Clearwater Beach, Florida Courtesy of Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

Travel

How to Book a Better Beach Vacation

To go alongside our February cover story, we asked Dallas-based travel agent Sam Murphy for some of her top tips to help plan your first post-pandemic getaway.

Sam Murphy founder of Murphy Travel Designs
Sam Murphy, founder of Murphy Travel Designs
Courtesy of Sam Murphy

Booking online is great, but in uncertain times of pandemics, weather crises, and political upheavals, it can be helpful to work with a travel adviser. Not only are they in the know about things like COVID quarantines and changing airline policies, but they can help you add exclusive amenities, upgrades, and VIP status to your trip. You can travel confidently—and feel like a celeb— knowing someone has your back should anything go wrong. To go alongside our February cover story, we asked Dallas-based travel agent Sam Murphy for some of her top tips for clients.

The Scoop

  1. Go where you want to go. “When it comes to planning a trip, just about everyone has a recommendation. But the perfect vacation for your neighbor doesn’t mean it’s the perfect trip for you. Think about what is most important to you—activities, local experiences, beach access—and use that to dictate your plan.”
  2. Consider all the costs. “Look at the things like resort fees and prices of flights, transfers, activities, and food before you decide where to go. One destination may have great rates, but it costs an arm and a leg to get there. Some resorts may have costs that aren’t included in the room rate, and nothing ruins a beach trip like a surprise bill.”
  3. Think about the season. “Timing is everything, especially when planning a beach vacation. The winter months are peak season for warm- weather escapes. That not only means higher prices, but also that you need to plan way in advance. Shoulder season for the Caribbean, in May or June as opposed to spring break, can offer fewer people and lower rates. If you decide to take a gamble and book the discount rates during hurricane season, make sure you get travel insurance.” Speaking of …
  4. Get travel insurance. “It’s more important than ever, and some destinations even require it. It typically costs a fraction of your trip, but can save you some serious money if you have to
    cancel because a family member gets sick, you have a flight disruption due to weather, you lose your bags, and more. Talk to your travel adviser about which policy best fits your needs, and reach out directly to insurance providers to determine exactly what each policy covers.”
  5. Research the destination. “Whether you want to stay in the United States, go to Mexico, or visit a Caribbean island, each destination has its own personality. There are some spots where you can explore local shops and restaurants and others where there isn’t much besides the resorts.”
  6. Think about the kids. “Look for amenities and activities that they will enjoy. When they’re having fun, you’ll be having fun. Some resorts have fantastic kids clubs that are as fun as they are educational. Ask potential resorts whether they have one, what the age ranges are, what types of activities the children do, and how much it costs.”
  7. Be flexible. “With COVID, travel is changing constantly. Many hotels, airlines, and cruise lines are offering more flexible terms and conditions so you can adjust your trip as needed. Just be sure to read the fine print before booking. During your trip, understand that the airlines and hotels will continue to make changes for the health and safety of everyone. But if you go with the flow, you can still have a fantastic—and often less crowded—trip.”

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