A beach within reach

With consumers scaling back their household budgets and trying to stretch their travel dollars, many resorts and tour operators are offering unique travel packages and big discounts to entice visitors.

A new conception in marketing

With consumers scaling back their household budgets and trying to stretch their travel dollars, many resorts and tour operators are offering unique travel packages and big discounts to entice visitors.

Perhaps no resort has been more creative in trying to attract a niche market than the Westin Resort on Aruba. In tribute to the coral spawning season on the island, the resort is offering couples a US$300 “conception credit” toward a future visit if they conceive a child while staying there between Sept. 1 and Dec. 19.

To receive the credit, couples simply need a signed doctor’s note indicating that conception occurred at approximately the same time as their visit to Aruba. This new niche market has been dubbed by some as the “procreation vacation.”

Autumn is always a good time to travel if you are trying to stretch your dollar a little further. It is the season to enjoy discount airfares, unique packages and off-season hotel rates at many popular destinations.

Another plus is the fact that beaches are less crowded and tourist crowds are often thinner at popular attractions.

With the sluggish economy, this fall seems to have more sales and promotions than ever before and some travel providers are getting creative. Here are just a few of the interesting deals offered by resorts and tour operators to entice the public to travel this fall — if you play your cards right, the vacation you’ve been dreaming about might finally fit your budget.

The procreation vacation

While this type of holiday may not be for everyone, it is just the ticket for couples who are hoping to hear the pitter patter of little feet. Sometimes getting away from the stresses of everyday life can help speed up the process.

The procreation vacation is a hot new couples vacation trend in the Caribbean and it is offered at several resorts.

Each package is different, but they usually include spa treatments, aromatherapy, reflexology and other treatments that are designed to promote fertility.

Some resorts offer special fertility elixirs such as smoothies made with sea moss.

Resorts to check out: Westin Our Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort, Westin St. John Resort and Villas, or the Westin Resort Aruba (www.westin.com or 888-627-7130). The Westin Resort Aruba is the only one offering the conception credit.

Rates at this resort start at US$399 per couple per night all-inclusive.

Disney discounts

For those who already have children, a Disney vacation may be just the ticket. Whether you go to Disneyland in California or Disney World in Florida, there are significant savings for those booking their trip this fall.

Eat Free at Disney World: Book a Magic Your Way Package at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel for three nights or longer between Sept. 29 and Dec. 17 and you will receive free Disney Dining.

Value Resort stays include a free Quick Service Dining Plan that provides two counter-service meals and two snacks (up to $4 value) per person, per night of stay. Moderate or deluxe resort stays receive the Standard Dining Plan at no additional charge.

The Standard Dining Plan provides one table service meal credit, one counter-service meal credit, and one snack (up to $4 value) per person, per night of stay. It is estimated that a family of four (two adults, two children) will save $101.96 per night of stay.

To take advantage of this special, book before Sept. 26 via a travel agent or by visiting disneyworld.disney.go.com

Kids fly free to Disneyland: Fun Sun Vacations’ popular kids fly free promotion is back this fall. When you book air through Fun Sun to Los Angeles or San Diego with Air Canada, United Airlines or Alaska Airlines for one adult, one child aged two to 11 can fly for free.

You do have to pay the flight taxes for the child. This offer is valid on all new bookings made by Sept. 30 for travel from Sept. 8 to Dec. 13 and applies to both Calgary and Edmonton departures. Contact your travel agent for details.

WestJet Vacations travel credit

WestJet Vacations is offering a $400 WestJet flight travel credit to encourage travellers to book their winter sun vacations early. Simply book a minimum seven-night sun vacation before Sept. 30 for travel between Nov. 1 and May 15 and receive a $400 WestJet travel credit per room booked to use towards your next flight.

If you book your vacation between Oct. 1 and 31 for travel between Nov. 1 and May 15, you will receive a $200 WestJet travel credit per room booked. This offer applies to both U.S. and international sun destinations.

Other deals

Many other tour operators and resorts have special promotions designed to entice the public to get travelling. There are also an abundance of last-minute flight and package deals during the off-season.

If you are looking at a destination that is serviced by a charter airline such as Sunwing or Air Transat, you have a better chance of finding a last-minute deal than if you are travelling to a destination serviced only by scheduled airlines.

With scheduled airlines such as Air Canada, United Airlines or WestJet, the price of a flight tends to increase as you get closer to the departure date.

Hurricane risk — the downside

Do you remember Mitch? Wilma? Dean? When the storm approaching your holiday spot has a name, it’s never a good sign.

The main downside to fall travel to many tropical locales in the Western hemisphere is the threat of hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30, but the peak season is from mid-August to late October. The Atlantic basin includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The Eastern Pacific basin extends to 140°W.

Some destinations have a higher incidence of hurricanes and named storms than others. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has a lower risk of named storms than Cancun, for example.

Bermuda and Miami have approximately a one-in-four annual risk of being affected by a hurricane. The odds for Nassua, Bahamas, are about one-in-five.

The islands of the Western Caribbean are less likely to be affected by hurricanes than those of the Eastern Caribbean. The southernmost Caribbean islands (Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Grenada, Trinidad, Tobago) are rarely hit by hurricanes.

A recent Dow Jones Island Index assessing hurricane risk rated Curacao as the Caribbean island least likely to be hit by a hurricane, followed by Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Barbados and Aruba.

For a look at the return frequency of hurricanes in the United States, visit http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/basics/return.shtml

It’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance whenever you travel, but especially when you are travelling during hurricane season.

Some Caribbean and Mexican resorts also offer hurricane guarantees.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, T4R 1M9.

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