask for a late check-out or at least a place to store your bags while you hang out at the pool. Ask if they have a shower room that you can use and remember to keep a change of clothes in your carry on bag!

Well that is the first of many itineraries in this blog. Next time I will go into detail about Hawaii. Until then travel safe and travel often!

1 comment:

  1. Hola Travel Diva--
    You are the best travel diva ever, and if I were stuck with you in a jungle somewhere, I know that you would turn it into a great party!
    Clementina The Translator


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