*** For the latest cheap flights and accomodation offers check out MeetYouThere Travel ***
So many beaches..
The idea from the outset was that the Club would be year-round Ocean Sports - the UK isn't great for that and package holidays & travel agents really don't cater for people like us - we don't really need flights and hotels booking for us; we want to go somewhere hot with warm clear water, perhaps do our own thing in the day (maybe benefit from Club discounts & recommendations) and then meet up with others come sundown to swap largely made-up stories.
That's the MeetYouThere travel idea that it's now time to get that up and running.
So let's take it from the top.. I am going to use Corralejo in Fuerte Ventura for these examples as I'm just back from there (Dec '19) so its all fresh in my head.
(BTW you can click on the images as they should all link out.)
How to decide where to go
Most often you choose your destination based on ocean, beach and weather conditions (wind, waves, rocks, access to a decent hospital etc.) but since The Event happened the overriding factor is whether you'll be allowed in in the first place - so the first thing to check these days are the..
Foreign Offices Travel Advisories Pages
For a Government Website its actually useful - (usually any public sector website is so shrouded in defensive legal abrogation of responsibility as to be essentially content-free and amounts to a few hundred pages of 'Phone our call centre').
Take this link about Antigua and Barbuda for example - it sets out clearly whether you can go and what's likely to happen when you arrive plus it allows you to enter your email address to be updated when the page changes and those emails do actually get through!
I can't comment on how up to date that page might be but you can see how important it is to have all the evidence when insurance companies will try anything to avoid a cancellation or worse a repatriation payout.
Once that's all cleared then let's talk about..
Holiday-Weather.com is an excellent resource as it provides year round averages and goes on to explain why the weather is as it is, for example this section from Fuerte Ventura:
".. It is thought that the northern shores of each of the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, Fuerteventura and La Graciosa) generally receive more rain than that of the sheltered southern coasts of the islands.
However, due to its proximity to Lanzarote which lies 12 minutes by boat to its north, Fuerteventura is sheltered from various weather conditions that would typically hit the north side of the island.
So in a sense, Lanzarote acts as the northern coast of Fuerteventura which results in the island receiving significantly less annual rainfall than its neighbouring islands."
Next is sea temperatures - for me I'm looking at a minimum of 18C whereby you can opt out of a wetsuit to swim (tho for surfing wetsuits provide protection from abrasion as much as from the cold), and Holiday Weather provides that too in its Average Sea Temperature sections
How good it is for what you want to do?
Next we have the sport-specific stuff - clear warm water for free diving, good breaks for surfing, steady winds for kites etc.
For surfers, MagicSeaweed has the edge - their predictions for wave conditions are as good/bad as anyone else but the surf condition descriptions are very useful..
But you can't beat local knowledge, for example SurferMap.com goes into much greater detail about break direction, ideal winds and how possessive the locals are about the waves and I notice the site also has detail on surfboard hire and accommodation too. Surfermaps are often available free in paper form in surfshops, sponsored by advertizing.
How to find cheap flights
So you've chosen your short list of destinations based on sea temps and weather and whatever you need sports-wise, now how to get there..
It's been a long time since we clicked through pages of Teletext looking for bargains and there aren't many travel agents who specialise in Ocean Sports, or companies that provide sufficient breadth - Neilson have a good offering for the sailors for example but nothing for surfers.
Google has an excellent flight homologator with a bar graph feature that nobody seems to know about - let's take you through that (you can just click on the images to be taken straight to that screen)..
Step 1: You are going to want to start with the Explore Destinations page as that gives you the most options - see the big orange arrow?
Step 2: Choose your month (on the top left) - I'm writing this in December so lets say January..
Step 3: It may be just me on this but I always choose a one way ticket as its so easy to find cheap flights that locking yourself into a having to be at one place on date really screws you on the travel freedom front (but top tip - always book a £20 single flight home that covers 90% of the distance, some time in the future - don't book seats or check in just find the cheapest flight you can as you will probably not use it - it's really just insurance against hitting the school holidays and finding its £300 to get home). You can see the Round Trip vs Single option in the Step 2 screenshot.
