Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Southwest Vacations - Room Types / Specials Can Mislead

I promised I'd explain about the sometimes misleading cues Southwest Vacations gives on their specials.  I'm surprised I haven't seen much talk about this elsewhere, as their website does not make it clear, and it is crucial you understand it if you are making a booking there.  Once you learn how to read their listings, though, it is actually quite straightforward.

For any location there are often multiple specials being offered.  Southwest Vacations give each one an identifying code, listed within the detailed description of the offer.  Here is an example of two such offers for Disney World.  I've circled the code word ("DEAL" and "SALE", in this case) for each.
Once you choose "BOOK NOW" from one of these offers, you might conclude that the offer you chose would apply to all listings shown, or, if not to all of the listings, at least to any which specifically noted the offer.  Not so!  Here are a couple of the listings that came up when the Free Dining Plan ("SALE") offer was selected.

The left hand listing has (1) "FREE Quick Service Dining!" noted in red, however the Room Type shows (2) "Standard Room".  This choice would NOT include the Free Dining offer.  I believe this may be a vestige of a listing that once had this option, but has sold out the quantity they had available with the special.  The right hand listing came up with the (3) "DEAL Standard" Room Type.  If this were selected, the special "DEAL" offer, with a lower per night room rate, would be applied, but it would not include the Free Dining "SALE" offer.  This listing has more Room Type options available. (4) To see them, click on the "Upgrade Room" link, and the current choices available will pop up.

Here we can see the choices for this listing include the "SALE" offer, either as a Standard or Preferred room.  If the Room Type implies the special is being offered, but does not indicate the specific offer code (such as saying "FREE Quick Dining Plan...", but not including the "SALE" offer code in the Room Type description), it is NOT offering what it implies.  This does happen!  Think of it as a typo, and don't be misled.  Once you select your desired Room Type, and press the "Upgrade Room" button, you will have all the promised features for that offer bundled together, and can proceed with your booking.
  • Note the code associated with the offer you wish to book
  • Look for that offer code as part of the Room Type description
  • If you don't see the code and there is an "Upgrade Room" link, see if it is available
If you follow these steps, you can be sure of what you will receive.  If you don't see your Room Type and are flexible on dates, try a different start date, and you may see it in those listings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

We're Going to DISNEY WORLD!

We finalized our plans for Disney World last night, and I think we got a fabulous deal!

Firstly, we went to ShopAtHome and signed up, then took their shopping link to Southwest Vacations and got a 3% kickback on the whole purchase.  That works out to something like $60 that we can consider savings on the whole trip.  (We also got $5 for signing up for ShopAtHome!)

Then, when we got to the Southwest Vacations site (through ShopAtHome), we used the code "SUMMERTVL" and that generated an additional $125 off the cost of the trip!  (It started out with $75 off just the transportation and lodging, then as we added more dollars with the park tickets and insurance, it took more and more off the total.)

We knew we wanted to go mid-September, but then we checked the dates that had the flights we wanted with no additional fees, and worked the trip around those dates.  Also, we made sure the trip started on a date Southwest Vacations showed a room category as "SALE".  (Don't be fooled when it just says "Free Dining" in red.  If it doesn't show a "SALE" category when you get to choose your room type it will not give you the free dining.  More on this in an upcoming post.)

Here's the deal we were able to work out for the two of us...
  • Flying from BWI round trip on Southwest (our favorite airline)
  • Staying on the Disney property at their All Star Sports Resort for nine nights
  • Ten day Park Hopper tickets
  • Both Cancellation and Travel Protection insurance
  • Getting a 20-page Photo Book made afterwards
  • Getting the Quick Serve Dining plan FREE
  • Disney's Magical Transportation to and from the Airport and, of course, around the parks
for (drum roll....) under $2,200!!!  That's about $100 a day for each of us for everything: transportation, lodging, food, and memories!

We've saved so much, we're thinking about adding the Park2Park with transportation for a visit to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Upcoming Travel Plans...

I've got a few things I'm working on at the moment. 

Firstly, my Mum and I are planning to take a cruise from Singapore/Thailand through Bali to Australia in the fall.  We have been waiting for the insurance payment to come through for the one we had to cancel last April, before we book this.  That may not have been the best plan, as the prices will probably just keep rising for that trip, and we know we'll be doing it regardless of the outcome of the insurance determination.

In the meantime, GT and I are planning to take advantage of the Free Dining offer and go to Walt Disney World mid-September through Southwest Vacations.  I'm comparing dates and costs for that.  We'd also like to take at least one quick trip to Ocean City, Maryland, if his schedule has an opening.  We missed out on both things last year.

And speaking of the fall, that reminds me I should start thinking about the Sherlock Holmes weekend in Cape May, NJ, that my Mum and I attend every year.  Last year we used a Restaurant.com certificate and ate out the first evening.  We definitely will want to do that again!

I love the planning and anticipating stage of travel.  These days, with the internet community and sites that are available to us, it is so much easier than in days past!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Welcome to the TWS blog!

I'm glad you stopped by!

I've never created a blog before, but I have always wanted to do so.  (I think the perfectionist in me kept putting it off until I knew I could do it just right.  Luckily, the realist in me prodded me into jumping in and learning on the go.)

I hope you'll find this blog to be a fresh take on travel and everything that happens to lead up to it and come from it.  A place for sharing the little tidbits we all have individually.