Packages for The Independent Traveler
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 and train companies themselves. Most major airlines offer air/land packages, including Southwest Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/243-8372; www.swavacations.com), 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. Amtrak Vacations (tel. 800/268-7252; www.amtrakvacations.com) offers train packages.
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.
Not many escorted tours are offered in New Mexico. The tour companies I spoke to said most visitors to New Mexico have such disparate interests it's difficult to create packages to please them. Still, a few tour companies can help you arrange a variety of day trips during your visit and can also secure lodging. Tauck World Discovery, 10 Norden Place, Norwalk, CT 06855 (tel. 800/788-7885; www.tauck.com), offers weeklong cultural trips to New Mexico. Destination Southwest, Inc., 20 First Plaza Galeria, Ste. 212, Albuquerque, NM 87102 (tel. 800/999-3109 or 505/766-9068; www.destinationsouthwest.com), offers an escorted tour to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Rojotours & Services, P.O. Box 15744, Santa Fe, NM 87506-5744 (tel. 505/474-8333; www.rojotours.com), can help with a variety of day trips during your visit.
Special Interest Trips
New Mexico is in the process of developing a network of special-interest trips that I'm certain will expand even more in upcoming years.
One excellent operator is Santa Fe Mountain Adventures (tel. 800/965-4010 or 505/988-4000; www.santafemountainadventures.com), which combines outdoor adventures such as hiking and river running with cultural activities such as visits to pueblos or museums, with more relaxing ones such as spa treatments and meditation practices. A collaborative effort in conjunction with Outside magazine, the business is eco-conscious.
Academic Trips $ Language Clssses -- Some of the world's most outstanding photographers convene in Santa Fe at various times during the year for the Santa Fe Workshops, P.O. Box 9916, Santa Fe, NM 87504, at a delightful campus in the hills on the east side of town (tel. 505/983-1400; www.santafeworkshops.com). Most courses are full time, lasting a week. Food and lodging packages are available.
Those who like a scholarly bent to their vacations can hook up with Southwest Seminars (tel. 505/466-2775; www.southwestseminars.org) and their "Travels with a Scholar" program. This organization organizes tours throughout the Southwest, led by museum directors, historians, geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and authors. Southwest Seminars is able to arrange visits to sites that are not open to the general public, such as archaeological sites, petroglyph panels, volcanic calderas, contemporary Indian pueblos, and Native artists' homes and studios. Each Monday at 6pm, they offer a talk given by a regional scholar, well worth checking out.
Adventure & Art Trips -- Bicycle Adventures, P.O. Box 11219, Olympia, WA 98508 (tel. 800/443-6060 or 360/786-0989), offers tours to northern New Mexico. Riders get to experience some of the region's most lovely routes such as the High Road to Taos and the Enchanted Circle. Participants visit major sights such as Santa Fe's Canyon Road and Taos Pueblo and can even opt for a river trip. In business for over 2 decades, this company knows how to put together a good tour.
If you'd like to pursue an artistic adventure, check out the week-long classes in such media as painting, Native American pottery making, and weaving offered by Taos Art School (tel. 505/758-0350; www.taosartschool.org). This organization is especially known for its weaving and horseback-riding creative "odyssey." Open since 1989, the school is a virtual campus in which classes go where they need to be. For instance, a painting class on Georgia O'Keeffe is held in Abiquiu, a Pueblo pottery class at Taos Pueblo, and a class on the churches in New Mexico is held at five different churches in the region. The fees vary from class to class and include lodging and meals.
Great Expectations (tel. 800/663-3364; www.greatexpectations.com) offers an "Opera in Santa Fe" trip, which focuses on more than the opera, but also partakes of this world-class entertainment.
Food & Wine Trips -- Jane Butel Cooking School, 2655 Pan American NE, Ste. F, Albuquerque, NM 87107 (tel. 800/473-8226 or 505/243-2622; www.janebutel.com), offers week-long and weekend packages with a hotel stay and full-participation classes. The weekend classes are held in noted chef and television personality Jane Butel's home kitchen in Corrales, a village along the Rio Grande on the edge of Albuquerque. The week-long classes are in Santa Fe.
Volunteer & Working Trips -- Sierra Club Outings (tel. 415/977-5522; www.sierraclub.org/outings/national/service.asp) organizes working vacations all over the world, with some work to be done in New Mexico. Global Citizens Network offers volunteer vacations to worldwide destinations as well, including, at times, New Mexico. To check their schedule, contact (tel. 800/644-9292; www.globalcitizens.org).
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.