The news: Having long offered multi-night packages, Southwest Vacations has begun to offer air/hotel packages than include one night of lodging and flexibility in flight dates. Travelers attending concerts, weddings, and family reunions might like these packages, as might cruisegoers looking for one-night stays for pre- and post-cruise itineraries.
When: Through March 7, 2008. Note: Southwest plans to open its schedule on Nov. 8 for travel through May 9, 2008.
The fine print: Air taxes of about $30 per person are additional. Hotel taxes are included. A fee of about $15 per package is added when a vacation is booked 14 days or less prior to departure. Based on double occupancy. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: By availability. Note: Seven-day minimum advance purchase required because the airline issues paper tickets for its packages. If package includes flights operated by ATA Airlines, a 14-day advance purchase is required.
Destinations: Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Orlando, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. By year end, Southwest Vacations plan to expand its offering to all of the 30-plus destinations where it offers vacation packages.
Contact: Southwest Vacations, 800/423-5683, swavacations.com.
Why it's a deal: By bundling the hotel rate with the airfare into a single package rate, hoteliers can offer discounts on rooms to select customers through the "back door" without lowering their rates across the board. Southwest Vacations says that its one-night packages often offer discounts of up to 20 percent off the lowest room rates available through booking directly from hotel Web sites for individual rooms.
Here are a couple of examples of packages for a Friday-night stay in early December:
Southwest Vacations is offering a Chicago to Fort Lauderdale round-trip flight and a one-night stay at the Marco Polo Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, a 250-room beachfront hotel in northern Miami Beach, for $239 per person. In comparison, the Marco Polo's Web site was recently offering a $162 rate (after taxes) and Southwest.com was recently offering the lowest possible fare for identical flights of $518 for two people. When adjusted on a per person basis, the cost of buying the components of the trip separately is $340 per person—or about 40 percent more than the discounted package rate of $239 per person.
Providence, R.I. to Fort Lauderdale round-trip flight and a one-night stay at the Marco Polo Ramada Plaza Beach Resort, a 250-room beachfront hotel in northern Miami Beach, for $274 per person. In comparison, this hotel's Web site was recently offering a $162 rate (after taxes) and Southwest.com was recently offering the lowest possible fare for identical flights of $514 for two tickets. When adjusted on a per person basis, those costs lead to a comparable hotel/air rate of $338 per person—or 23 percent more than the discounted package rate of $274 per person.
Note to frequent fliers: Members of Southwest's Rapid Rewards program can ask to have their flights qualify for reward credit by speaking with a customer service agent on the phone or at the airport gate and requesting that he or she add your Rapid Rewards account number to your reservation.
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