Low Priced Vacation Getaways: SunTrips and Pleasant Hawaii/Mexico Vacations

Aug 6, 2001 (Updated Aug 10, 2001)

The Bottom Line Both SunTrips, Pleasant Hawaii and Pleasant Mexico Vacations offer unbeatable prices on "no-frills" seven night vacations.

I am not a travel agent, but I travel a lot for both business and pleasure. I like to research a destination, shop for the best price and maintain control over my vacation planning. When it comes to vacation planning, my husband and I often visit scuba diving destinations where tour operators have not taken a foothold. However, when we plan family trips to Hawaii or Mexico, we almost always find packages that include accommodations, airfare and car rental to be the most cost effective.

Because we reside on the West Coast, we mainly take advantage of what SunTrips and Pleasant Hawaii and Pleasant Mexico Vacations have to offer. The difference in price can be substantial when compared to booking accommodations, air and car rental on your own. But like all "good deals" there are restrictions. All promotional offers (those great deals you see in the travel sections of the paper) are seven days in length. Once you begin to "customize" your package, prices tend to go up considerably; but if you are looking for a no-frills, one week vacation, you can probably count on getting the best price with a package.

First off, Pleasant's prices tends to run a little higher than SunTrips for the same seven night package. I'm told this is because they utilize standard airlines, such as Mexicana, Alaska Airlines and AeroMexico. SunTrips uses Ryan Air, similar to charter flights. Our recent trip to Cozumel was put together by Pleasant and we flew on AeroMexico. Had we gone with SunTrips, a charter could have transported us non-stop to Cozumel from SFO. With Pleasant, it took us three planes to get us to Cozumel. I have heard horror stories about charter flights, but I personally have never had problems, and for that reason, we often travel with SunTrips.

Another difference, that may or may not make a difference to you is the fact that Pleasant does not offer as many lower priced options. The resorts Pleasant offers tend to be of better quality, with more guest services, and have more ideal locations; but choices for the budget minded are few. With that said, the same hotel in Puerto Vallarta may be offered by both Pleasant and SunTrips. I would tend to go with the cheaper option (which in all cases is SunTrips), as I have no problems flying on a charter. But I know many of you would rather spend a few dollars more and book a "real" airline. I have booked many packages with Pleasant, and found I got good value. But lately, I've booked more vacation packages with SunTrips.

SunTrips offers departures from Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pleasant's point of departure is probably from the western US as well. If you are looking to take a vacation, a package that includes airfare and transportation to and from your hotel as well as accommodations makes good sense. Most travel agents can provide you with specific input, and I recommend using one, as I've found no benefit to booking it through the supplier directly.

If you are looking to go to Hawaii, Pleasant's resort selections are excellent, including highly rated, luxury resorts in Maui, Kauai and on the Big Island as well as Oahu and others. The price includes a lei greeting upon arrival. SunTrips feature many of the same resorts, but include several budget properties as well. Sorry, but you get no lei greeting with SunTrips.

Extending your stay, from the standard seven night format to say, 10 nights, is easy with both tour operators, but I found the prices to go up considerably with both, and I recommend you price out your accommodations, air and car rental separately when traveling to Hawaii. Just a warning: sometimes, SunTrips and Pleasant come out to be more when you cutomize your package in Hawaii.

On the other hand, packages to Mexico are nearly identical, but again, Pleasant tends to be slightly more. Both feature high-end properties as well as a good selection of less expensive options. Customizing or extending your trip is easy, and relatively inexpensive. Both feature all-inclusive properties, promotional offers like free nights, and special kid's deals (free when staying with parents).

For many years SunTrips had a bad reputation, but since changing owners three years ago, they have maintained a solid reputation for bringing customers what they want: great selection and a good price with no-frills. For Mexico, I personally recommend SunTrips, as they consistently charge less for the same property. For Hawaii, if you are looking at luxury resort properties such as the Four Seasons in Maui, go with Pleasant, as their selection is better. On the other hand, you'll find a larger selection of mid-priced and budget properties in the SunTrips Hawaii catalog.

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii or Mexico, I recommend you obtain both company's catalogs and defer questions to your travel agent. In most cases, you'll pay less booking a vacation package. Ask about specials, and don't forget to look in your newspaper's Sunday Travel section for promotional offers. Hope you found this input beneficial. Thanks for reading.

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