Vacation Deals Decoded

Find a travel deal that makes good on its promises: Here's how to decode whether or not bargain terms are worth buying into.
vacation deals decoded

1. "Room with a garden view"
Will you be looking at a lush frangipani-filled courtyard or a lone pine tree overlooking the parking lot? Ask before you make a reservation. Also beware of "partial ocean view": It may mean you'll be admiring an ugly obstruction instead of the water.

2. "Signature spa service"
The word "signature" is often tacked on in front of a treatment to add panache, but it could just mean a 10-minute manicure with polish the same color as the hotel carpet. That's not to say it won't include the 60-minute full-body massage you're wishing for -- just inquire what's included beforehand. Or choose packages that let you select your own treatment.

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3. "Breakfast daily"
Check the fluff factor of this one: Is breakfast included in all stays? If so, this adds no value to the package. And will you be lapping up cold cereal and juice from the lobby, or having a sit-down breakfast with pancakes, eggs, bacon and the works? Be sure to size up the menu.

4. "Free apps" or "unlimited drinks"
Unless you're into sipping soft drinks around the clock, ask if the offer includes beer, wine and spirits, too. Discerning drinkers might also ask what labels are included; premium liquors and wines may not be fair game. Pay attention to the fine print: Some resorts won't let you cash in until a subsequent stay.

5. "Resort credit"
This could be a bogus offer assigned to activities already included in the price of a regular stay -- i.e., dance lessons, introductory scuba classes, or the use of water sports equipment like surfboards or Boogie boards. And remember, if you have no interest in doing the activity or don't end up cashing in on the offer, it doesn't add any value.

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