Boquete, 2 November 2010 - With the holidays drawing near, Americans are starting to look for vacation destinations; wondering if it’s best to wait for a “last-minute" bargain or if they’re better off booking early.
Many experts agree: it depends.
For example, those concerned about possible airfare increases and those that prefer small tropical boutique resorts with limited capacity may find it prudent to book tropical winter vacations as early as possible.
While booking online has become popular, the sometimes nearly overwhelming amount of information the Net puts at our fingertips with the click of a mouse can be confusing at times. To avoid this dilemma, experts advise to try and get recommendations from friends, colleagues, and family members who’ve been there, while keeping in mind that things can and do change.
Savvy travelers combine the two methods and double check tips from friends with others in popular social media like Facebook.com. Claiming over 40 million traveler reviews and opinions, TripAdvisor.com, one of the largest travel sites in the world, features travel, hotel, and restaurant reports from travelers who have been there, or are even there right now.
As Cindy G. in Los Angeles searched the Net for a tropical family vacation, she initially had no clear idea where to go this year.
They’d been to Mexico and the Caribbean before and were ready to try something new that winter to escape the cold and relax in a quiet place in nature.
She envisioned a secluded yet safe nature getaway within a couple of hours by plane from the US with great food, and not overly crowded, commercialized, or touristy. And enough activities to keep Dave and Kelly, her teenagers, from getting bored.
Checking for ideas via Google, sifting websites and ads, she came across a nice looking resort with top reviews on TripAdvisor.com from guests who stayed there:
A new, small, privately-owned, solar-powered, off-the-grid nature resort operated by an American in Panama (a country she admittedly does not know much about and had not considered before).
Checking the resort’s website, www.ranchodecaldera.com , Cindy was intrigued by the photos showing beautiful, generously terraced, luxurious bungalow suites with fully-equipped kitchenettes and even very inviting looking electric massage chairs.
Teenagers Dave and Kelly were excited about the solar-powered swimming pool and that Gina Cronin, the American lady who operates this green resort, has two friendly Labradors, and nearby there are natural hot springs.
And they loved it that guests may ride the resort's horses - something they’ve both wanted to try for years.
Michael, Cindy’s husband likes to stay in touch with the world - even during vacation. So he smiled as he learned that guest bungalows have free WiFi Internet access, satellite TV, and even iPod docking stations.
The family agreed this resort seemed to offer good value for their money, with affordable, fair rates.
Concerns about the food in a foreign country vanished as Cindy learned that a well-known gourmet chef, Craig Miller form Portland, is in charge of the resort’s open kitchen restaurant. She liked that he uses organic greens in the kitchen, some grown in a bamboo greenhouse.
Everything seemed to fit, except for one item on their list - in addition to relaxing in a quiet place in nature, the family wanted to enjoy some time on a tropical beach during their winter vacation.
Exploring Panama’s geography with Google Earth, they discovered that in this small country, distances are not an issue and that there are beautiful beaches on two oceans - Atlantic and Pacific.
Now convinced that this is what they wanted, Michael went ahead and booked their vacation from the eco-resort’s website.
Because they booked early and for more than three days, the management at Rancho de Caldera rewarded the family with a special discount rate - and upgraded them to an even more spacious luxurious suite.
Cindy, Michael, Dave, and Kelly are happy and looking forward to their winter vacation in tropical Panama.
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