Florida for pounds 99 is this for real?

Continuing our monthly series, Jeremy Skidmore answers readers' travel queries
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
I looked at Teletext the other day and saw 40 pages of bargain holidays to Florida. There are fly-drive holidays advertised from as little as pounds 99. Why is this, and are the holidays really that cheap?

Holidays to Florida are cheap this summer; it's the old story of supply outstripping demand. It's not as though the sunshine state is unpopular - in fact summer sales are up around 7 per cent. However, capacity has risen by 15 per cent. Laker Airways has introduced flights from Gatwick and Manchester to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale; Virgin Atlantic has started flights from Manchester to Orlando; and existing charter operators have stepped up their services. The result is that there are lots of companies trying to sell seats cheaply and Teletext is an effective way of doing this.

However, the published prices are excluding all the extras such as taxes, collision damage waiver on rented cars, and all insurance. After you've paid for that lot, the cheapest deal you will get will be nearer pounds 200. But that's still pretty good value for money.

I'm due to go to Penang shortly, but I'm worried because I've heard stories about cholera on the island. What is the situation?

Several hundred cases of the disease have been reported but, according to government officials in Malaysia, it is being contained. The source of the cholera outbreak has been traced to an ice-making factory in the commercial district of Penang. Most UK tour operators are currently offering their clients cancellations without charge, or a different holiday without an amendment fee. Holidaymakers who do decide to go to Penang have been told to drink bottled water only and to eat in their hotels. It is best to contact your tour operator or travel agent for the latest information if you are still thinking of going to the island.

I went into my local Marks & Spencer the other day and was encouraged to buy foreign currency. Does this mean they will soon be selling holidays as well?

No, because Marks & Spencer can probably make far more money selling clothes than holidays. However, the sale of foreign exchange has proved very lucrative for many travel agents and Marks & Spencer has simply decided it wants some of the action.

They are piloting a commission-free service for customers at their Bath branch. The retailer already has eight other bureaux de change throughout the country and will probably expand the service if it proves popular with shoppers. So, before long, you may be able to buy your foreign currency at all its 285 branches.

The Post Office is also experimenting with foreign exchange and has opened bureaux de change in five of its branches.

I'm about to book my summer holiday and was going to go to one of the big chains in the high street because I think they offer the best deals. But then one of my friends told me that they have little choice and I'd be better off going to a small, independent travel agent. Is my friend right?

The independent travel agent will probably be able to offer you a larger number of tour operators to choose from, because the big chains, or "multiples", are more selective about who they do business with. Many multiples are tied to tour operators and will usually recommend their sister or parent companies first. For example, Lunn Poly will recommend sister company Thomson, and Going Places will recommend parent Airtours.

Often it appears that the multiples can offer you a better deal than the independents. Because of their size and strength, the multiples can demand higher commission levels from tour operators and pass them on to holidaymakers in the form of higher discounts. But it is important to remember that often a condition of the discount is that you buy the multiple's insurance policy, which is usually more expensive than an equivalent one offered by an independent.

The best thing to do is to shop around and then stick with the agent that you feel gives you the best service and advice, whether it is a multiple or independent. At the end of the day it is better to get a holiday that is right for you than to save a few quid and go on an unsuitable trip.

Comments