I recently returned from a fantastic vacation to Puerto Vallarta with my wonderful wife, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Back in October I had been looking online for somewhere tropical with a well reviewed 4 or 5 star hotel. We wanted to go for more than a week but not two weeks so that made using the pre-packaged vacation online difficult. With the US and Canadian dollars at par and prices often lower from American departure points, I did consider a flight leaving from Bellingham or Seattle given our proximity to both but in the end decided that with all the snow expected I didn’t want to take a chance of having to drive the I-5 in a snowstorm.
For me, the hunt for a great deal always begins on the internet. The number of websites that are available seems to be endless these days. Travelocity.ca, Itravel2000.com, expedia.ca, Bookit.com, Travelbestbests.com, Cheapflights.ca, Selloffvacations.com, Priceline.com, Westjetvacations.com, Flightcentre.ca, Searstravel.ca and the list goes on! I literally spent hours on each of them comparing prices, reading hotel reviews and watching for price drops. I tend to spend ridiculous amounts of time online doing my research before any large purchase. My house, My car, my TV everything! Every single time it has paid off.
Based on reviews that I had read on www.tripadvisor.com I got my heart set on The Riu Palace Pacifico in Nuevo Vallarta but it was at the high end of what we wanted to spend so I continued to shop around. At the time it was rated the #3 “Best places to stay in Nuevo Vallarta”. It is listed as a 4 star hotel on TripAdvisor but based on the traveler reviews it was a 4.5-5 based on over 500+ contributions . This is always something I look for in reviews; a hotel that scores a higher traveler rating than it has listed as on the host website. – To date there is no globally recognized star rating system, so many hotels and sites that sell packages will rate their hotels higher than they should be, thus making sites that review websites with no affiliation a more accurate assessment.
I did some research and learned that West Jet flew direct out of Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta a couple days a week. I figured I would decide on the days that I wanted to fly, build my own vacation package and then change the flights to Westjet. Day after day I popped on to check prices at the various sites and on Hallowe’en night I remembered seeing that many of the web prices were “valid though October 31st” so I stayed up late and had a peak for changes at midnight. I was on the Travelocity website looking at the Riu prior to midnight and refreshed it at 12:01am. I was shocked at what happened when I did that. I watched the price of our 10 day, 9 night package drop by just shy of $1000! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I immediately booked it for all 4 of us without even conferring with my brother and sister-in-law. It was that good! When I woke up the next morning I checked back on the price on Travelocity and it had been changed back to roughly what it had been for months before. I had just lucked out big time!
The hotel itself was amazing and everything we had dreamed it would be. If you are ever considering a trip to Puerto Vallarta without your kids I highly recommend staying here but shop around the price! After speaking with a number of people there, I really did get a great deal. I did my own hotel review on Tripadvisor for the Riu Palace Pacifico and you can read it here.
Using the Tripadvisor site for “Things to do”, I also found a couple great excursions as well. We went zip lining with Vallarta Adventures and spent a day ATVing with Unique ATV which I also reviewed here.
I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the devaluation of loyalty by the modern-day consumer. We were both in the market for a new set of snow tires and me, being the resourceful computer savvy individual that I am, immediately went to the internet and started shopping around and comparing prices. I knew every tire seller within 20 miles of my house. I knew who charged what for installation, who had the ones I wanted in stock, who would fill my tires with air vs nitrogen and I knew who could get me in quickly. I spent a couple of the following evenings revisiting those sites while I waited to see if there were any sales and procrastinated about getting them later rather than sooner (always a foolish thing to do with snow tires!).
After explaining this to my friend, I asked him how his search was going. He replied, “Didn’t you notice them on my car? You parked right beside me.” I asked him how he got them so quickly. He just said, “It was easy, I just used the guy I always use. You see, I’m loyal to people because they take care of me, you’re not.” He didn’t mean it in a disrespectful way but I was admittedly a bit insulted at first. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was right.
During my search I had checked a couple of times for tires for him and had found a couple good deals but hadn’t had the chance to pass them along. I asked him what he paid and it was a good 15% higher than the deals I had found. When I told him this, he was unfazed because of the value he puts on returning to businesses where he knows the people and has built relationships over the years.
The bottom line is, he paid more and got them quickly and was happy with the process whereas I got a great deal on mine but had to wait to get them in, wait to get them put on and then had some complications at the garage that prolonged the process where all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a “Sorry Buddy”. So who won here? If time is money then my friend won by a long shot but if you are like me and feel that saving money on a quality product is worth waiting for, then its a bit closer of a contest.
His comments about my lack of loyalty continued to bother me because I never really thought of it that way. I looked a little closer at how and where I spend my money and came to the realization that I do still possess some loyalty. I visit the same coffee shop every week with my Dad, I buy my gas from the same place, I have taken my kids for haircuts to the same place for years and I visit a local restaurant enough that some of the waitresses know me and my kids and they greet us by name when we come in. I suppose where I really lack loyalty is with the big purchases. Personally, I feel that using all of today’s resources available will always find me the best and cheapest deal. I’m all about saving money but won’t sacrifice quality on a big-ticket item. Are you like me or like my friend?
My opinion is that today more and more people are becoming money conscious to the point that they only visit certain retailers when there is a sale. They only want to buy something if they are getting a deal. Black Friday, Cyber-Monday and Boxing Week sales that are held over until mid-January are proof of this.