Spring break challenge: to book a last-minute trip

My husband and I are usually big trip planners. Sadly, we have missed the boat, plane and probably train when it comes to spring break, which begins in 18 days. We looked into Ixtapa in January, but then that Calgary woman got beat up in Mazatlan, so we decided on Jamaica. You have to fly through Toronto though, so we looked stateside instead, to Arkansas. The airfares jumped on that one, however, so we set our sights on Tucson. Who knew it’s impossible to fly there from Calgary for less than $700 and with fewer than one or two stopovers? Now, less than three weeks out, we are once again eyeing Ixtapa.

“We should just go to Ixtapa,” my husband said one night last week. “I bet we could get a deal.” “I agree,” I said. “I think this whole ‘getting gunned down by a drug gang’ thing is overblown. It won’t happen to us.” So, with thoughts on margaritas instead of machine gun-wielding muchachos, we pulled out the laptop, and searched iTravel2000 for some deals. Immediately, this beauty popped up:

Now, I’ve never heard of the Sunscape Dorado, but the gorgeous photos, description of the amazing Kids Club and $60 upgrade (per person) to a “Family Oceanview Suite” for a week nearly won us over. Then, we read this glowing reviews on TripAdvisor:

“I was so impressed on every level (other than the slow check-in) when it came to Sunscape Dorado Pacifico in Ixtapa. I’ve stayed at a few different Sandals Resorts, as well as travelling to different 5-star resorts in the Caribbean and the Mayan Riviera. I have enjoyed first-class travel and enjoyed the finest of everything … But let me assure you, this was a 5-star resort!!”

To get 5-star for $1,000 per person — all in, plus airfare — sign me up! Immediately after reading this review we clicked on the “verify” button, and were shocked when the total on our dream vacation for four suddenly jumped by $1,500.

We’d done the math and were prepared to pay just over $4,000, not $5,500. Incensed, I called iTravel 2000 to have an agent explain the price difference. Were we missing something?

Agent: “Well, what happens is airlines block off seats in certain price brackets and when those seats get filled up, the price goes up.”

Me: “Then why doesn’t it automatically get corrected on the site?”

Agent: “Sometimes it takes awhile for the system to get caught up.”

Sure. Right. Whatever they coached you to say at scam school, buddy. We then checked Sell Off Vacations and also the WestJet site, and each one showed the mysterious price “jump” when we clicked on “Book.” Um, can you say price collusion (or, false advertising)?

So now, 18 days away from spring break and still with no plans, we have a new strategy. (No, we will not look at 3-star properties! Nothing but the Sunscape Dorado will do, baby.) I’m going to check the sites daily for a two-weeks-out price drop that a Flight Centre agent assured us will happen. Wish us luck!

How about you? Have you ever experienced this kind of price discrepancy on a travel website?

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