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Spring break? What about winter break? How about a spring break package for a Christmas present? Talk about seasonal confusion! As with most things in life, prior preparation prevents major disappointments, which runs counter to the m.o. of most college students I encounter, who are prone to procrastinate. We've rounded up some of the bets deals we could find at this early stage.

At STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040; www.statravel.com), there are a slew of packages. They're running a London trip for six nights from $149 for St. Christopher's Hostel, with plenty of opportunities for add-ons such as a London Pass ($134) and a Heathrow Express transfer ($25). It's expressly an accommodations-only deal. Or opt for the "Hip and trendy" choice for six nights at Westminster Hotel from $511. Similarly, they're offering Amsterdam for six nights from $170 for the Bulldog Hostel, or six nights at the Trianon Hotel from $567.

STA is also running a bevy of specials for more traditional beach experiences. Seven nights in Cancun start from $569 depending on departure city (Miami is the lowest price), with over 50 hours of open bar, seven free dinners if you book by November 1 and an optional VIP party package. Seven nights in Jamaica also start at $569 (again, based on Miami departure) for either Negril or Montego Bay. Again, there are party packages available with over 20 hours of free drinks, seven free dinners if you book by N November 1 and an optional VIP party package.

For an "alternative" spring break, including volunteer travels STA has partnered with I-to-I (tel. 877/311-8959; www.onlinetefl.com/stavolunteering) for a couple of trips to Guatemala to work in a zoo or conservation work in Lake Atitlan, and home building and animal/ecology conservation opportunities in Honduras. They're priced from $895 -- a $100 discount off the regular price. The minimum placement for the volcanic Lake Atitlan project, for example, is one week, and the price includes accommodations in a home with a private bedroom, fundraising advice and support, and you'll always have access to the company's emergency support team 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contiki (tel. 866/CONTIKI; www.contiki.com) offers travel for 18-35 year-olds, an age bracket that engages the older perhaps graduate student. Their "Check out London" trip offers a few different types of accommodations, three days from $255. Contiki's Egypt and the Nile tour might be more appealing if you're in search of a really far-flung affair. The trip makes its only March departure on the 10, returning on March 19; the land-only price is $1,185; airfare inclusive is $2,134. On their website, they're promising discounts if you book early for trips between April 1, 2006, and March 30, 2007, but you must call for details.

On their specials page, there are numerous discounts currently available. Their Great Britain trip is advertised at ten days from $1,099 -- a land-only price. The March 7, 2006, departure is priced at $1,439, air inclusive. The trip takes you on a whirlwind through London, Oxford, Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, Glasgow and Liverpool. Contiki is also running a "funky four" discount of 5 percent if you book four or more people for the same trip and a "super seven" discount of 7.5 percent if you book seven or more people simultaneously for the same trip.

Students with their sights set on Europe should take note of Bus About (tel. + 44/207-950-1661; info@busabout.co.uk; www.busabout.com), which is designed for backpackers and independent travelers interested in the twelve countries and 36 destinations included in their network. The company allows for some autonomy -- you determine your start and finish dates and you can change your plans as you go -- as you plan your trip to say, Munich, Venice, Budapest, London, or Barcelona. If you want to keep things loose but you have a general idea of where you're going to go, the flexiplass might be a good idea. You can use the network map and get dropped off and picked up by bus at designated spots and your valuables are safely stored in the coach. Or if you have a short amount of time but want to jam-pack your trip, try the unlimited pass. Prices vary in length from two weeks to six months. Their current pricing (for 2005) pins the unlimited two week pass at $419 for t hose under 26; the eight-day flexipass (the smallest you can purchase) is $469 for same age group. You also have some flexibility in accommodations, and can opt for budget-conscious hostels to two and three star hotels for an upgrade in price. The company creates a handful of guided trips -- Morocco, Italy, and the islands of Greece and Croatia were 2005 destinations -- or you can design your own tour. Many of their scheduled tours do not begin until late spring, well past spring break, and the 2006 schedule and price sheet is not posted yet. The best part of Bus About is that there is no age restriction, although an adult must accompany travelers who are under 18.

Student Universe (tel. 800/272-9676; www.studentuniverse.com) is a great resource for student-specific airfares. They're offering a sale on round-trip New York to London fare for $197. You must purchase tickets up to four days in advance and the last travel departure date is December 15. Chicago to Toronto is on sale for $150 round-trip, but there are some blackout dates, such as December 22, 23, and 26. You must stay a Saturday night, and travel between Monday-Thursday. Paris, the City of Light, is on sale from $259 round-trip from New York City. Caveats include a Saturday night stay, four-day advance purchase, and travel through Monday-Wednesday. The last departure date is December 15. Taxes and fees are not included.

Make plans with fellow travelers on our Student Message Boards today.