Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, March 6, 2005

Appraise destination by value

By Irene Croft Jr.

If you've vacationed away from Hawai'i lately, I think you'll concur that travel represents a major investment of your hard-earned dollars. With this in mind, it follows that you would want to determine a price-to-value relationship to identify destinations and travel arrangements that will provide the highest return on your investment. Right? Wrong!

Some destinations are better value than others. Do a little homework and save a bundle.

Advertiser library photo

Interesting concept but, after many heroic attempts at reducing a travel experience to a working formula, I gave up. How do you tally the intellectual, emotional and sensory stimuli by which one appraises a memorable travel experience?

However, in the course of my research through per-diem tables and scores of travel brochures and articles, I did reach some conclusions that may be helpful in choosing a price-friendly destination and in focusing on the objective and subjective value of an organized tour. Apart from spectacular cultural, historic and scenic attractions that inspire one to visit a specific destination at any price, value-minded travelers can select wonderfully interesting places on the planet where basic costs of touring are relatively less expensive than in other areas.

Some travelers look only to the bottom line in evaluating a potential travel experience. For example: Las Vegas, the Orlando area for Disney World/Epcot, Anaheim for Disneyland and the Caribbean aboard a floating-city cruise ship such as those in the Carnival fleet. Low advertised rates for trip basics — air, transfers, accommodations and perhaps breakfasts — are promoted to lure tourists. The operators earn their real profits on a combination of volume, casinos and alcohol, excursions or extras that are sold at top retail. My caveat is that succumbing to low-cost lures could prove to be a costly experience.

The savvy value-minded traveler on a budget will seek out less familiar destinations with wallet-pleasing daily costs, reasonable air fares and proximity to extraordinary scenic, wildlife, historical and/or cultural treasures. Many destinations fit this description.

The following cities are among the least expensive, yet most compelling in the world with daily average costs for a single traveler at a first-class hotel including three meals with beverages, plus taxes and tips:

  • Cairns, Australia, $212
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, $129
  • Talinn, Estonia, $189
  • Luxor, Egypt, $208
  • Aix-en-Provence, France, $186
  • San Jose, Costa Rica, $175
  • New Delhi, India $198

Compare these costs to those of the most expensive cities on the planet:

  • London, $490
  • New York City, $443
  • Moscow, $430
  • Tokyo, $421
  • Paris, $395
  • Buenos Aires, $394

The high cost may be sufficient incentive to travel elsewhere. (Per diem figures can be obtained through government and tourist offices of countries you plan to visit.)

Here is an objective formula for selecting a destination: For first-class travel, add to all current daily costs approximately 15 percent for local transportation and incidentals (entry fees, tours, entertainment, drinks). Multiply the daily cost by number of days, then add 5 percent (for emergencies, incidentals, phone calls) to the total to arrive at an overall cost for your complete land arrangements.

Now factor in the price of the cheapest coach ticket for your entire air itinerary. The combined land and air rates will give a realistic estimate of the total cost for a solo traveler on an independent trip.

A couple, sharing all expenses, should figure about 25 to 30 percent extra on the daily costs and then do same calculations as above for total expenses. For budget-level, subtract 20 to 30 percent from daily costs; for top luxury standards, add 20 to 50 percent to daily costs. This formula appears to work for comparing total trip costs between two or more desirable destinations.

Now, to compare the relative price-to-value figures for organized tours, you'll have to use mainly quantifiable factors to arrive at an essentially subjective rating. Information on the following is necessary: number of hotel/ship nights, total cost of included land arrangements, plus cost of any unincluded components that will be paid by traveler (meals, beverages, entry fees, independent excursions, gratuities, insurance, etc.). Often what is not included in an irresistibly-priced tour will add 30 to 50 percent to your actual overall costs.

A good evaluation should factor into the tour's hard costs the overall level of tour (deluxe/luxury, first class, budget, student and so on); standard of accommodation; number, choice and calibre of meals; quality of daily programs; operator's reputation and competence; included "extras" such as special dinners and events, beverages, gratuities — and local economic conditions affecting costs of travel.

I studied dozens of brochures featuring deluxe and luxury escorted tours to all points of the globe. Deluxe/luxury for our purposes means that all trip components except international air are included and are of highest quality — hotels, three meals daily of personal choice, land and internal air transportation, guided excursions, special dinners with drinks, cultural and entertainment events, porterage, and taxes and gratuities. I divided the total all-inclusive costs for each program by the total number of hotel nights to arrive at a price-to-value judgment for each destination.

Interesting results with our weakened dollar: The following average daily, per-person costs, double occupancy, for the land arrangements and internal air transport of a 2005 super-deluxe, all-inclusive tour as described above would appear to represent good value for your money at these destinations:

  • Japan, $833
  • China & Yangtze Cruise, $399
  • South Africa with safari, $754
  • Papua New Guinea & Sepik River, $450
  • Brazil, Argentina and Chile, $456
  • Central America, $400
  • Eastern Europe, $625
  • Australia & New Zealand, $443
  • Great Britain, $885
  • Indochina, $399

Irene Croft Jr. of Kailua, Kona, is a travel writer and 40-year veteran globetrotter. Her column is published here every other week.