It's also often putting some limits on the flights presented at this point to filter out the non-starters - I usually say 'Non-stop only' and reduce the duration to sub 6 hours or whatever seems appropriate for the distance. You can also specify timings in case you need to catch public transport at the other end.
Step 4 : This is where it gets interesting - all you've chosen is a month so now you choose your most convenient airport - in my case Bournemouth. It doesn't fly to many places but god is it easy to get to and through compared to the hours on an overpriced and unreliable train system to get to Gatwick or Heathrow - it sounds crazy but its far easier to fly to an EU hub from BOU than take the train to a UK one.
As soon as you select your airport the map will show you all the destinations from all airlines from that airport in your chosen month (make sure you zoom out to check that it has included all the far away destinations as sometimes it skips the odd one as it has here - Gran Canaria isn't on the initial map).
I've zoomed in on the Canaries as the water temps and sea conditions are ideal for surfing so we get this:
Step 5: So far so good - Gran Canaria for £29 one way (£54 return) in January from Bournemouth and you can go ahead and book it now if you like - but is that the cheapest time to go? Well let's go check the bar graph and find out..
Click on "Las Palmas" on the map and then the left hand column gives you a "View Flights" option
Now an new page appears and you can choose the "Price graph" option
And lo! you can then see all the flights to that destination from your chosen airport for the foreseeable - showing you the frequency and how they are affected by school holiday price hikes etc.
Now the keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed that a trip to Fuerte Ventura steathily became a trip to Gran Canaria. Having just flown back from the former and suffered French Air Traffic Control strikes and GWR train strikes it took over 24 hours to get home (its only a four hour flight!) so that aint great
The solution sounds exotic but its cheaper and faster to fly Bournmeouth to Gran Canaria and then stay airside to pick up a twin prop for the Fuerte hop - again Google Flights has your back. It's a 40 minute trip costing £30 one way making the journey to LGW to fly direct completely pointless.
So - now you know where the right conditions are for what you want to do and how you're going to get there but you aren't out of the woods yet. A lot of package holidays include transport to & from the resort and when you see how the local taxis gouge for airport runs that seems like a good deal but hold your foot up - Trust The Bus!
Buses are often insanely good value - for example a private taxi from Fuerte Ventura Airport to Corralejo is at least €70 one way but the bus is almost as quick, just as comfortable and costs €5.
The best site for planning these small but vital links is Rome2Rio.com - its excellent for local buses, providing details of the bus number, the bay it goes from, the timings and the links to buy tickets (tho its usually possible to pay the driver in cash). In this case it was €1.60 to get to Puerto del Rosario then €3.60 to get to Corralejo - as you get close to your final destination open up Google maps and turn on your location and you can decide when it's best to press the bell by tracking yourself on the map.
How to find good accommodation
Big topic this one as everyone is different so I'm simply going to focus on apartments with kitchens as that I find gives the greatest freedoms.
Like most recent California-bred 'disruptive' startups, AirBnB is doing nothing original. Its ability to capture market share is purely down to its unfettered access to unlimited amounts of borrowed money - there are way more stable and profitable business models out there and the one I have prefereed for over twenty years is VRBO.com. Sure it's been bought out by Homeaway but it still does now what it did then with long term property owners who know how to communicate - you can make contact with the owner before you pay VRBO a penny and that's important. Usually I establish contact via Whatsapp and keep them informed of my arrival. On my last trip I paid direct by bank transfer, all sorted out over text - I only ever met the cleaner.
How to pay for stuff
A quick shout out to Monzo (the free online bank with the Coral coloured cards) as they have connected up with TransferWise recently to make international payments. All you need is the IBAN number from the recipient and its straightforward to use the app and incredibly cheap - £1.27 bank fees for a €300 sterling to Euro transfer at Mastercard rates. Here's a link to find out more.
Club destination reviews, partners and discounts
Here the plan is to broker deals with partners (for example Club members get 20% off a beach side surf lodge in Corralejo which includes a range of boards an expert instruction, I have yet to write that up) so this like everything else on BeachPeople is a work in progress.
To The Beach!