Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shopping for a Winter Getaway Vacation : Turks, Costa Rica or Bermuda?

Though the weather's been wonderful in lovely downtown Mississauga and environs, I know it can't last. Just one rainy, dark day this week was a harbinger of the dreary winter to come.

And, though I feel like I'm chained to my iBook and will be for some months, I decided to shop around for a winter getaway as a reward for my hard work. Ideally, this vacation will be someplace warm, and someplace I haven't been before, and someplace not too far from home (Canada). Sometimes, I just fon't feel like a long international flight.

Turks and Caicos, I think, or maybe Bermuda. It's been so long since I was last in Bermuda, it would feel "new". Or, at the outside mileage-wise and flight time-wise -- Costa Rica.

Regular readers will know that, for value for money, my first choice is Asia, and my first love is Hong Kong. There's so much to see, I'm never at a loss for things to do. But I want somewhere close to home this winter.

So last night I checked out a few sites to find sample air fares so I could plan a budget. Randomly, I chose February 8 as my departure date, and started filling in flight checkers.

The airline code for Turks and Caicos, I found out, is PLS. Now, call me dim, but that is the most unintuitive code I can imagine. The key, apparently, is Provodenciales, the capital. Flights via the site I was using were all on U.S. carriers, so any flights from Toronto meant a stop in a U.S. gateway city and a change of planes. This is not good: One extra arrival and departure, one extra airport check in, one large hassle and a lot of extra time. And the cost? $951.00 U.S., tax in.

So I checked Air Canada: A direct, non-stop flight from Toronto, including one meal (which Air Canada usually only springs for on international flights) with taxes included came in at $1,237.00 CAD (The Canadian dollar is roughly on par with the U.S. dollar right now).

Okay . . . a little pricey, considering a week in the Dominican Republic (which is further south from Provo) is about the same amount with an all inclusive package for hotel, meals and drinks. And I have no idea how much hotel and food and drink would cost in the Turks. I don't think the Turks are cheap, though, at least not Asia cheap.

Let's try Costa Rica. The flights arrive at San Jose; the airline code is SJO (See? Intuitive!) The U.S website flights were priced at $600-$1100 US, and Air Canada came in at $974.00, no meals included. And no idea as yet as to where I could stay, or eat, or tour and sightsee.

I did find a website offering land-only tours of Costa Rica (airfare is extra) for $$2,200.00 plus a $435.00 single supplement. Figure about $3,000.00 once you add in the meals not included, and perhaps an extra night in a hotel waiting for your flight, and any drinks and tips, and my one week getaway is up to about $4,000.00.

Now I don't know about you, but for that kind of money, I'd rather go to Hong Kong for 2-3 weeks. Value for money: it always comes down to that. That's what I spent to got to Hong Kong and Borneo for two weeks, with lots of domestic travel, tours and hotels and meals included.

And so, tonight I will check for all-in packages to Costa Rica, and perhaps Bermuda. Usually, I can get out of the single supplement by booking air and hotel myself. After all, the tour operators prices are based on blocks of pre-costed units. Hotels don't charge single supplements -- they charge by the room, just as airlines charge the seat. And if a hotel offers all-ins to group tours, they are happy to add in the cost for single customers.

Now, I'd better get back to work.