I haven’t had a lot of time to look for great travel deals this week, what with making a living getting in the way….

However, most Tuesdays I do look at the travel deals in my spam email folder, and there are sometimes some good ones.  In my most recent travel shopping experience, I took advantage of some extremely good fall travel package deals which were offered through mega-agents.  Both Travelocity and Expedia offered air/hotel packages to Hawaii that were almost as cheap as the normal cost of flying to Hawaii alone.  I hit on that deal through pure chance, although I started my shopping by looking at TravelZoo‘s weekly Top 20 deals that was sent to my emails, where there was an ad for a package that seemed surprisingly affordable.    I think I hit a sale that was scheduled to end on July 30th on the mega sites.

I did wait a week to book from the first time I saw the deal.  I checked the prices almost every day.  The only difference was that the airline changed on the Expedia search to American as opposed to Delta.   The Travelocity trip’s price did not increase much at all.    Ultimately, I booked using Travelocity on a Thursday, because I could book a fight with one fewer connection for the lowest price.

Booking airfare alone may be different, although it seems to me that flights from Minneapolis seem to be fairly stable over a week-long period.

So, to daydream….  One of my favorite places in the world is St. Lucia.  When we first traveled to this Carribean Island on a cruise, it was a little sister to Barbados and Antigua in terms of tourism.  It was also exotic, volcanic, and verdant.  The sensibility of the island was more French than Spanish or English.     We visited the active volcano on the island, and talked a lot to our tour guides, who were delighted that we were asking about their government and their culture.  We stopped in the town of Soufriere for lunch, and we viewed the beautiful bay there.    Tom and I have both said that we would love to go back to St. Lucia, and it is often a destination that I look at.

Perhaps the best resort on the island, if not the world, is Anse Chastanet Resort.  A stay at this hotel could set you back $400 per night, and that’s on the European plan (meals cost extra).  So, when I saw this resort advertised on Travelzoo for $199 a night, plus the seventh night free, I thought that I might do a little hypothetical value checking for the benefit of my guests.  The deal is good for travel between August 1 through October 15, 2011.   For purposes of this exercise, assume that you want to travel from October 1-8, 2011.  You will be charged an extra 18% in taxes and fees on checkout, and there are a few bonus perks like a free diving/snorkel trip.  According to Kayak, airfare from Minneapolis to St. Lucia will cost approximately $824  per person (on American Airlines, which means two connections).  Your budget for the trip will look like this, using the Travelzoo deal:

Hotel:  $1,194 (6 nights x $199 per night+ 7th night free) + $214.92 (18% fees and taxes) = $1,408.92

Air:  $1,648

Total Air and Hotel:  $3,056.92

You could add a meal plan for $115 per person per day with the Travelzoo deal, which would add an extra $1,610 to the cost of the trip, or you could explore the area for good eats, which is probably more economical (unless you intend to drink a lot, because the meal plan does include alcohol) and fun.   It looks like renting a car may run you about $300 a week, minimum.

The same trip booked through Expedia as a package (air and hotel) costs $1,737 per person.  Travelocity’s rate is $1,704 per person.  Neither Cheap Carribean nor Funjet (which sometimes have good deals) had better deals than the major search engines.  Thus, it is cheaper to book this vacation using the Travelzoo deal and purchase the airfare separately.

Now, you may want to consult a travel agent before you book this kind of a vacation.    There are deals that are available to travel agents that are not available to the average traveler, especially for package vacations.   More important, your travel agent may know about properties that will give you better value for this vacation.

Next post:  Why’d I’d skip this deal and where I’d stay on this vacation for less.