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Here's a Fast Stab at Choosing the Five Best Bargain Vacations for the Immediate Months Ahead. Have We Missed Any?

      Although their prices may vary from month to month, five packaged holidays remain so uniformly cheap in all months as to provide the basis for an impulse vacation--a sudden decision to take advantage of an eye-opening bargain.  Here are our choice of five vacation opportunities that cause you to suddenly go on vacation:

(1)  Mediterranean cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.  It's no secret that business has been slow (and cabins easily available) for Mediterranean cruises this year, not because the experience isn't appreciated, but because the cost of flying from the U.S. to various Mediterranean ports is greater than it was last year.  But even when you have to pay $1,500-or-so for a round-trip ticket to Barcelona, Venice or Rome (from which most ships leave), the cost of the cruise itself can be so low as to make the total expense a definite bargain for an all-inclusive two-week vacation in fall and winter.  And throughout the year, these two bargain-priced lines sailing the Mediterranean in every month--Norwegian Cruiseline  and MSC --charge as little as $80 a night per person for an 11-night or 12-night sailing on dates well scattered throughout each month.  While their ships aren't as spiffy in appearance, cuisine or service as the premium lines, these two popularly-priced companies provide a thoroughly enjoyable cruise in fall/winter, stopping in all the classic, colorful ports of the historic Mediterranean.  Go to the websites of VacationsToGo.com or CruisesOnly.com for a list of departures and prices.

(2)  Wilson Wu's Beijing, for as little as $888, including air:  An unchallenged bargain is this remarkable price for a one-week stay in China's capital, offered by a flamboyant entrepreneur in Asian travel, Wilson Wu, through his company called ChinaSpree.com.  For departures in the coming winter, he has astonished the travel world by reducing the price to Beijing to $888 for round-trip air from San Francisco, airport transfers, sx nights with full buffet breakfast daily at a first class Beijing hotel, escorted sightseeing, and other features, all during November, December, January and February.  Yet even in the month of March, 2014, when rates to Beijing begin to rise, he continues to charge a still-attractive $938 and $988 for his air-and-land package.  While Mr. Wu hasn't yet announced the charge for spring, summer and fall of 2014, you can be sure his price will remain a remarkable value, almost always less than you would pay for airfare alone to Beijing from San Francisco.

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(3)  An escorted, 10-night tour of Costa Rica in most months, for $995 to $1,095 per person, depending on date of departure.  For a guided tour to this popular location, you can't do better than with Caravan Tours (www.caravan.com, phone 800/caravan).  Throughout the year, this long-established firm will take you by escorted motorcoach on a 10-night tour of every important sight of Costa Rica, including quality accommodations, all three meals daily, and daily escorted sightseeing, for the prices cited above.  But airfare to Costa Rica, which you book yourself, is not included.  Nevertheless, this is among the top bargains in today's travel world.   

(4)  Bargain-priced stays in Las Vegas, scheduled for September through December.  The summer months and the month of December are the low season in Las Vegas, when hotel stays are at their cheapest.  But though business picks up in September-through-November, it does not reach anywhere near the levels of January-through-March.  On midweek stays throughout the autumn months, many major Las Vegas hotels charge as little as $34, $40 and $45 a night per room from Sunday through Thursday, and though you'll have to add a ubiquitous "resort fee" of around $20 per room per night, the cost of visiting America's Sin City at that time is refreshingly low.  Consult a long-established website, LasVegasAdvisor.com, for the latest bargains.  Except when a major convention is in town (and you should always consult the convention charts), Las Vegas can be a major, year-around bargain. 

(5)  Fly/Drive Tours to Ireland, bringing you round-trip air to Dublin and a car with unlimited mileage, for $799 and less.  To a European nation whose economic woes are matched only by Greece, tour operators have vied with one another to invent ever-more-attractive air-and-land packages.  They bring you travel there on Aer Lingus from several U.S. cities, and supply a car with unlimited mileage for a week, all for $799 per person and less.  Though not every tour operator offers such a package throughout the year, at least one of the following three companies will always be charging that price for the dates in which you're interested:  BMIT.com (standing for Brian Moore International), Go-Today.com, and SceptreTours.com.  Consult all three. 

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