What's your favourite travel website for booking a vacation package?
October 16, 2013 9:55 AM   Subscribe

We want to go somewhere sunny this winter. There are a bewildering number of travel websites hocking flight+hotel deals. Did you have a good experience with any of them?

What I'm hoping to find is a place where I can see the best deals leaving from our origin point (Toronto) and going to somewhere in the Caribbean, and then choose based on the deal. We don't have much money and we're not picky about which country to go to, as long as there's sun, a nice beach, and it's not miserably overrun by other tourists.

Other considerations:

- Booking in advance would be ideal, but if there's some last minute deals website, that'd be good to know too.

- I would imagine Christmas is way more expensive than early January. Is that true?

posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I think that one of your conditions:
"...not miserably overrun by other tourists"
is in direct contradiction to another condition:
"...sun, a nice beach" and "...[not] much money"

Unfortunately, a cheap, sunny place with a beach, available as a package will, by definition, have tons of tourists.

What I'd suggest is to look at a site like TripAdvisor for less-expensive hotels in {country of choice}, then see about a possible package on a site like Expedia or Travelocity.
I'm a pretty independent traveler, so YMMV, but packages are often somewhat less than they are cracked up to be. I'd much rather find my own bed, and scout out a cheap airfare!

And yes, Christmas will be more expensive, and more 'overrun' than January (in general).

Another possibility is to look at Air BnB for possible apartments - that can be much cheaper than any hotel.
Hotels.com, TripAdvisor, and Airfare Watchdog all have ways of 'alerting' you when fares are attractive. I'm sure other sites do as well - might want to get a 'throwaway' e-mail for all the alerts, if you sign up for many.
posted by dbmcd at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2013

So my info may be outdated and I'm sure other MeFi'ers will correct me if I'm wrong, but in general, the flight+hotel deals are with medium to large resorts, where there will be lots of people around. So just be aware of that. I like Suntrips, if I'm looking for a package. Also Travelzoo is a great resource and will send you alerts on excellent deals based on your departure destination.

In the past, I've found the best value for my money is to research carefully, and rent a beach condo or house somewhere quiet with VRBO.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2013

Make sure to check for deals on Travelzoo, a very well-researched and highly respected travel deals site!
posted by Falwless at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think American Airlines has the best Last-Minute Deals page. The biggest bargains are the NetSaaver Weekend Getaways which will list deals for THIS weekend and NEXT weekend, so the ultimate last minute planner. Look them over to see the kinds of things on offer.

What I like about it is that nothing is hidden, so you can look up the hotels and make your decisions thusly. Also, you can pick flights.

Travelocity has the same deals, but I think it's better directly through American specifically for the searching options and because if there's a hassle it's American Airlines, not a Garden Gnome you have to talk to to get it sorted out.

Traveling during a holiday is always going to be more expensive and a PITA. Early January, after the kids go back to school is optimal (although still High Season for tropical climes.)

Do consider Baja California. Mexico tourism has taken a hard hit and there are some good deals.

Air Canada has a similar deal (with flights from Toronto) and they include Cuba as a destination. Which I think would be really interesting and probably not as touristy as some other places in the Caribbean.

I LOVE planning vacations!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2013

Wow, this answer has come in handy twice today! I like Budget Travel's Real Deals site. There is a filtering mechanism on the left hand side that allows you to filter by departure city. Only U.S. cities are listed. However, I know people who have just found a deal they liked and then called the agency offering it, and asked what it would cost to do the deal from their home city.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another way to do it (the Budget Travel deals) if they will only depart from American locations would be to purchase the deal from a U.S. city and then do a separate flight to and from that city as a layover on your trip.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:34 AM on October 16, 2013

If you're okay with your budget vacation feeling like a budget vacation, I've used SunWing in the past without any problem. My partner and I went to Cuba through SunWing and had a great time, because we didn't expect too much since it was so cheap (we paid $1,200 total for 7 days/nights at an all-inclusive resort, with direct flights from/to Vancouver included, for 2 people!). The resort we stayed at was clean and comfortable, but it wasn't anything fancy. It suited our purposes just fine (leave Canada for a few days of drinks on the beach). Their packages are pretty cheap, but I wouldn't recommend using SunWing to people with really high standards or who want a luxury stay.
posted by gursky at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2013

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