Too good to be true - When a deal is not a deal

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I used to get them all the time - those faxes that promise every travel deal under the sun for $99.00, or some equally unbelievable amount of money. Crackdowns by consumer watchdog groups had put some of those companies out of business, but just within the past few weeks, I saw three separate offers, each more ridiculous than the next.

They're baaaaack…

Wouldn't you like to fly to Florida for a 3 night Orlando vacation, followed by 2 nights in Daytona Beach PLUS free air to Cancun, Jamaica or Las Vegas all for $99.00? Hey - wouldn't we all! But let's look a bit closer at these ads, shall we? No hotel names, no address for the company offering the deals so you can check them out, no cruise line names - only one actually had small print listing the true purposes of these trips - they're trying to sell you something, be it a time share or a more expensive package.

In their former days, "travel companies" like these were notorious for selling something they couldn't provide. You pay your $99.00 or $199.00 with the idea you can take the trip at a later date, then you call to book and - surprise, surprise - they're all booked up for the hotels in that particular package, but gosh, we happen to have another package for "x" number of dollars more.

And that's if the company was still in business. Often, the properties included were sometimes less than desirable and hotels listed as "minutes from theme parks" were often miles away.

So what can you do to make sure the deal you're getting is the real thing? Ask a lot of questions, the first of which should be why is this deal so good? Is it the off season? Is the hotel under renovation? There are a variety of valid reasons why an otherwise lovely property would offer a rock-bottom rate, so make sure you know before you go.

Also, always go through a reputable tour operator. Make sure they're part of a national tour organization like the United States Tour Operators Association, or other trade organizations. At least make sure they're recognized by ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents. If they are, they'll be sure to put this affiliation on their brochure and website.

The web is another good tool to research the itineraries, hotels included and the tour or package company itself. Keep in mind pictures don't always tell the whole story.

I had a personal experience with that when I went to Moorea a few years ago on a travel agent familiarization trip. My husband and I did some web research on our hotel and read about their supposedly terrific restaurant. When we got there, we found out it had been closed for over three years due to damage from a storm - and oops, they had forgotten to update the website! We never would have known had we not experienced for ourselves.

And here's where I'll toot the horn for your friendly neighborhood travel agent.

It's no surprise that I love to travel - as I'm sure most agents do – and while visiting these interesting destinations is definitely fun, it also allows us to gain invaluable destination knowledge.

Along with that, travel professionals talk to tour operators, hotel organizations and national travel bureaus at various agent events throughout the year. We attend these "continuing education" seminars so we can give you the most current information.

There are some truly terrific travel deals out there, some of which I bring to you through this forum. Again, a good deal isn't always bad. It could be something as simple as a large group cancelled close to departure, making blocks of hotel rooms available at the last minute. Perhaps an airline just added a flight to a new destination and wants to kick off service with a good sale.

There are many factors to consider. Just make sure you get the whole story before you sign on the bottom line.

And speaking of great travel deals…

Travelation Travelers: Week in London & Paris                                                                                October 8 - October 15, 2011                                                                                                         $2389.00 per person, double occupancy 

Includes round trip air from Phoenix
Full buffet breakfast (B) daily
Local Host service in each city
Destination Guides; discounts in Paris at the famous Galeries Lafayette and other leading department stores; sightseeing with a Local Guide and transportation as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary; transfers to/from train stations.

Your Itinerary

Day 1 London, England
Arrive in London. Balance of the day is at leisure. Your Local Host will help you maximize your time.

Day 2 London
Morning guided sightseeing and orientation takes you past the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben beside the River Thames, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall’s mounted horseguards, the Prime Minister’s Downing Street, and Piccadilly Circus. Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and see the Changing of the Guard (if held) at Buckingham Palace. Your sightseeing trip ends at your hotel before lunch, with time for further exploration this afternoon. (Breakfast)

Day 3 London
Full day at leisure for you to enjoy the very best of London. (Breakfast)

Day 4 London–Paris, France
Morning transfer to the high-speed Eurostar train (upgrades to Standard Premier available); mid-afternoon arrival at your Paris hotel. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy at your own pace. Ask your Local Host about included shopping discounts. (Breakfast)

Day 5 Paris
Morning guided sightseeing and orientation takes in famous Parisian highlights. See the Arc de Triomphe, which honors those who fought for France; the Opéra, one of the architectural masterpieces of its time; Madeleine Church; and the beautiful Alexandre III Bridge. Drive along the Champs-Élysées; admire gothic Notre Dame Cathedral and the impressive Place de la Concorde. Ascend to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower for the best view of Paris. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast)

Day 6 Paris
Full day to explore the magnificent “City of Light.” Your Local Host is available with suggestions and expert knowledge to help create lasting memories. (Breakfast)

Day 7 Paris
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (Breakfast)

It's a terrific time of year to go to both London and Paris - mild temperatures and minimal crowds. Add to that a lower airfare for the season and you've got a terrific travel value!

I hope you come with us!

Mexico Extravaganza
One of my favorite wholesalers is having their biggest sale of the year for some of the most popular destinations in Mexico, including Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta!

There are so many hotels on sale - with discounts ranging from 25% to 40% off, plus resort credits and other fun things - I can't possibly list them all here, but drop me a line at with your preferred destination and dates. We can take it from there!

The sale rates are valid for travel May through September, and must be booked by April 14! Let me know where you want to go, then grab your passport!

Across town or around the world, we can do it at Travelation! Give us a call at 602-252-1140 or, if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623, give us a call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at I look forward to hearing from you!