Toronto to Aruba - $271 roundtrip after taxes... and my tips on finding reasonable accommodations
Today Thomas Cook dropped the price of their April 2 to 9 airfare from Toronto to Aruba down to $271 roundtrip after taxes.
How to find it...
2. Click on 'flights'
Leaving from: Toronto
Going to: Aruba, Aruba, Reina Beatrix, AUA
Departing: April 2
Returning: April 9
3. Hit Search, and then hit Book Online.
And here we see the verified price of $271 roundtrip after taxes...
Now the question I sometimes get from people is 'Great deal, but where do I stay?'. It's a good question, so I thought I'd share some tips on finding reasonably priced accommodations. These tips can apply to anywhere, but we'll use Aruba as a working example.
1. Get to the TripAdvisor page for the country you want to visit. In this case it's Aruba, so we can just google for 'TripAdvisor Aruba' and we'll end up here:
2. Now click on 'Aruba Hotels' on the left hand side of the TripAdvisor menu. That gets us to here:
3. Here's where a bit of strategy and knowing the system comes into play. A *lot* of really great accommodations aren't hooked up with the major booking engines. You'll never find them on Orbitz, Expedia, etc, or even in TripAdvisor's own internal booking system.
What you want to do is look on the left hand side under Property Type, and change this option to 'B&B and Inns'. This will help us discover highly reviewed properties that are typically smaller, cheaper, more authentic, great value, and not found in the major booking engines ('Specialty Lodging' can occasionally have some hidden gems as well).
4. After clicking on 'B&B and Inns' I'm presented with a list of hotels. I usually scan down the list, noting the 'typical price' listed below the name of each property. You'll note that some properties don't have a typical price. Don't dismiss these, sometimes they can be the best deals of all. But generally I'm looking for highly reviewed properties where the cheapest price is under $100/night.
Taking a look at the second property in the list, 'Buffam's Tropical Haven' we can see that it gets 5 circles after 79 reviews and the 'typical price' is listed as $60-$100/night. Perfect. This is an amazing score, and I know from experience that a place with a score like this will be a great place to stay.
5. Now what we want to do is Google for Buffam's Tropical Haven. The first result will usually be the personal website of the property. In this case, we're taken to http://www.buffamstropicalhaven.com/
The first place I look is generally the rates, to see what kind of price range I'm looking at. In this case it looks like a week will cost $495, or $247.50 for a couple. Added to our flight cost, it becomes $518 each, after all taxes, for flight and one week hotel stay in Aruba. Considering the lowest you generally see is 8 or 9 hundred/person after taxes for a one week flight + hotel package to Aruba, I'd say a 40% discount below that bottom price is a pretty great deal.
6. This is just one strategy of course, but it's generally the one I personally go for first. Another great site that's been making the rounds lately is AirBNB, which matches people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations with those who have rooms to rent. They are generally the home owners themselves, people that are not professional hoteliers.
Googling for 'Airbnb Aruba' brings up http://www.airbnb.com/aruba. Some of the properties have a decent number of reviews.
Anyways, I hope this helps somebody out there. Personally I find the airfare to usually be the toughest component to get a great deal on, simply because there's only so many airlines out there and very few airfares that are truly great deals.
With accommodations being so plentiful, I find there's usually *somewhere* to stay that's reasonably priced and well reviewed. So with that in mind, I seem to find myself looking for the great airfare deal first, and building around it.
If anyone out there has their own strategy for finding reasonably priced and well reviewed accommodations, feel free to share.
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