I recently wrote a story for CNN called “The Optimists Guide to Off-season Travel Bargains,” the idea being that just as every bull market has a bear, every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down.
Right now, for example, hurricane season has impelled resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean to practically give rooms away. Likewise, Arizona’s weather, its calling card in the winter, drives those with disposable income to more pleasant climes this time of year.
In fact, the state’s fancy resorts, its golf courses and its ooh-la-la spas would be as deserted as the streets of Tombstone after the famous shoot-out if it wasn’t for a whole posse of savvy hotels who drop their prices as fast as outlaws dropped their guns when Wyatt Earp and his brothers rode into town.
For optimists who see the glass half full aspects of say, Arizona’s dry sauna-like weather or those who like to play the odds (out of 183 days of the official hurricane season, the average of hurricanes is less than 11 with only 2.5 becoming Category 3 or greater), bargains run rampant.
Another significant travel bargain right now—and this is even during the high season–is Kenya where skies are brilliant blue and more than 2 million wildebeest and zebra have migrated from Tanzania into the legendary Masai Mara.
This “Great Migration,” as it’s called, is high on most folks’ bucket lists. Tourists normally pay top dollar to be there during peak season.
But this year because of, well, recent terrorist attacks on the coast, tour companies have cancelled bookings and several western governments have issued travel advisories.
Consequently, many of the Masai Mara safari lodges that, under normal conditions, would be sitting back smugly counting their high-season tariffs are slashing prices to levels you rarely see even during April and May, the rainy season.
Sure, you need to weigh the risks, but look at it like this. The 80 recent murders in Kenya pale in comparison to the nearly 415 that Chicago suffered in 2013, a year police bragged about a significant reduction in violence. Most people don’t blink an eye about vacationing in Chicago. The United States as a whole averages 80 homicides every two days.
In the last year alone, I’ve been to four countries with State Department warnings and, not once, have I ever felt threatened in any way. I even heard Pico Iyer talk about a recent assignment in Iraq. He said that the same people carrying the signs (“Death to Americans” and the like) would invite him home for dinner after the protests.
I’m not being flip. I just happen to know that the scariest part of most overseas trips is the media reports which, when you really get down to it, are nothing but anomalies.
Here are just a few savings I spotted this year for Kenya’s normally-high season right now.
Aberdare Safari Hotels dropped their rates (for a suite, no less) to $69 per night. And that includes meals. Golden Holidays offered a six-day safari with two nights in the Masai Mara, four game drives and three meals a day starting at a jaw-dropping $1325.
And last I heard, the Big Five hadn’t heard a peep about any travel advisories.