A gay and lesbian travel column

Comparing Gay Travel Packages

by Sasha Alyson


There are great gay travel packages out there. The trick is not to get fooled by the bad ones.

Above: What better way to get in the mood for winter than to reserve space for one of the gay and lesbian ski weeks?

 

The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.


Other travel ideas:

Scuba diving with a gay group.

A smaller, holiday gay ski vacation.

A gay and lesbian hiking week.

Explore Australia.

 


 

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We all knows it makes sense to comparison shop before making a big purchase. With the Internet, it's become easier to find companies that offer similar gay travel packages or destinations -- but it's still difficult to know just how to compare them. Here are some factors to watch.

1. Compare your final costs, not just list prices.

What's included? What's not? How much will you pay for extra charges? Fifty dollars here, a hundred dollars there, and soon the trip that looked $250 cheaper costs more than the other one. Some common extra expenses:

  • Lodging. If a trip starts in the morning, or ends in the evening, you may have no choice but to spend a night in the hotel that the operator offers as an add-on option.
  • Transportation. Will it be expensive to get from the airport or train station to the starting point? Are there transportation costs during the trip for which you'll be responsible?
  • Meals. How many breakfasts, how many lunches, and how many dinners are included? What will be the likely cost of those that aren't included?
  • Drinks. Is wine (or other alcoholic beverage) included with dinner?
  • Tips. Rarely do tour companies include tips in their list price. Some have a mandatory add-on for tips; others provide guidelines and leave it to your discretion.
  • Other mandatory charges. Cruise ships often add "Port taxes" to the list price, an item over which you have no choice.
  • Activities: If some activities wouldn't be of interest to everyone on a trip, the tour operator may treat them as extra options, for which you pay a fee. That's reasonable, but know what those extras are.

2. Talk with people who have been on this trip.

If you have several friends who traveled with the same company (preferably on the same trip), great. The tour company can also supply you with names of past customers. (If they will not do so, perhaps citing a reason such as "confidentiality" -- beware! Any company can easily get permission from past customers to serve as references. For those that won't, there's a reason.) Get opinions from at least two, and preferably three, past travelers. Some things you might want to ask:

  • Did the trip seem well-organized?
  • Were there many extra, unexpected costs?
  • Did it include everything the brochure promised?
  • How were the meals? The accommodations? (These are the two big-ticket items, and the answers here will tell you a great deal.)
  • What did the traveler like best? What was the biggest disappointment?
  • Would they travel with that company again?

3. Watch closely when you compare the length of two trips.

Nights, not days, are the simplest yardstick. A 7-night trip generally includes 6 full days, and portions of two days at the beginning and end. Many companies call this an 8-day trip; some call it a 7-day trip.

 

Philip Sheldon coordinates active and adventure vacations for the gay community through his two companies, Alyson Adventures and Hanns Ebensten Travel.