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Sometimes island government tourism offices really get travel specials right. With so many great islands to check out, competition is fierce between Caribbean and Bahamian destinations vying for tourist dollars. Beaches help, but so does price -- in a big way. This year, the return of the "Best of Barbados" program put together by the Barbados Tourism Authority offers incredible savings on airfare, hotels, dining, shopping and rental cars.

In case you don't know, Barbados is the most eastern of the Caribbean islands. The population of Barbados is around 280,000 with English being the island's first language. It's about two and a half times the size of Washington, D.C. If you want to hit Barbados on its Independence Day, book your travel around November 20, and get ready for a party. Rum abounds as sugar cane is the country's chief export. Mount Gay is legendary all over the island.

Heralded by the Barbados Tourism Authority as the "most successful travel promotion in the Caribbean since its launch in July, 2002," the best of Barbados offers a seven-night air/land trip costing approximately $399 per person. To get more information on the program, go to www.visitbarbados.org or call 800/221-9831 and talk to a representative about program details. The program offers many ways to save with the biggest savings going to people who book a trip paying full airfare and receive a free companion roundtrip airline ticket top the island. This isn't one of those big savings to somewhere hot during the hotter summer months, either. Travel for these savings are good from August 20 and December 20, 2005.

The program has many ways to save. First, there is the $250 airfare credit per person with a maximum of two persons per room), a savings of $500 per couple. Then there is a first night free deal when you stay seven nights or longer. You also get daily breakfast or a second night free if you want to pay for the breakfasts yourself. In the rental car department, you get one free day rental car through Drive-A-Matic Car Rental with a minimum three-day rental. In the activities sector, if you purchase an activity ticket to do something fun on the island such as an underwater submarine ride, golf or a visit to the Mount Gay Rum factory, you get 50 percent off the same activity for a friend or companion. Approximately 26 hotels are participating in the program so a wide array of properties from budget to luxury can suit your personal needs. Ask a representative about lodging details.

While the Barbados Tourism Authority advises you to look for specials for the "Best of Barbados at www.travelzoo.com, some websites are already offering the savings associated with the low-priced deals. Jet-A-Way Holidays (tel. 877/289-1030; www.jetawayholidays.com) offers an air/land trip to Barbados starting at $399 per person for eight days and seven nights with accommodations at the swank Allamanda Beach Resort. Travel at this price is out of Miami. Expect to pay $10 more out of New York and D.C.; $80 out of Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia; and $180 from Chicago. Hotel taxes and service charges are included in the price of the package. Air taxes and security fees are not included. The 50-room hotel has a large pool and full-service restaurant. It's located near a duty free shopping center and some of the island's more picturesque beaches.

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