The only drawback of this week's Smart Deal to South America is the fact that the rate is not available during Carnival Season, which runs February 1-10. Nevertheless, Latin Destinations (tel. 866/645-2846; www.latindestinations.com) is offering a great customizable deal it's calling Samba Tango Experience in Argentina and Brazil, for eight nights/nine days from $1,365, valid for travel anytime. The lowest published price reflects April departures -- that's off-season -- from New York City and Miami, but departures from Chicago are available from $1,565, Los Angeles from $1,619 and Houston from $1,865. The price includes international roundtrip airfare, any domestic flights necessary, eight nights' accommodations in three different destinations, daily breakfast (in most hotels) and hotel taxes. Prices are based on double occupancy, midweek departures and do not include air taxes, which can add up to $275.
As planned, the trip includes three nights in festive Rio de Janeiro (land of the samba, and arguably, bossa nova), two in beautiful Iguazu Falls and three in Buenos Aires (that'd be the land of the tango). However, what distinguishes this deal is the fact that it's highly customizable; you can alter the number of nights you spend in each place and create your own itinerary. Also, when you book it will show you hotels with a combination of two, three and four-star ratings and you can search and book them accordingly, and add on transfers and sightseeing tours. A quick search through the system for a mid-March, mid-week departure set me up with an itinerary that included a two, four, and three-star hotel, so variety keeps things interesting and it keeps the price moderate.