Whether packing for a trek through the rain forest or a stay at a tropical resort, a little creative planning will lead you to the best value for your money.
To attend a large trip, such as one of the Project Bird Watch annual two-week excursions, you’ll need to save around $4,000 per person plus airfare ($1,000-plus). It might take you several years to save up this amount of money, so start planning early. Set aside a weekly or monthly amount, and calculate how long you’ll need to reach your goal. Consider a short-term CD as a way to build your vacation fund — and reduce your ability to dip into it.
Of course, there are additional expenses, such as souvenir shopping, inoculations and possibly trip insurance, which can cover cancellations and other trip problems, so you’ll want to pad that vacation fund with a little extra, an amount that will vary depending on your needs.
To attend the 2006 Loro Parque International Parrot Conference, Pat and Neal Rudikoff booked the airfare themselves but made lodging arrangements through Loro Parque’s recommendations. “The hotel was less than half the published rate,” said Pat. “When planning an exotic vacation, look for an event in the area where you want to go because, very often, that will get you good rates in several areas. Dining can be expensive. If you go out into the town, you can often find good deals on food. Shopping in the touristy areas is more expensive. Local shops often offer better prices.”
In addition to planning ahead to allow time to save and find decent fares, Pat suggested saving mileage points for major trips. “We did just that for our visit to Australia. If you have to pay full fare, it can be very expensive … We knew it was going to be expensive, so we saved mileage over the course of three or four years.” She also noted that flights using mileage points often require advanced booking. Be flexible about your travel dates, and you might score an off-peak deal. Less popular airlines and airports might save you some money, too, Pat said.
The Rudikoffs also saved money by doing a little research and comparing their options before their trip. “We got a lot of value by hiring a private guide who set up lodging and air transfers and drove us around,” Pat said. “It was less expensive than some of the official tours I’ve seen, and we got it tailored to exactly what we needed. We found our guide by searching online. We searched ‘bird touring in Australia,’ and then sent e-mail queries until we had a good match.
“Because we didn’t do a package tour, we booked our hotels through online travel sites,” said Pat. “Our hotels ranged from resorts to old hotels with character, and none were terribly expensive.”
Set an end goal, start saving today, and you might have that dream trip in just two short years.