Dream Escape: the name says it all

The problem with most vacation packages is that they’re … well … packaged. You may have some room for a little tweaking, but you aren’t going to stray far from the menu. As an alternative, you could reach out to an upscale travel agent or concierge, but you’ll probably wind up with an experience centered on destinations rendered inaccessible only by price – which, for a particular demographic, isn’t inaccessible at all. For those with the means to clear all but the most absurd of financial hurdles, the real challenge becomes getting into the places that are designed to keep you out – or which at least aren’t intended to accommodate.

This is where David Tobin’s Dream Escape excels.

Dream Escape is Scotland’s most exclusive travel planning company, constructing careful and extensive vacation experiences that you won’t find anywhere else … and may not even dream up on your own. Whether you want to inhabit a castle for a few weeks, taste the latest single malt before the rest of the world learns of its existence or zip around the Scottish countryside (there’s lots of it) in the sports car of your fantasies and toss your head onto a different pillow each night, Tobin can probably put together an itinerary that will turn you on.

The process begins well before you hit the road, with Tobin’s team getting a sense for what you like and what you don’t, soliciting any specifics you’ve already chosen and providing ideas that may not occur to you on your own – if you don’t know what can be done, you won’t know to ask. Groups of all sizes can be handled, including celebrations involving hundreds of your closest friends … all of whom expect to be carted around on private jets.

By the time you land in Scotland, everything is ready (well, the details are actually nailed down long before the wheels on your Gulstream drop). You’ll be accompanied throughout your escape by an expert on the details of your trip, though you can certainly choose to have some elbow room if you like. In my mind, this concierge is like an easily accessible itinerary: I don’t print them, and I don’t read them … but I want someone to let me know where I should be someplace, when and how to get there. This is just one of the ways in which the annoyances of travel are stripped out of your trip, and you are truly free to enjoy yourself fully.

The “everything’s taken care of” mentality can manifest itself in unusual ways, underscoring how closely Dream Escape watches even the smallest of moving parts. One party, for example, wanted to drive – a collection of sports cars (such as Lamborghinis) was the backbone of the getaway. Obviously, these rides were waiting for the guests when they landed; that’s just common sense. Each one had a GPS device with directions for the entire trip already planned into it – now, that’s thinking! And since people like me exist (i.e., navigationally impaired), the cars were stocked with prepaid cell phones that had the relevant digits already added to speed dial. The only thing missing was an imaginary friend to whisper words of wisdom into the guests’ ears. As soon as there’s a way to pull that off, I’m sure Tobin will find a way to work it into somebody’s vacation.

Doubtless, you’ve figured out by now that working with Dream Escape can be pretty costly. And, you’re right. These trips are not for the weak of wallet. Specific prices vary with the nature of your plans, especially if they involve private residences (such as castles), luxury jets or rare automobiles. Tobin did tell me that it’s possible to pull a trip together toward the lower end of the five-figure range, but it’s pretty clear to me that it takes a bit more than that to unleash the full power of his talent and connections. There are plenty of experiences out there in the $30,000 to $50,000 neighborhood – but if you’re ready to drop more than $100,000, I have a feeling Tobin’s imagination is the only limit.

Now, if you’re looking to roll at this level, you’re probably concerned about discretion. The last thing you’d want is a guy like me hearing – and writing – about your tastes, means and experiences. Well, you’ll be comforted to know there’s plenty Tobin wouldn’t tell me, and names were just the tip of this confidential iceberg. Your secrets will be safe.

Conspicuous luxury is a bit taboo during a recession – nothing makes peasants revolt quite like seeing the haves living the good life. So, skip the new house, watch or car, and call Tobin. Dream Escape will deliver the experience of your life, and nobody needs to know about it – except the like-minded folks you want to see drooling over what Tobin pulled off for you.

Sunny discounts on Caribbean travel

How’s this for perfect timing? It’s a great time of year to go to the Caribbean (mild weather and no hurricanes). And travel discounts there are popping up left and right–from vacation packages to cruises.

If you’re interested in a Sandals Resort vacation, you have a few ways to save. Either book directly through Sandals for their Three Free Nights promotion, plus up to 60% off (through March 31st). Or book through Orbitz and get 50% off your stay (through March 15th).

Save 50-70% off vacations at CheapCaribbean.com (through March 15th). The Today Show even mentioned one the other day: a vacation package at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic that’s $67 per person, per night (instead of $277).

Save on vacation packages through Bookit.com’s Half-Price Caribbean & Mexico Sale (through March 17th).

Or take a discounted cruise through CheapTickets’ Spring Cruise Clearance Event (through April 1st).

The truth behind Priceline’s “Sunshine Guaranteed” vacation package

Priceline recently announced the details of their “Sunshine Guaranteed” vacation package which offers vacationers a “refund if their vacation is rained out.”

As expected, to actually receive a refund from Priceline, the forces of nature must properly align in order to meet the rigid conditions set by the fine print. For example,

  • You must book between June 2 and July 17, 2008 and travel between July 1 and September 7, 2008.
  • Qualifying vacation packages must be 3-8 days in length.
  • Travel must commence at least 12 days after a package is purchased.
  • It must rain more than .5 inches for more than half of your total stay (including travel days).
  • Rainfall amounts are measured at the destination airport of the vacation package.
  • Rainfall will also be audited by a private independent provider of weather information.
  • Rainfall samples must be collected by consumer in quart-sized Ziploc® bags.

Okay, so I made that last one up. But seriously — I can assure you there’s going to be some ticked off people this Summer who book this “Sunshine Guaranteed” package from Priceline and fail to read the fine print.

On the other hand, hurricane chasers might be well off booking a package through Priceline this season.

[Via The Cranky Flier]