by Sasha Alyson
There are great vacation values out there. The trick is not to get fooled by the bad ones. And here’s a rundown on the two leading gay ski events.
The best way to avoid the winter doldrums — for those of us living up North — is to have a reason to look forward to those snowflakes. And the best reason? Joining hundreds of others on the slopes and in the hot tubs at one of the two major gay ski weeks. There’s just enough room left this month to point you in the right direction for the two major annual events:
Aspen Gay & Lesbian Ski Week, Colorado: Jan. 22-29, information on ; reservations from 888 298-8070
Altitude 2000, Whistler (western Canada): Feb. 6 to 13, information and reservations from 888-258-4883.
Where but in a ski line, looking to share a lift chair, can even the shyest person go up to someone who catches their fancy and bluntly ask, “Are you single?”
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We all knows it makes sense to comparison shop before making a big purchase. The Internet makes it easier to find various companies that offer similar 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. Be careful as 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.
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The fourth national civil rights gathering is set to take place in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2000, “to promote equal rights for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.” Despite its name, the Millennium March on Washington (MMOW) will actually be a rally rather than a parade, but energy levels should still be high.
While projections for one million participants reflect the over-optimism that seems to be a job requirement for organizers of such events, it still seems advisable to book your room now if you wish to attend. You’ll be assured of the room and location you want; the March office will be able to plan better; and the event will get a commission if you book a room through their site. That’s an easy way to provide early and needed support, at no extra cost to yourself. Expect to pay $150-$200 for a double.
The March is not without its critics, however. Do you admire the hucksters who grabbed the web name whitehouse.com and used it for a porn site? (The real White House address ends in dot-gov.) Then you’ll love the tactics of what seems to be a few GLBT activists who oppose the March and have snapped up two Internet names — millenniummarch.com and mmow.com — to draw traffic to their site. While it seems at first to be an official source of March information, this site actually seeks to undermine the entire effort.
There are valid reasons to question whether we need a national demonstration in Washington at this time. But dishonest tactics like this cost the March nay-sayers much of their credibility, and do nothing to further real debate.