One of the biggest travel myths is that a package that bundles components will always save you money. Our rule of thumb: Always do the math. When you compare what the package components cost when purchased independently, you might be surprised at how little -- if any -- you are saving. HereÂ?s how two recent packages break down:
Deal or No Deal? Grand Slam Package at Fairmont Pittsburgh
If you can't make it to spring training, plenty of hometown hotels get in on the game by offering regular season packages with a baseball tie-in. Case in point: The Fairmont Pittsburgh is just a short walk from PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Located in the heart of the Steel City's retail, cultural and business area, the Fairmont Pittsburgh makes for a convenient home base for families looking to explore.
The hotel has announced a "Grand Slam" package that bundles lodging with Pirates tickets and a few extras. With nightly rates starting at $275, is this really a good deal for families? We took a crack at the numbers to find out. The package includes:
- One night in a PNC Park-view room (worth $209 for a double room with a view of the ballpark and river)
- Valet parking (worth $30)
- 2 outfield box tickets to a Pirates home game ($20/ticket x 2 tickets = $40)
- 2 Pirates baseball hats (worth, let's say, $20)
- Homemade Cracker Jacks, a baseball glove to take to the game, and use of a Wii and baseball game in the guest room (fun perk)
When we test-booked this package for a family of two adults and two kids for a Saturday in May, we found a rate of $275 for one night. If that family were to book the same stay without the package, the total for the components would come to $279, or $4 more than the package price. And if we factor out the hats, the non-package price beats the package by $16. Frankly, the only real added value is the valet parking, which you may otherwise have considered unnecessary.
Deal or No Deal? Swing and a miss. You're better off without the package: skip the hats, bring your own glove and Cracker Jacks, and buy your own tickets.
The fine print: The package is available Thursday-Sunday, April 8-Sept. 25, and it's subject to availability. Blackout dates apply and there's a seven-day advance purchase required. Book online or call tel. 888/270-6647 and use promo code PPBB.
Deal or No Deal? Theme Park Discounts at San Diego Hyatt
Any parent who has walked through a few theme-park turnstiles knows that you shouldnÂ?t ever have to pay full price on park admission -- the key is just finding the right coupon or discount before you set out. The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego is dangling such discounts with its Suites, SÂ?mores and Spa package, good for travel this spring.
Set in the surfer-friendly Mission Bay and Pacific Beach area, the Hyatt is a short drive from SeaWorld and not too far from both the San Diego Zoo and Legoland. The hotel has a large pool complex, waterslides, and a marina with access to jet skis, sailboats, kayaks and even whale-watching excursions. This time of year, the hotel also offers SeaWorld-themed character visits, poolside games, scavenger hunts, and weekend dive-in movies.
The package starts at $269, and includes:
- One night in a waterfront or corner suite, with separate living and bed areas (normally $279)
- $25 spa credit
- SÂ?mores kit (worth about $10)
- 20% discount off four tickets to one of the following:
- SeaWorld (Normally $264/family of four. Discount = $52.80)
- San Diego Zoo (Normally $140/family of four. Discount = $28)
- San Diego Safari Park (Normally $140/family of four. Discount = $28)
- Legoland (Normally $246/family of four. Discount = $49.20)
The value of this package varies considerably, depending on which park you want. For travel in late March, we found a rate of $289 a night with the special -- just $10 more than the regular rate for a waterfront room. So what does that extra $10 really get you? The s'mores kits adds a bit of fun, and you have to spend to save with the spa credit. The real savings potential is in the theme park discounts -- and on that count, you might be able to get a much better deal on your own.
At Legoland, for example, that 20% discount amounts to $49, and you can still upgrade your tickets at the park for about $10 per person for a second dayÂ?s admission -- a nice double-dip if youÂ?re traveling with Lego fans. At SeaWorld, your AAA card gets your kids in for free and adults in at the kidsÂ? rate, which saves you more than 20%. And then there's the San Diego 3-for-1 Pass, which gives you unlimited entry to the Zoo, Safari Park, and SeaWorld for five days for $456 for a family of four -- only $91 a day for the whole crew.
Deal or No Deal? It pays to browse the theme parksÂ? sites, as well as the hotelÂ?s Special Offers page. The HyattÂ?s Sunshine on Sale deal, for instance, offers a third night free for limited dates. Plus, when we talked to a Hyatt Mission Bay concierge, we learned that any guest can get a 10% discount on theme park admission. So if you're staying more than two nights, it's better to forfeit that extra 10% off an admission ticket and take the free night instead.
The Suites, S'mores and Spa offer is good for stays from March 1 through April 30, and you can book the deal as late as April 29. The 20% discount applies to one theme park. Use corporate code 78443 when booking online, or mention the offer when calling tel. 888/591-1234.
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