Sunlight, the breeze at your back and, perhaps, a bit of sweat on your brow? Those can be pricey commodities in the world of vacations. As anyone who’s ever tried to charter a boat, book a ski trip or plan some other form of outdoorsy vacation knows, sometimes getting close to Mother Nature, or getting in shape while you holiday, means anteing up big bucks.
But there are resources on the web that can help those who are looking to reign in costs on al fresco or fitness vacations. Here are a few of the best:
For ski trips: No website I know of beats Liftopia.com for discounts on lift tickets. The site can also be a goldmine for cut-rate ski resort stays and, sometimes, equipment rental. As is to be expected, the deepest discounts are for skiing early in the season or at its tail end; and for those who book before anyone knows whether or not it will actually snow on the mountain.
For fitness and weight loss vacations: Lose a pound, spend $300 to do so—that’s the equation when it comes to weight loss spas. But even these usually pricey establishments have slow periods when they cut prices in order to fill their beds and elliptical trainers. You’ll find those discounts aggregated on the website SpaFinder, which has long been the premiere resource for this type of intel.
For bike tours: For reasons that are a mystery to me, most bike tours combine days of cycling with extraordinarily posh hotels and multi-course gourmet meals, making what should be an affordable type of vacation one of the most costly. There are some exceptions and you’ll find them on the sites of both BikeToursDirect.com and TripSite.com, two websites that aggregate the offerings of smaller, local bike tour companies. In general, self-guided trips are the least costly. These involve traveling with a map rather than a human guide, though the other standard elements (hotels, some meals, the transportation of baggage from one spot to the next) are the same as they would be on a regular bike tour. Another option is the Bicycle Adventure Club (www.bicycleadventureclub.com) which lists rides that avid cyclists, volunteers really, have put together and are opening up to all comers. They tend to be quite well-priced and they span the globe from Israel to Antigua, though the majority of the rides are in North America.
For fishing and other boat charters: No restaurant would have the nerve to cook up a bluefish…and charge you $500 for it. But that’s the (conservative) amount many vacation fishermen spend so they can take a few photos, enjoy one day on the water and have something to bring home and throw on the grill. However a relatively new website called GetMyBoat.com has been lowering daily rental charges by introducing competition into the equation. Its website is a marketplace for some 33,000 boats in 143 different countries, ranging from chartered fishing rentals to privately-owned vessels (sailboats, houseboats, mega-yachts, dinghies, etc), to most any other kind of craft that floats. And because the owners have to now compete with one another on a site that lists prices side by side for each destination, prices have been dropping significantly in many areas of the world.