Picture it: You’re overworked, overstressed, underpaid, and nearing your breaking point. As if some higher power understands your desperate plight, you’re scrolling through social media when an ad pops up that seems custom-curated for you. It’s 5 incredible nights of rest and relaxation in a bucket-list location. And all that (including airfare) at a rock-bottom rate that’s less than your monthly car payment. We’ve all been there, did a double-take on that.
It’s the deal that seems just too good to be true. Especially when a quick google flight search returns airfare rates higher than that of the entire trip. It’s the kind of conundrum that leaves you scratching your head and wondering if maybe you shouldn’t have already started packing your bags. So, what gives?
Here’s one example of a recent travel promotion we came across. Take a look at what the ad says:
This $529-per-person trip includes:
- Roundtrip airfare to San Jose
- 6 nights in well-reviewed hotels in La Fortuna, close to the Arenal Volcano; and in Jaco near a relaxing beach, Playa Hermosa (3 nights in each)
- Choice of a sloth tour, a volcano hiking excursion or a night hike (do all 3 for +$98)
- Standard economy-size rental car for duration of your trip
- Daily breakfast
Here’s the scoop on what those rates really mean, and the terms and conditions that you didn’t read finally decoded.
Consider these bullets before you book:
- Pricing might say “per-person” but is usually based on double-occupancy. So, if you’re not prepared to bunk up with your travel buddy, you’re going to be paying a premium.
- Consider blackout dates and fine print when it comes to the flight. In this instance, flights were only included out of Ft. Lauderdale, and only in September. So unless you’re local, expect to pay more to get to South Florida first.
- The vagueness of “well-reviewed” hotels is alarming. You have no idea what kind of “parking-lot view” room you’ll wind up in, or how many stars they even have. You don’t even know what the reviews said, just that there were plenty of them.
- Instead of providing you transfers to and from your hotel, they’ll equip you with a rental car. Seems great, until you realize it’s a stick shift. And you’ll be shelling out more bucks to get an automatic.
- Also, this car also requires mandatory insurance at $28/day. So, there’s an extra couple of hundred bucks that wasn’t disclosed in the “pull-you-in” price.
- And forget whether you want to be entrusted to get around town in a foreign country in the first place. If you don’t speak the language, good luck understanding street signs, or asking a local for directions. It sounds more like an accident waiting to happen. (Good thing you have your mandatory insurance intact.)
- Who is ready to go on a night-hike with just any operator that you know nothing about? Not us. When they fail to mention who is guiding these excursions, you should run for a different set of hills.
Re-read it knowing what you know now and see if your overworked brain was just filling in the details with what you wanted it to read. Upon closer inspection, you see that they’re saying a lot without really saying anything at all.
Beware the ‘Bait and Switch.’ The fine print states that the offer is subject to availability and has the potential to be discontinued without notice. So, maybe they only have one or two rooms at this price. Then, this promotion becomes a hook to get you to call, and them the opportunity to get you the “second best deal” at a higher price.
When you get behind the wheel in another country, you must remember US laws do NOT apply. A popular trail of trickery is when someone “accidentally” bumps your car, someone claiming to be the police pulls up, and requires you to pay a fine to avoid further penalty and/or jail time. Of course, they know you’re likely to pull out your wallet and pay up when forced between a rock and a car ding.
Finally, getting you into a ‘cheap-as-chips’ trip is a small price to pay for a time share company looking to rope in possible new recruits. And as reputation goes, their ruthless tactics can go a long way to ruin your rest and relaxation. So, scour the fine print twice to make sure no mandatory presentations are required to redeem your deal.
Simply put, the devil is in the details. And as your mama probably told you many a time growing up, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!”