You’re vaccinated, Delta’s on the downswing, and you’re finally contemplating that holiday trip with friends. You launch Kayak and search five-star hotels in Cabo San Lucas only to turn up wildly priced leftovers. Oops.
According to travel expert Cynika Drake, many key destinations for American travelers booked up weeks and even months ago. Drake, president of Lavish Lifestyles Concierge, a global travel and event planning company based in NYC, suggests booking your hotel or villa for the “festive season,” the period covering Christmas and New Year’s Eve, immediately.
Offering an example, Drake recently helped a client search for a villa in Turks & Caicos. “It’s 99% booked” she says. “I even checked with 4-star and 5-star hotels. There was one 3-star hotel left and that would not work for my clients” she said. Ultimately, Drake found two villas due to last minute cancellations since Turks & Caicos changed its entry-requirements to allow only fully vaccinated visitors.
“Those went fast. Turks & Caicos is currently one of the hottest markets and there are only so many villas and hotels on the island” she said.
The holiday period has long been notoriously difficult and expensive to book, even when planning a year in advance. Some consumers assumed, wrongly, that the pandemic would have dampened travel, but it’s having the opposite effect.
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“This year, we’ve seen festive season travel practically double compared to last year. People are eager to travel after been stuck inside and many people rescheduled their vacations for this winter. So, you have people that don’t typically travel choosing to travel this holiday season combined with those rolling over their vacations to this winter. Now, time is of the essence, especially in popular markets such as the Caribbean and Mexico.”
Drake recommends four places, ranked by price, for those without plans to consider.
- St. Barths
- Sint Maarten
Saint Barthélemy or St. Barts, has a certain je ne sais quoi, says Drake, which is why it remains one of her favorite vacation destinations. She highlights the islands abundant beaches, including remote Saline beach which allows for social distancing. “Often, you’ll be the only person there” she says. For clients who love to explore, she recommends renting a car to drive around the 11-mile island and stop at beachfront restaurants. “You can literally drive the entire island in 30 mins” she says.
St. Barths is a popular winter destination, but Drake believes the slew of last-minute cancellations she’s witnessed, will allow the persistent traveler to nab a villa or hotel room. Keeping track of cancellations is a service professional travel agents like Drake will handle.
Drake’s tip: “be prepared to put down 50%, which in many cases will be $30k or more for St. Bart’s during festive season. During this timeframe, villa rentals typically have a 14-night minimum though some allow 10 nights.”
Antigua is next on Drake’s list, notably because of its selection of boutique all-inclusive 5-star hotels. She recommends this Leeward island with remnants of its British colonial past, to clients who are looking for a luxurious experience and want to be around other people, not just their travel partner or family. Antigua boasts some of the nicest beachfront villas she’s toured; plus, visitors can spend a day visiting nearby Barbuda.
Drake’s tip: You need a car or daily driver on Antigua, unless you stay on the property for the duration of your trip. Book a rental car the minute you book your lodging.”
St Maarten offers more budget-friendly villas and hotels. Depending on where you stay, walking to various places is possible, especially on Dawn Beach. Drake appreciates that island has both a Dutch side (Sint Maarten, in the south) and a French side (Saint Martin, in the north) to explore. That means French wines, cheeses, and foie gras can be found when exploring the beaches, towns and coastline of the north.
Drake’s tip: “the water is calmer on the Dutch side, whereas the French side is great for kite surfers.
Mexico is one of Drake’s favorite destinations because Mexico lends itself to many different vibes, from all-inclusive luxury to bohemian chic. Drake’s favorite places in Mexico include
Playa Del Carmen & Puerto Aventuras for beachfront villas.
Tulum for bohemian chic resorts.
Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta for those on the west coast seeking high-end accommodations and a short flight. For those appreciative of beautiful Spanish architecture and an arts scene,
San Miguel de Allende and
Mexico City are top choices.
Drake’s tip: “Your best bet for accommodations over the holidays is Mexico. It’s a larger market than the Caribbean and has far more hotels and villas.”
Given the challenges of booking during the festive season, one should consider managing their trip through a travel agent or adviser. For example, when last minute cancellations occur, the management company contacts to those on the waitlist, and it can become a bidding war. In other words, whomever can wire the money the fastest gets to book the villa. An adviser will stay on such situations for their clients.
As Drake explains, agents have relationships with villas and hotels, and as a result, receive insider information as to what’s available or what will be coming on the market from villas to hotel suites.
An agent also stays abreast of the evolving travel requirements during the pandemic.
Additionally, as Drake puts it, “who wants to spend hours researching hotels and villas? Negotiating rates and thinking of itineraries? We do! As travel advisors, we live for that!”
“Save yourself time, money and the headache of traveling planning and let a professional do the job for you. Let figuring out what to pack, be your hardest challenge of the day” she says.
Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/lmowery/2021/10/06/its-almost-too-late-to-book-holiday-travel-heres-where-one-expert-recommends-going/1912