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. 800/221-6666; 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, Site59, and Lastminute.com -- also do a brisk business in packages. Among the airline packagers, Iberia Airlines (tel. 800/772-4642, or 90-240-05-00 in Spain; www.iberia.com) leads the way.

Solar Tours (tel. 800/388-7652; www.solartours.com) is a wholesaler that offers a number of package tours to Seville, as well as to major beach resorts. Self-drive packages through Andalusia and other areas are also featured. Spanish Heritage Tours (tel. 800/456-5050; www.shtours.com) is known for searching for low-cost airfare deals to Spain. Homeric Tours (tel. 800/223-5570 or 212/753-1100; www.homerictours.com), the marketing arm of Iberia, is the most reliable tour operator and the agency used for air and land packages to some of Spain's highlights. Several fly/drive packages are also offered.

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

* For escorted tours only, request a complete schedule; ask about the size and demographics of the group; and discuss what is included in the price (transportation, meals, tips, airport transfers, and such).

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

Escorted General-Interest Tours

Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader. The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.

There are many escorted tour companies to choose from, each offering transportation to and within Spain, prearranged hotel space, and such extras as bilingual tour guides and lectures. Many of these tours to Spain include excursions to Morocco or Portugal.

Some of the most expensive and luxurious tours are run by Abercrombie & Kent International (tel. 800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com), including deluxe 9- to 12-day tours of the Iberian Peninsula by train. Guests stay in fine hotels, ranging from a late medieval palace to the exquisite Alfonso XIII in Seville.

American Express Vacations tel. 800/297-2977; www.americanexpress.com) is one of the biggest tour operators in the world. Its offerings are comprehensive, and unescorted customized package tours are available, too.

Trafalgar Tours (tel. 800/854-0103; www.trafalgartours.com) is cheaper, offering a number of tours of Spain. One of the most popular offerings is a 16-day trip called "the Best of Spain." This land-only package is $2,499.

Alternative Travel Group Ltd. (tel. 01865/315-678; www.atg-oxford.co.uk) is a British firm that organizes walking and cycling vacations, plus wine tours in Spain, Italy, and France. Tours explore the scenic countryside and medieval towns of each country.

Petrabax Tours (tel. 800/634-1188; www.petrabax.com) attracts those who prefer to see Spain by bus, although fly/drive packages are also offered, featuring stays in paradores (inns). A number of city packages are available as well, plus an 8-day trip that tries to capture the essence of Spain, with stops ranging from Madrid to Granada.

Isramworld (tel. 800/223-7460; www.isram.com) sells both escorted and package tours to Spain. It can book you on bus tours as well as land and air packages. Its grandest offering is "Spanish Splendor," with a private driver and guides. Naturally, only Spain's best hotels are used by this upmarket outfitter.

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.