But had a bit of luck! After I’d completed my course of chemo back in January 2018 I booked a week in Hurghada on the Egyptian Red Sea in order to get a bit of sun and raise myself back up both physically and spiritually. It worked so well for me and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been back twice since at about the same time of year, in 2019 and this year, and I had every intention of making a booking for 2021. Except, of course, the Covid crisis has messed everything up. Or so it seemed.
I originally began checking prices and the availability of flights and the hotel a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised to find that if I was prepared at that time to take the plunge I could book a flight from Bordeaux, as I did last year, and a room at the same hotel as before for just a little less than I paid this year. The first time I went I booked through Thomas Cook but on the two occasions since then I’ve made my own bookings and secured excellent savings each time but I would have been very happy to arrange everything again for what it cost for 2020.
However, I was uneasy to go ahead at that time as the whole Covid thing was (and still is to a great extent) very much up in the air and I wasn’t keen on making financial commitments that might well have turned out to be at risk, so I held back. And lucky I did, because when I looked back again for the dates that I had in mind, there were no flights available from Bordeaux and even the hotel availability seemed uncertain.
And the latter had increased in price in the meantime even if I could book a room through the source that I’d used previously. But I decided to keep my eye on things because the earlier you book the better the prices you get on both the flight and the accommodation. Even the airport parking. I put off booking (and paying for) my parking at Bordeaux for a few weeks last year and it ended up costing me around 20€ more!
The flight in particular is important because you can’t fly direct from Bordeaux (or any French airport I think) to Hurghada so you have to make at least one stop and transfer. In fact you can be forced to make two or even three depending on when you want to go and how much you want to pay because airlines just want to get bums on seats and are prepared to accept just a few euros to do so rather than leave a seat empty.
So the trick is to trade off journey time and the number of stops against cost. There are several canny web sites that let you do that and my favourite is Kiwi.com. It can find lots of flights for you, even ones that start off with a bus journey to a cheaper airport or send you off initially in totally the wrong direction.
Now, I don’t want to head off to Hurghada via Spain and take two days or more to get there and I definitely don’t want to start off with a long bus ride, especially after last year when our flight was disprupted by an air traffic control strike in France and instead of being able to fly straight to Geneva for an overnight layover, we had to fly to Lyon and then take a bus there. It wasn’t that painful as we’d otherwise have been longer overnight in Geneva than we actually were, an experience that I wouldn’t recommend as apparently the Swiss don’t see the need for passenger seating in airport terminals.
So when I checked again a couple of nights ago and found that now I could book easyJet a bit later than before, in early February, the whole way to and from Hurghada with only one stop in each direction, I was immediately interested. I prefer easyJet because of its larger cabin bagage allowance and was even more delighted because whereas in 2020 the return flight had cost me 216€, this time around I could do it for only 167€!
OK, I’d have to pay for it now and there is always the threat that it will be disrupted, even cancelled, because of Covid. However, 167€ isn’t the end of the world, and as my son pointed out to me, I’d be able to get a refund or even a voucher that I could use to fly to the UK as and when the Covid thing clears up.
The fare I found maybe needs a bit more explanation. When you do a search using Kiwi.com, you don’t just get one price for your trip. You actually get a price grid showing how the fare varies, up and down, for the days around your planned travel dates, there and back. This is great for people like me who are totally flexible. In fact it meant that last year, by choosing a longer stay-over in Egypt and paying for two days more in the hotel, I got a stay of 11 nights for less overall cost including flight than I would have paid if I’d stayed for only 9 nights. See what I mean about canny… 😉
My 167€ fare was again only for a 9 night stay in Egypt, but that will suit me fine as I did find this year that 11 nights was actually a bit long. So then it was time to book the hotel, but my luck then ran out. I’ve stayed at the same hotel on all the previous occasions, the Hawaii Riviera Aqua Park Resort, which I would have been happy to go back to, but for some reason I just couldn’t make a booking on the internet.
