One discovers travel bargains in the oddest places. Here are three highly practical but rather unusual suggestions for your upcoming trips:
Cheap timeshare rentals
Most travelers are aware of such services as Home-Away (www. homeaway. com), Cyber-Rentals (www. cyberrentals.com), Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and others, which enable you to rent a vacation home or apartment (usually a complete home) for a week to a month. But I was unaware, until recently, of an 8-year-old service known as RedWeek.com (www.redweek.com), that helps you to rent someone else's condo timeshare for a week (or the period of the timeshare). The values listed on it range from the good to the spectacular, and enable you to enjoy a comfortable vacation in home-like settings, for a mere fraction of what a smaller-size hotel room would cost.
RedWeek.com claims to be the nation's largest source not simply of timeshare rentals, but of timeshare sales and purchases. Indeed, it probably prefers to deal with the larger transactions. But if you'll pay a small registration fee ($9.99) and become a member of RedWeek.com (more than a million people belong), I can almost guarantee that you'll find a vacation rental far better than the ones usually available to you. You deal directly with the owner of the timeshare, and avoid a middleman's charges.
Affordable African safaris
Because his safaris include all airline and airport taxes, the 10-day price (for a week in Kenya) charged by Ken Hieber of 2AFRIKA (www.2afrika.com) —$2,849 per person — is roughly equivalent to what Canada's Lion World Tours (www. lionworldtravel.com) will charge for roughly the same all-inclusive Kenya safari from January through May of 2010.
But Hieber throws in a neat touch. He charges the same $2,849 not simply for departures from New York, Newark, N.J., Boston, Washington, D.C., and Miami, but from Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. Those West Coast departures, and the ones from Miami and Washington, D.C., are all "common-rated" (in airline parlance) with those from the East Coast.
His price includes all overland transfers, transport while on safari by four-wheel-drive vehicles, an English- speaking driver-guide, six nights' accommodations in rooms with private en-suite bathroom facilities and most meals.
Although these rates and features seem no better than those offered by the famous Canadian safari companies, the fact that the price is no greater from Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco, is a weighty factor of great interest, surely, to readers living in those latter areas.
Retirement to Ecuador
It may be that I am simply overreacting to statements by three different unrelated people throughout the past several months, who all told me they were moving to Ecuador for retirement. These isolated incidents do not make a trend. But one of my informants is a high school principal whose judgment I trust, who told me he was now able to afford two different residences in Ecuador — one in the capital city of Quito, the other in a gated community in the beachfront town of San Clemente. In the latter, he claims, beachfront lots are available for as little as $5,000.
Ecuador is that small South American country that straddles the equator. Its beach area climate is tropical, and its high-altitude Quito enjoys, according to my friend, a year-round springtime. Though Ecuador experienced political turmoil in the early 1990s, matters seem to have subsided, the country is governed by a democratically elected political party and president, and the economy seems on the upswing. One can never experience rock-bottom prices in a country that is entirely without risk, but it appears that Ecuador is emerging from its former instability and seems to be doing well. One bets on the future.
All three of my informants made reference to the friendly attitudes of the Ecuadorean population, and congratulated themselves on moving to a place where they could "live large on little money." All three are studying Spanish and looking forward to a good new chapter in their lives.