Budget travel on the fly I don't need a crystal ball to read the signs. The temperature has just dropped. I tore about the cupboard this morning trying to hunt down my winter scarf. It's getting dark early. Reading life's tea leaves, as it were, leads me to one conclusion: it's time to book a winter escape southward. Travel tastes of Canadians vary. Perhaps you've got your eyes set on an all-inclusive stay in the Dominican Republic, or an urban jaunt to San Francisco. Maybe you're thinking of going further afield. Hawaii pique your interest? Regardless of where you're hoping to go, most Canadians I've spoken to recently have two things on their radar when planning a winter holiday: 1. What are my warm-weather options? Translation: "Give me beach and sunshine!" 2. How can I plan a winter escape without breaking the bank? Word of advice (and one that was bolstered by the talk around our office water cooler just last week): check out Allegiant Air. [caption id="attachment_16300" align="aligncenter" width="390"] Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.[/caption]
•••The Allegiant network offers low-cost flights to Canadians who fly out of airports in border cities in the United States. So, Canadians wishing to holiday in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida or California, for example, simply cross the border and fly from airports located in such U.S. cities as Plattsburg, New York, Niagara Falls, NY, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Bellingham, Washington, Toledo, Ohio or Bangor, Maine. Canadian vacationers can save up to 72% on non-stop flights. A former colleague who now lives in southern Alberta drives down to the airport in Bozeman, Montana for his family's March break trips rather than head up to the international airport in Calgary. He figures it's the same driving time but he's swayed by the money he saves with Allegiant. Direct flights can get you to any number of destination cities including Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Maui, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco... A colleague saved about $600 last winter on a trip for her family of three to Myrtle Beach. The money she saved? "We put some of our savings aside for another upcoming vacation and then splurged on a few fabulous meals out and a couple day excursions," she said. Money well saved. Money well spent. [caption id="attachment_16297" align="aligncenter" width="390"] Canadians are taking advantage of Allegiant's low-cost flights by crossing the border and then taking off on vacation.[/caption]
•••A recent comparison of flight costs comparing Allegiant with a major Canadian airline for return flights from Winnipeg to Orlando (factoring in baggage costs, extra fees for seat selection etc.) for a family of four (4) looked like this: Allegiant: from Winnipeg (by driving down to the airport at Grand Forks, ND) to Orlando: $1,189.24 Major Canadian airline: Winnipeg (from Winnipeg International Airport) to Orlando: $2,899.33 Vancouver to Maui Allegiant: by flying out of Bellingham, Washington: $2,074. Major Canadian airline: from Vancouver International Airport to Maui: $2,734 Toronto to Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida Allegiant: by flying out of Buffalo: $1,227. Major Canadian airline: by flying out of Pearson International Airport: $2,545. I just did a test of my own for a vacation this upcoming February in Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Florida. Based on my home base in Toronto, a flight from Buffalo, New York, for two (2) people, peak season, would cost $936 (all taxes and fees included). The price on the major Canadian carrier from Pearson International: $1,580. Granted, there is the drive to Buffalo, but for me it would be worth the cost. Also, if you're like some of my family who live three hours outside Toronto, they're going to have to drive all the way to Toronto so why not take another route and drive directly to Buffalo. [caption id="attachment_16301" align="aligncenter" width="390"] Allegiant budget flights can get you to white-sandy beaches or select urban escapes.[/caption]
•••Certainly, travellers need to factor in border-crossing times. Then again, you'll have to deal with customs at some point regardless of the route you take. So tell me what you think: is it worth the drive to a border city in the U.S. when heading south on vacation? Do you have a cost-cutting travel tip to share?