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Hot and Cold Christmas Deals

The Deal Detective is’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.

As promised, here’s part two of my Christmas travel series. I wish you all happy holidays and safe and affordable travels this season.

Russell_Nash_1986 writes, “My wife and I would love to travel to Europe over Christmas. Flying out of New York, what’s the cheapest European country we can reach, and do you have any activity suggestions for a moderately active couple in their late 40s?”

Europe on the cheap may seem like an oxymoron these days, especially this close to Christmas, but I wouldn’t be your trusty Deal Detective if I couldn’t make your difficult travel dreams a reality. So, wake up to the wonderful world of Iceland!

Right now, Icelandair is offering affordable sales on flights from New York City starting at $399 (without taxes and fees) to Reykjavik.

For some ideas about what you might want to do after you land, I recommend ordering Icelandair’s Holidays 2008 brochure. Here you will find a plethora of activities for the adventuresome or the adventureless. Iceland’s natural, pristine landscape is nearly unmatched, and you can experience it by taking one of the many tours that highlight its beauty, including whale watching, a glacier ice walk, Hot Springs swimming, and visiting a geyser. And there are plenty of green activities for the environmentalist in each of us.

Finding a place to stay in Iceland couldn’t be easier or more affordable. Hotels in the city start at just about £33 (about $50 U.S.; check for current exchange rates) per night on, and most include full breakfast. You can also choose to stay in a B&B, an inn, a hotel, or in the heart of a glacier.

If you’re worried about the planning time crunch, you can always make things easy and book a vacation package like the Christmas Advent(ure) in Iceland. This package includes round-trip airfare from Boston, three nights in a deluxe room, transfers, a visit to the Blue Lagoon, private guided tour of Reykjavik, and entrance to “Let’s Talk Christmas” skit starting at $699 per person for travel through December 15.

Kathy writes, “We have two children in college and Christmas is the only time of year that they’ll have several weeks off at the same time. We’d like to go somewhere warm and we like taking fairly active and educational vacations. It’s kind of late in the game but we’d like some ideas on where we should go. Thanks!”

I can’t imagine a better place for an active group in search of warm weather and adventure to spend the holidays than Costa Rica. The country offers a wide range of activities, including river rafting, zip-lining, rainforest hikes, scuba diving, and relaxing on the beach. Plus, you can learn a great deal about the history, culture, and sustainability of the land.

Flights can be expensive, but flexibility with your travel dates stretches the dollar quite a bit. I priced tickets from Miami to San Jose on Lacsa Airlines departing December 22 and returning December 31 at $274 per person, including taxes and fees. You may miss New Year’s, but you can save a bundle.

Once you arrive, your choices of things to do are endless. A vacation package with a company like Cost Rican Vacations might be the best way to learn about the land without having to plan every detail. The Costa Rica Classic Vacation starts at $1,250 per person for seven nights, and includes hotel, transportation (including a flight to Tamarindo), a rainforest tour, and a river float. If this price seems a bit steep, you can always plan your own adventure and save by booking only the elements that are most important to you.

A little research will go along way if you plan your own trip. Since Costa Rica is so diverse and the landscape changes from province to province, you’ll need to decide what kind of activities your family may want to do. For instance, you can explore the history of San Jose, learn all about coffee on a working farm, glide through the rainforest on an aerial tram, or take a walk in the clouds.

I wish you the best of luck in your planning. If other readers have tips or stories about Iceland or Costa Rica, please let us know by adding a comment below.

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