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A Potpourri of Fares to Beaches, Mountains and Green Fields

February 9, 2004 -- There's no rhyme or reason to the fares we've found this Monday; rather, we're hoping there's a little something for everyone. There are sales from Chicago to Seattle and Ireland, a cheap fare from San Francisco to New Zealand, and a great string of fares to Central America.

Taca's Tremendous Central American Sale

Looking for an exotic trip where you don't have to fly too far? The Central American airline TACA (www.taca.com) is offering a slew of excellent fares for February trips to Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama City (Panama, not Florida.)

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The most amazing fare is Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica for $178 plus tax and yes, it's bookable. Other tasty fares we see:

  • Miami-Panama City: $211
  • Boston-San Jose, CR: $259
  • New Orleans-Panama City: $313
  • Los Angeles-Belize: $356
  • Dallas-Panama City: $360
  • Houston-Panama City: $364

To get these fares, book online at www.taca.com/promo/?key=160&leng=eng by Feb. 13 for outbound flights by the end of February, returning by March 14. You must stay over a Saturday night, and you can't stay longer than two weeks.

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February is smack in the middle of high season in Central America, so make sure you can get hotel reservations before locking down your fare. We have an extensive guide to Costa Rica and a limited one to Belize online at www.frommers.com/destinations/central&southamerica. (Our online coverage of Belize will be remedied soon with the upcoming release of Frommer's Belize, 1st Edition later this year.)

Rolling Hills and Mountains, Via Chicago

Advance planners who live in the Windy City (or who are heading there from Seattle) have two excellent fares to choose from right now.

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Early birds looking forward to a May or fall vacation should jump on Aer Lingus' (www.aerlingus.com) new fare from O'Hare to Shannon, in the west of Ireland. Their rate for travel in May, September and October is $398 roundtrip plus tax, an excellent fare. (Their fare of $498 for flights between June 1-20 isn't too bad, either.) If you're willing to plan that far ahead, book through Feb. 18 on Aer Lingus' Web site. From the site's front page, click on the blue "From the US" box, and then the green "Promotions" box.

Aer Lingus' nonstop flight will run Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing Chicago at 6 PM and arriving in Shannon the next day at 7 AM. On the way back, the flight departs Shannon at 1 PM and arrives in Chicago at 3 PM.

Meanwhile, Alaska Air is starting new Chicago-Seattle service with two flights a day and a $158 plus tax fare. That's an excellent fare, especially given that it doesn't require a Saturday-night stay. If you want to get the $158 rate, you must fly between April 26 and May 26 and buy your ticket three weeks in advance at www.alaskaair.com/www2/Promo/NewService/SeaOrd.asp. Since this is a promotional introductory fare rather than a sale, we think it'll hang around for a few weeks while you firm up your travel plans.

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Fly to New Zealand on a 747 For $747

Air New Zealand is starting new nonstop flights from San Francisco to Auckland, and the introductory fares there are quite tasty: $747 plus tax roundtrip for flights between June 30 and Nov. 27, during New Zealand's winter.

The flight will last 12 hours and head out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. To get this fare, book by Feb. 16 at www.airnz.com.

If you want to get there sooner, the best shorter-term deal to New Zealand right now is Qantas' $848 fare from LA to Auckland, good for flights on Feb. 18, 22, 25, 27 & 29 and from March 1-May 31. You must stay at least three days and no longer than a month, and you must buy by the end of March at (www.qantasusa.com/webDeals/141).

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