The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.
Prices to most everywhere hit rock bottom in the period just before and just after the mad rush of the holiday travel season. It's an ideal time to vacation; you not only get the best rates of the year, but you'll also be able to enjoy even the most popular of tourist destinations in relative peace, without the crowds that usually jam these places.
Here's a quick round up of what I consider to be this season's best deals. Please note that all of these prices are based on double occupancy and may not represent the best options for solo travelers. One further note; rates are based on travel from New York City, but may be higher or lower from other gateways. Simply go to the sites indicated to search--there are dozens of price combinations available.
Though it was recently ranked the most expensive city in the world, by booking a package (a travel product that bundles airfare with hotel) it is possible to keep your vacation in the realm of the reasonable. Currently, there are two smashing offers for London from a pair of fierce competitors. If you're in the market for a longer stay, Virgin Vacations (www.virgin-vacations.com), which is affiliated with Virgin Atlantic Airlines, is offering six-night stays with airfare from just $399 (plus tax and fuel surcharge) for travel through Dec. 14 and again from Jan. 6-Mar. 24. Nipping at its heels is British Airways (www.britishairways.com), which is giving away two nights' free hotel when you book a round-trip to London (which starts at just $298 from New York City). Again, taxes and surcharges will be extra, but these remain extraordinary deals. Crunch the numbers and see which oneÂ¿s best for you, but move quickly: the British Airways deal is set to expire on Dec. 1.
If you'd prefer a stay on the Continent, Paris is on sale from Â¿ber-discounter Go Today (www.gotoday.com). Just $449 (plus taxes and surcharges) buys airfare from the US and a full six nightsÂ¿ hotel accommodation (now through Dec. 14 and Jan. 6-Mar. 24). While your digs won't be luxurious, they'll be clean, with a private bathroom and a nearby metro station.
Onto the Tropics!
I spent the Thanksgiving before this one at the Sunscape Casa del Mar Resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic, so I can vouch for this next deal. It's a lovely resort, right on a quiet white sand beach with unusually good food. Here, just $769 pays for seven nights' accommodations and air from New York, and because this is an all-inclusive package, that price also covers your food (there are four restaurants on site), all the watered-down drinks you can stomach (go with the bottled beer!) and activities. The activities, by the way, are superb: morning horseback riding on the beach, dance lessons, nightly shows, and a full-blown kids club that I couldn't peel my five-year-old daughter away from. The seller in this case is Vacation Travel Mart (www.vacmart.com).
Viva Las Vegas
With the most hotel rooms in the nation (it actually accounts for a full 3 percent of all that we have) there are always deals to Las Vegas, and now is no exception. The best I found was a $365 package at cushy Treasure Island, home to one of the kitschiest free shows on the Strip in which pirates battle lightly-clad Sirens. That price not only covers your room but also airfare from New York and itÂ¿s good through early January from Liberty Travel (www.libertytravel.com). The rate is just $283 from Los Angeles.
When the kids are in school, the Mouse is lonely, which may explain the terrific deal I found from a little company called Leisure Link (www.eleisurelink.com). It's offering Orlando for just $343 for airfare from New York or Boston, a rental car, and five nightsÂ¿ hotel. Though the deals are a bit difficult to find on their site, it is doable. You may want to call the company directly, or search the site under "Orlando".
You journey to Beijing and then spend a full 11-nights on an escorted tour, exploring every nook and cranny of Shanghai, Souzhou, Qufu and other fascinating cities. The all-inclusive price of $999 (from San Francisco, $1249 New York) covers airfare and hotels, but all tours, all meals and transportation within this vast nation. The mastermind behind this one is China Focus (www.chinafocustravel.com).
And for adventure travel aficionados: Costa Rica. A low $799 will buy an escorted rainforest adventure including air from the US, five nightsÂ¿ hotel (three in San Jose, two in a jungle lodge), a whitewater rafting trip, an aerial tram rainforest tour, a nature hike, an English-language lecture on butterflies, all transportation, all breakfasts, three lunches and two dinners. Whew! It's one of the most remarkable deals I've ever come across and its from a small Latin America specialist called Traveland (www.traveland.com).