EARLY in the year, the dates that fill up least quickly are March departures, with the exception of spring break.
Tour operators frequently use those dates as promotional lower-priced lead-ins in advertising to motivate people to start booking their winter packages.
No such motivation is needed today as last-minute flights are gobbled up by those wanting to end winter and those who recognize a good deal when they see one.
But readers' questions are seldom confined to the current travel season, as this week's inquiries prove.
QUESTION: As a frequent traveller, I often worry about the hotels I stay in with regards to cleanliness.
Sometimes the lack of proper housekeeping is obvious but things like bedbugs, improperly washed glasses or other even worse items (like unwashed bedding) are not that easy to identify.
How can one know for certain they are walking into a genuinely clean and disinfected room?
ANSWER: As a frequent traveller myself, there is no harm in asking about the housekeeping procedures of the property or chain.
In a chain, the procedures are most often the same from property to property so go with the one that you find is the best and is proven out by your continued loyalty and inspection.
However, a new product was recently introduced that may really be a boon to travellers of all kinds.
Branded as the Hotel Inspector, the product is a small flashlight-looking unit that is able to detect stains and other matter the naked eye cannot see.
Hotel Inspector has built-in ultraviolet light technology that will spot urine, feces, vomit and even semen on sheets, towels and other surfaces such as carpeting.
I have yet to see this product since its recent introduction but it is a small unit that can fit in a purse or computer case and is light enough to be stored for every trip in your suitcase or carry-on.
Apparently, the technology works because many of these biologically undesirable materials appear under the light as different colour glows depending upon what it is.
For example urine, saliva and semen show up as a chartreuse or bright yellow while bloodstains will appear as nearly black.
Whether it is in rooms on a cruise ship, resort property or business hotel, the product is likely to be one that, according to the inventor, responsible owners and managers will use for their own inspections.
QUESTION: In a recent column, you extolled the virtues of visiting Croatia.
We are thinking of going there this summer and exploring this region of the world we have never seen. Is it an expensive destination to visit?
ANSWER: Up until now I would suggest it has been a moderately priced vacation destination.
Two things have recently occurred that could affect pricing, one that could drive prices up, the other that could stabilize them.
Croatia has been admitted into the EU and that alone is forecasted to motivate significant increases in bookings to this nation.
However, the balancing point may come with the Croatian announcement of a 15 per cent sales tax cut on tourist services, which only came into effect at the start of this year.
With more than a thousand islands to visit and a couple of the most outstanding urban destinations in the world, the government is feeling very bullish about its tourist future.
Some suggest they can compete with places like Spain, Portugal and Turkey for available tourist dollars. I was surprised to find Croatia could compete as a sunshine state with over 2,700 hours per year reflecting warm memories on the people who chose to visit there.
QUESTION: When we travel we often take advantage of tax rebates offered by the various countries we are in.
Is it correct that Canada, which to me is a highly taxed country to start with, does not offer these rebates to foreign visitors?
ANSWER: The entire tax approach to tourism by our federal and provincial governments have been a thorn in the side of tourism marketing professionals in Canada for a very long time.
We are the only G8 country with a value-added tax that does not offer a whole or partial rebate to those who chose to visit here and spend money on the products they purchase here to take back home with them.
Federal public policy in the area has been particularly atrocious with what the industry describes as consistent and often expanding excessive taxes, fees and levies.
Recent surveys have shown the image of Canada is very positive and we are a country whose people visitors are really happy to interact with.
In a recent presentation by the Economic Club of Canada, it said uncompetitive travel and tourism policies are one of Canada's top barriers to competitiveness for 2013.
They point out as well we are not meeting marketing needs with international marketing investments. They insist they are just not competitive enough to achieve the desired conversion results we require to sustain the growth we are capable of achieving.
Unfortunately, even with all the work that was put into the report, like others in the past, it will sit like a broken record heard too many times that the governments just don't want to listen to.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.