Travel Tips From the Pros: Luxury for Less

Virtuoso is a global luxury travel network of advisers and suppliers, including hotels, resorts, cruise lines and tour companies. Dean Horvath with Virtuoso in Vancouver says the fee can run as high as $1,000, depending on the complexity of planning.

But if someone just wants a room booked and knows the type of hotel they want, the fee is often waived, but the average cost is $200. “All of our preferred hotels provide free upgrades and breakfasts and a value-added amenity, typically worth about $100, such as a spa credit or a cooking lesson,” explains Horvath.

“Our hotel partners give clients the best rooms whenever possible. Online booking engines tend to give you the cheaper rooms.” —Jane Mundy

Scroll through for more tips to get more bang for your travel buck …

Morris Chia, president of Winnipeg-based Travel Professionals International, tapped into his cross-Canada network of agents for tips.

Marilyn Baird, Baird Travel, Fredericton

It pays to book well in advance. “At least a year out for a more competitive price,” says Baird. “Intimate properties, smaller ships and private tours often sell out faster.”

Baird prefers to book her clients directly with the resort, as she can then also offer perks due to her relationships.

Jaime Murphy, Magical Trips, St. John’s, N.L.

Consider off-season, says Murphy. “Even a week or two can make a big difference in the cost of travel.”

For example, later August brings lower rates and better offerings, including complementary upgrades.

“It is also a great time to discover destinations where the Canadian dollar has better value. Currently, our dollar goes further in South Africa, South East Asia and New Zealand.

Carl Henderson, Tahiti by, Toronto

“Your travel adviser knows how far in advance to book for the best value,” says Henderson, “For Tahiti, it’s a minimum of six months. When I book clients at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort and Spa, they receive free breakfasts, a room upgrade, spa discounts. These amenities create additional value.”

Anne Barclay, Wanderlust Travel, Oakville, Ont.

“For Europe, a great time both price- and weather-wise is mid-May to mid-June; then mid-September to the end of October [the shoulder seasons],” says Barclay.

“For South Africa, April to mid-May and then again mid-August to late October. For the Caribbean, April to late May and then November to mid-December.” Great value and superb luxury, she adds, can be found in the less-discovered destinations like Slovenia, Portugal, Thailand and Poland.

“Get some friends or family to join. Usually with 10 or more, you tend to get better prices and can get a private tour guide.”

Linda May Dinsmore, Deluxe Travel & Cruises, Surrey, B.C.

“To travel luxe-for-less, book with a Canadian travel adviser because we often have special rates from cruise lines and tour operators to help offset our low dollar,” says Dinsmore.

“You can only get them through an adviser. For example, 20 per cent on selected Oceania and Regent cruise itineraries.” And, she adds, choosing a destination where our dollar is not switched into U.S. but rather exchanged directly with the local currency helps.

Lois Barbour, Travel Time, St. John’s, N.L.

“Booking further in advance gives the best prices, but many suppliers will allow price adjustments if better promos come up,” says Barbour. Consider suppliers that have Canadian Residents specials, she adds, such as Oceania cruise line and AmaWaterways river cruises.

Last but not least, “always have a bag packed and a valid passport – and be ready to jump on last-minute specials,” concludes Barclay.

So, what are you waiting for?

Next: Top Global Destinations

Where will you go next?

The Virtuoso Luxe Report, an annual survey of more than 9,000 global travel advisers, lists emerging destinations.

Off-the-beaten-path Iceland, Croatia and Myanmar ranked in the top 5, as did Antarctica, showing a pull toward more remote destinations for high-end travellers.

In fact, “exploring new destinations” was the top travel motivator, followed by authentic experiences and enrichment, R and R and time with loved ones.

Top global destinations include Italy (no surprise; it is also tops for families) and South Africa. Adventure travellers are looking to New Zealand and Costa Rica, while families are ice fishing in Northern Canada or heading to jolly old England. —Vivian Vassos

The cost of voluntourism

“While a great number of people are interested in volunteer travel, they’re often surprised to learn they have to pay for such an experience,” says Lori Copeland, director of product development at Merit Travel.

“The non-for-profit organizations operating volunteer programs are raising money to support their causes, be it schools, educational programs, clean water programs.”

The programs have real costs – transportation, lodging, food, supplies and material. “Travelling for free … is a misconception we would like to change.” —VV