The Washington Post Travel Section publishes a weekly “What’s the Deal?” column that is supposed to highlight “This week’s best travel bargains.” Thousands of readers eagerly consult this section every week looking for a way to afford that dream trip to, say, Hawaii. Why, here’s one:
Pleasant Holidays is offering discounts on trips to Hawaii. The offer is valid on packages of three nights or longer at participating resorts on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island). Prices vary. For example, a mid-September package on Oahu including round-trip airfare from Washington Dulles, seven nights at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and one-week rental car from Hertz is $5,071 for a family of four. Priced separately, the package would cost $6,459. For the best prices, travel through June 6 or Aug. 14 through Dec. 18. Book by June 30.
(Can you see where this post is going?)
Many readers are going to see that post, say to themselves, “I don’t have 5K lying around, guess it’s Ocean City again!” and lose out on the opportunity to see the world, all because of BAD ADVICE. I’m going to take apart this deal, piece by piece, and put it back together stronger, cheaper, and better, because, dang it, I’m TIRED of beating this drum alone: YOUR KIDS DESERVE BETTER, AND SO DO YOU.
Why does this bother me so much? Because we frequent travelers know reflexively when we see a bad deal, but our friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors don’t. They trust the so-called “experts” to guide them, and when the experts steer them to bad deals, they are either:
a. Suckered into paying $300 a night for a parking lot view at a 40 year old Marriott, then too gun shy to ever try again.
b. Convinced they aren’t “rich” enough to travel in the first place.
I’m not saying you can get to Hawaii for free, but even using only basic travel strategies, I KNOW you can do better than the $5,071 “sale” price on this stinkier. Because the Washington Post travel section is targeted at the average family, I’m going to skip points and miles pep talk and stick to cash only tips and widely available promotional rates. Also out the window is tons of planning time…I’ll keep it short and sweet.
NO family with school age kids is going to travel in mid-September as school has just started! Clearly the price has been cherry-picked, but even so we’ll use it as a guideline. A better week is Nov 1-8, which includes Election Day (schools are closed for polling) and usually one or two other school closures for teacher workdays/conferences.
Using the same Pleasant Holidays website, I got this:
Using ITA Matrix the best flights I found November 1-8 from a Washington airport were $819 each on Alaska Airlines, or $3276. However, expanding my search turned up the following:
You have to get the airport and/or park no matter where you travel from, so that’s a wash. Let’s add $100 for gas and tolls, so your total savings is $3276-$2856=$420. Worth the drive to Newark? I think so!
This one is a no-brainer. I see an economy car for $254 including tax on Orbitz. I expect this to go down, so I’ll keep an eye on it. I would normally use AutoSlash as they’ll re-book any changes for me, but they didn’t show availability.
To be comparing apples to apples, our family should stay at a hotel at least as highly rated on Tripadvisor. Fortunately, the Marriott is only #40 out of #82 in Honolulu, and I only have to beat a garden/city view room. I double checked the property, and there’s nothing special facility wise (no crazy pool, etc.) to beat. Let’s see if I can do better!
To sum up: our family, who was told they needed to spend over $5,000 for a week in Hawaii, got the same trip, on better dates, in a better hotel for $4,352, or $700 than the “best deal of the week” price. This was with about 20 minutes booking time and NO miles or points. Imagine what this family could do if they really tried!