I’m sure that it’s still in business – maybe it’s up-in-the-air because of Covid – but whatever, that’s no good to me as having got a flight lined up I must have a hotel room ready and waiting for me. So I had to look for an alternative, a pleasant, reasonably priced hotel with all-inclusive service and preferably on the beach with a sea view. And I found it in the form of the Labranda Club Makadi resort.
My original hotel, the Hawaii Riviera, is located some 20 kms to the north of Hurghada airport whereas the Labranda Club is some 30 kms or so to the south. It also appears to be quite different in character, smaller for a start. Here’s a shot of the entrance of the Hawaii Riviera.
And here’s a shot of the Labranda Club (I’ve just lifted all of the Labranda Club shots below from various internet sites).
The facilities at the Hawaii Riviera seem to be on a larger scale than those at the Labranda Club, the former having more ‘aqua-park’ attractions like water chutes and slides aimed at children and families, whereas the Labranda Club seems to be aimed more at adult clients. Here’s a view taken this year from my room at the Hawaii Riviera.
And here’s an exterior view at the Labranda Club. I won’t miss the water chutes and slides as I don’t use them, preferring just to lie in the sun and read my books.
The rooms at each establishment seem to bear many similarities in terms of both layout and the facilities they contain. First, my room this year at the Hawaii Riviera.
Now some shots of rooms at the Labranda Club. The first two are of a typical double room which would be equivalent to my room at the Hawaii Riviera.
This final shot is of a ‘standard’ room, which is probably more like what I’ll end up with.
My room at the Hawaii Riviera this year was fairly atypical. When I arrived I refused the first room that I was taken to because it was so dark and dingy and was moved into the one shown. This was in a more recently built roof-top annexe and was brighter, cleaner and much nicer than the rooms I’d occupied on the previous two occasions. I think, but don’t know for sure, that the Labranda Club is newer and more modern than the Hawaii Riviera but in any case, I’m looking forward very much to going there and am keeping my fingers crossed that my trip won’t be dusrupted by ongoing Covid problems.
So what’s the gamble I’ve taken? It’s that by the time I’m due to travel, the main Covid-related problems will have passed. The Labranda Club reopened after the Egyptian Covid shut-down in June of this year and is taking stringent anti-Covid measures, say management, so hopefully I will be able to look forward to my stay there being smooth. But in any case, I don’t have to pay anything until late January, just a week before my planned departure date, and can cancel at no charge at any time up to then, so there’s not much at stake there.
And surely we will all be flying again by the first week in February of next year. We can’t stay locked-down forever and in any case, there should be vaccines available by then which will start to allow life to get back to normal. And also, by planning my trip for a couple of weeks later than I have previously, it will allow a bit more time for the problems to be solved.
So what was the ‘bit of luck’ that had? Last night I booked my planned 9-night stay at the Labranda Club and as is often the case, the web site flashed a message saying that this was ‘the last room available’ at the price. And as I mentioned above, it was ‘book now, pay in January’ with no-cost cancellation. This morning I checked back on the internet to get some photographs for this post and idly decided to check whether there were rooms still available and if so, for how much more than I’d paid.
This will make you smile. In fact the site said, once more, ‘the last room available’ was there to be snapped up but instead of costing more than I’d paid last night, it was for nearly 35€ less than I’d paid the previous evening for my 9 night stay! So what did I do? Obviously I cancelled my original booking (at no cost) and made a new one! Come on, what would you have done if you’d been me?
So what did this mean? In 2018, booking through Thomas Cook, I paid 672€ including flight for a 7 night stay. Booking myself, in 2019 I paid 535€ for a 9 night stay and 620€ for an 11 night stay this year, the latter figure ‘all-in’ including insurance and airport parking. This time around I’ve paid 462€ all-in for a 9 night stay and that I think is a real result. Happy holidays 🙂