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Package tours are simply a way to buy the airfare, accommodations, and other elements of your trip (such as car rentals, airport transfers, and sometimes even activities) at the same time and often at discounted prices.

One good source of package deals is the airlines themselves. Most major airlines offer air/land packages, including American Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/321-2121; www.aavacations.com), Delta Vacations (tel. 800/654-6559; www.deltavacations.com), Continental Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/301-3800; www.covacations.com), and United Vacations (tel. 888/854-3899; www.unitedvacations.com). Several big online travel agencies -- Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Lastminute.com -- also do a brisk business in packages.

Gray Line of Seattle (tel. 800/426-7532 or 206/624-5077; www.graylineofseattle.com) offers 3- to 7-day bus and cruise tours that include Seattle, Mount Rainier, and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Prices range from about $235 for a 3-day trip to $1,170 for a 7-day trip.

If you prefer traveling on your own, but would like to have a custom itinerary planned for your trip to Washington or the Northwest, consider consulting Pacific Northwest Journeys (tel. 800/935-9730 or 206/935-9730; www.pnwjourneys.com), which tailors trips to suit your personal traveling style.

Travel packages are also listed in the travel section of your local Sunday newspaper. Or check ads in the national travel magazines such as Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, and Conde Nast Traveler.

Ask Before You Go

Before you invest in a package deal or an escorted tour:

  • Always ask about the cancellation policy. Can you get your money back? Is there a deposit required?

  • Ask about the accommodations choices and prices for each. Then look up the hotels' reviews in a Frommer's guide and check their rates online for your specific dates of travel. Also find out what types of rooms are offered.

  • Request a complete schedule. (Escorted tours only)

  • Ask about the size and demographics of the group. (Escorted tours only)

  • Discuss what is included in the price -- transportation, meals, tips, airport transfers, and so on. (Escorted tours only)

  • Finally, look for hidden expenses. Ask whether airport departure fees and taxes, for example, are included in the total cost -- they rarely are.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.