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A Mariachi Band of Savings: Many Mexican Combos Through April

January 26, 2003 -- With the holidays well behind everyone, now is the time to consider a winter break, and prices are still moderate enough to mean you can forget about tight budgeting, even if all that gift buying seems excessive in retrospect. Tour operators are trying to help you make up your mind to travel to Mexico, for instance, one of many fortunate lands with an abundance of sunshine and tropical beauty. Here are deals from just two, to whet your appetite:

Pleasant Holidays, one of our favorites, is offering free nights at the Avalon Bacarra Cancun through April 26. You get a fourth night free when you book a seven-night holiday, and your package then also includes daily breakfasts and two family-style dinners during your stay. Prices for the air-inclusive package start at $1,165 per person from Los Angeles, which Pleasant says is a savings of $242 per couple. The package includes the airfare (on ATA departing Saturdays), lodging, airport transfers, all hotel taxes and surcharges, and on-site assistance from Pleasant reps. The Avalon Baccara is a beachfront boutique hotel in the heart of Cancun, with an oasis pool deck, swim-up bar, beach bar & grill, and two restaurants.

Through April 2, the company is featuring discounted room rates at the Hotel Dorado Pacifico in Ixtapa with oceanview rooms and a nightly food & beverage credit of $15 per room. Prices for the four-night, land-only package start at just $287 per person, including the lodging, roundtrip airport transfers, all hotel taxes and surcharges. The hotel is on the beach, naturally.

Over in Cozumel, you get the sixth and seventh night free through April 5, if you book a seven-night minimum stay at the El Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel. Snorkelers and scuba divers love the clear waters of Cozumel, and should adore seven-night, land-only packages starting at just $366 per person, which Pleasant says is a savings of $273 per room. The price includes the room, roundtrip airport transfers, all hotel taxes and surcharges, and on-site assistance from a Pleasant rep. The hotel, classified as a luxury property by the Mexican government, is on its own 720 oceanfront acres just seven miles from the airport. All rooms have private balconies with ocean views, private baths, satellite TV, refrigerators and air-conditioning.

There are equally attractive packages at the Karmina Palace in Manzanillo (five nights, land-only, from $707) and at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort & Spa in Los Cabos (four nights, land-only, from $577), as well as in other sunny spots. All price are per person based on two people traveling and staying together. Pleasant Holidays can be reached at 800/448-3333 or at

Super "little" ATA Airlines, through its ATA Vacations affiliate, is offering a $100 savings per couple discount on its Mexican vacations (Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo) if you book by January 30; travel is valid through March 12, then again April 12-May 23 (for Cancun properties only). This is valid at properties owned by Occidental Hotels & Resorts, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, the El Dorado Royale, El Dorado resort or the Sol Melia Group

The vacations include roundtrip, nonstop airfare, hotel, airport/hotel transfers, hotel taxes, and 24-hour assistance from an ATA rep. Vacations at the Gran Melia in Cancun, for instance, start at $564 for three nights out of Chicago (Midway) and $859 for seven nights out of Indianapolis. All-inclusive vacations (meals, beverages and activities) at the Caribbean Village Cancun start at $689 for three nights from Chicago and $1,149 from Indianapolis for seven nights.

These prices are per person based on double occupancy and are valid for Monday departures from Chicago January 26 through March 1, and Wednesday departures from Indianapolis January 21 through 28 and again from March 3 through March 1o. Prices don't include airport taxes and fees. For more information or to book, visit ATA Vacations at or phone 800/442-8952.