One of my regular readers Bill McMichael was willing to share his second best flight price. Some of you might remember him from his two previous guest posts – The Coming Pupusa War and Where to find cheap flights to Belize City and flight discounts scored. In addition to low airfare, Bill was also willing to share how he keeps the airlines honest and searches for Caribbean flight deals.
Second Best! A Travel Planning Experience by Bill McMichael
I go to San Pedro several times a year. One way that I combat the high cost of a Belize vacation is by keeping the airlines as honest as possible. The pricing model used by most international airlines is designed to confuse the customer as to what the flight should cost and then make them think that the fare is going up. This creates an urgency to purchase now. One day it costs $750 to fly Belize from Philadelphia, the next day it might be $850. Every few weeks, the price drops to a very low price. We buy our plane tickets first and decide on the details of our Belize stay second. This method has only caused a panic once when we had trouble finding a room at our usual places on a March trip. This was a blessing because we found our new favorite place to stay.
On one trip to Belize with my local dive shop, air prices had been tracking around $750 from Philadelphia. The shop owner asked me if I thought that was a reasonable price. I told him no and that he should wait. This was 6 months before the trip. The next week, the fare went to $850 and he called me to tell me that he had bought his tickets. He told me he was afraid it would go up even more. 3 weeks later my dive buddy and I bought our tickets for $503. This is how the airlines get you to buy expensive tickets. Confuse the traveler, then raise the prices.
I use Kayak.com, Cheapoair.com. Airfarewatchdog.com and occasionally Google-ITA. I review ticket prices almost daily when I am in the market. I also have price alerts set to go my email. I think this is a function of my profession as a financial advisor. The airfare market is nearly as volatile as the stock market. If you are not to be taken advantage of by the airlines, you must monitor the prices. Some might say that I am just cheap, but does paying twice as much for 3 coach plane tickets to Belize really make your vacation any better? I would rather spend the money going fishing for the day than give it to an airline.
Last August, I was sitting on our veranda in San Pedro when I got a fare alert. It looked too good to be true. $271 RT from Philadelphia! I decided to click through, expecting to be disappointed. It was actually a real fare that was available so I booked it immediately. I had to spend a night in Houston, but for $271, I was willing to do that. I was able to get a room for the night in Houston with Marriott points. It worked out great and was a great trip. I was able to get several friends in on the deal and we spent the week fishing and diving. The fare actually stuck around for a week or so, but do not count on that to happen in most cases. Those special fares are a flash in the pan. You must be able to pull the trigger almost immediately because usually they are gone in a matter of hours. Remember the part about them trying to confuse you.
So my wife and I had planned to visit New Orleans via train in June. I hadn’t bought our train tickets yet when the cheap Belize fares started popping up. I grabbed two tickets from Newark to Belize for $364 RT. My new second best fare ever to Belize! They are great flights with a short layover and same day arrivals in both directions. We hadn’t planned to go to Belize again until August, but I couldn’t say no to such a bargain.
As we all know, in recent months the price of oil has plummeted to levels not seen in many years. On an inflation-adjusted basis, oil was at levels not seen since the 1960s in the US. Why is this important? Because jet fuel is the largest variable expense in running an airline. I am sure we all remember when oil prices spiked several years ago and airfares went sky high. During this recent correction over the past 12 months, most airlines had chosen to take a larger profit rather than reduce the fares. This worked for a while until market forces did what they are supposed to do. It almost worked because there is much less competition due to all of the airline mergers. With the flights to Belize, it seemed that the carriers were able to sustain the inflated fares in the face of crashing fuel prices through the busy season. Now competition seems to be doing its job and the prices have tracked downward with oil.
For the last few years, we have spent Easter week in San Pedro. Sadly, this year we have opted not to. I would have needed to spend 3x$850 or $2550 just to get to BZE! I would much rather spend less than half of that. It allows us to spend an extra $1,200 in San Pedro. That’s a lot of fishing and diving. Inflated airfares really hurt San Pedro. Let’s hope that oil prices stay low for the next few years. For those that visit la Isla Bonita regularly, keep shopping for your air tickets. The airlines won’t hold prices down on their own. Use the money that you save on your plane tickets locally, in Belize!
Rotary Club of Ambergris Caye
The 3rd meeting of the new chapter of the Ambergris Caye Rotary Club was held on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.
The meeting started off with a prayer and the national anthem, then the District Governor Rene Villanueva Sr. began with a speech about Rotary.
Membership is increasing, not as quickly as Mr. Villanueva would like to see but it is growing.
As District Governor, he is tasked to leave a message to each up and coming chapter, and his message was to describe Rotary as love. He sees all Rotary projects executed by love and fueled by faith and hope for a better world. “Love inspires us to do what we do as Rotarians”.
A new project was introduced for the Rotary club to consider by “Raise Me Up”, spearheaded by Brittney O’Daniel. The proposal was made for a foster home and women’s shelter called Hope Haven. Their motto is “Walk by Faith” in a non-denominational way to give them hope – hence the name Home Haven. The 11-minute presentation was shared by Brittney, Jody Bowen, and Kaitlin McWhorter, of Projects Abroad.
After the presentation, lunch was served and then an introduction was made of the interim executive of Ambergris Caye club, Chairperson Dawn Locascio, Vice Chair Tom Beno, Secretary Jody Bowen and Treasurer Dee Regis.
Meetings will continue weekly, on Wednesday’s. Like them on Facebook to show support and get updates. The Rotary Club of Ambergris Caye.
Rotary has 35,000 clubs with 1,250,000 members around the globe with over 500 districts being served. The Belize Rotary Chapter is number 450 with 9 clubs around the country and Ambergris Caye soon to be officially number 10.
Topic Air Gives Back to Caye Caulker Cancer Support Group
Tropic Air, The Airline of Belize, has announced the February results of its ongoing nationwide #TropicGivesBack charitable fundraising campaign. For every ticket bought at the month’s selected station, $1 will be donated to an organization chosen by our staff stationed in that community. In January, $500 was donated to the Dangriga Red Cross. February was the chosen month for Caye Caulker, with Belmopan scheduled for March and San Ignacio coming in April.
As part of the airline’s largest charitable fundraiser of the year, Tropic Air business partners, staff, and Customers joined efforts and raised $400 for “Arms of Love”, a Caye Caulker cancer support group. Sergio Marin, Caye Caulker Station Manager, and his staff presented a check to Ms. Enelda Rosado from “Arms of Love” on Thursday, March 3rd.
“Our love of people and community is our most powerful fuel, which is why we have a long history of helping through nonprofit support. We are committed to giving back not just nationally, but in the communities where our customers and employees live and work” said John Greif III, Tropic Air’s President. “Through the #TropicGivesBack Donation program, we hope to spark social, economic, and environmental initiatives in communities across the country. We would like to thank our employees for their efforts in volunteering around Belize, and we thank our customers for supporting this program” said Steve Schulte, Tropic Air CEO.
About Tropic Air
Founded in 1979 by John Greif III with just a single airplane and two employees, Tropic has steadily grown to become the largest and most experienced airline in Belize. It now employs over 320 staff, offers over 200 daily scheduled flights to 15 destinations in Belize, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Tropic believes in giving back. It supports the development of the communities it serves through health, sports, drug prevention, education and community projects. Tropic also supports the development and growth of the wider tourism industry of Belize through promotional initiatives locally and internationally.
About the Arms of Love
The Caye Caulker cancer group “Arms of Love” is a non-profit organization whose aim is to assist those in need of medical attention and care related to cancer. It serves the Caye Caulker community not only through medical assistance and support but through emotional support initiatives as well.