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Top five bargain destinations for spring 2006

Spring is one of the best seasons for bargain leisure travel. Often, travelers are so busy gearing up for summer holidays that they completely overlook the good prices and pleasant weather of spring. But those with the flexibility and foresight to vacation in the coming months will find an abundance of good prices to great destinations.

We’ve been monitoring travel trends, industry news, and sale patterns to bring you the destinations with the best bargain value this season. While we offer examples of deals presently available for spring trips, we do so to illustrate the trend of cheap travel to these destinations. Our examples, like all deals, are sure to expire; but we’ve given you suggestions on where to look, so a little research on your part can yield similar results when you’re ready to book.

Our top five picks for spring travel are Whistler, Canada; a European cruise; Philadelphia; Hawaii; and Italy.

Whistler, Canada

Whistler may be a 2010 winter Olympics site and a chic destination for skiing and relaxing, but it isn’t generally thought of as an affordable destination. However, with a ski season that can stretch into June, spring prices that are notably lower than winter rates, and seasonal airfare deals, Whistler is British Columbia’s bargain secret this season. And, unlike many ski areas elsewhere, Whistler is within two hours’ drive of a major city, Vancouver, which means that it’s a faster and easier trip than most. Plus, Canada continues to offer good overall value to Americans, who will save about 10 percent with the exchange rate and can receive a tax refund on hotel stays and select other purchases.

Alaska Airlines currently has a kids-fly-free offer to Vancouver from all mainland cities served by the airline. The promotion runs through April 23, and is valid for one child per paying adult. A similar offer is available from Harmony Airways between Toronto and Vancouver. Spring sales to Canada will most likely continue to crop up into April or May.

Late season brings discounted lift tickets as well, which will be offered as of April 2; and on April 24, spring rates lower the daily adult lift ticket price to $46 per day, a big drop from the $73 mid-season price. Canadian and Washington state residents can buy Edge cards that offer discounts on lift tickets and other perks.

Package rates at both Whistler Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler can lower the price on bundled lift tickets and accommodations. For instance, we found midweek getaways from $89 per person per night that include both accommodations and lift tickets. And, five-night late season accommodations and lift-tickets packages are $367 per person from April 2 to 23. The Whistler Blackcomb website also offers a Hotwire-style Hidden Treasures hotel service, where visitors can book lower rates at unnamed-until-purchase hotels based on star ratings.

For the latest advice and current reviews of sales, visit the British Columbia guide.

European cruise

With a dollar that is still weaker against the euro than American travelers would prefer, European cruises offer an easy way for travelers to cover their accommodations and transportation expenses in dollars while visiting some of Europe’s most beautiful coastal cities. Spring sailings offer better prices than summer cruises, and this spring in particular, there’s been a glut of discounts on Europe sailings for May and early June.

A new and improved [% 284685 | | Celebrity Century %] will emerge from drydock on May 30 and will offer a few sailings at the tail end of spring before heading into the higher prices and busier waters of summer. New, cheap, and novel Easy Cruise moves into the Mediterranean on May 13th, and will be offering cruises in the French and Italian Riviera with prices that start around $125 per cabin (sleeps two), per night. Geared towards younger travelers, cruises stay in each port until 4 a.m. to allow guests to spend as much time on land as possible.

At press time, Royal Caribbean’s Hot Deals included two spring Europe cruises, including a six-night Lisbon to Venice cruise from $599. On the luxury end, [% 304263 | | Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn, and Regent %] cruise lines are all running specials such as discounts of up to 50 percent or free airfare.


Philadelphia has a lot going for it as a bargain destination. It’s well-served by low-cost airlines, including AirTran, Frontier, and Southwest. For many East Coasters, it’s even within driving distance. The city has been steadily coming into its own as a tourist destination in the last few years, and was even recently called a “next great city” in National Geographic Traveler magazine. And this spring, visitors can take advantage of special rates in honor of Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday.

Recently, American, AirTran, and Southwest were running domestic sales for flights through late spring. Though all of these particular sales had expired by press time, it’s likely that they will be replaced by similar offers for spring flights.

Through April 30, the Ben’s Birthday hotel package combines accommodations with tickets to the Benjamin Franklin exhibit at the National Constitution Center, a book of festival coupons, and free parking or other perks. The package is available at 35 hotels in and around Philadelphia. Each month throughout 2006, Franklin events, exhibitions, and tours will be offered—some events are free, while others have discounted rates for children, students, or seniors. Restaurants, bars, and shops are getting in on the celebration with discounts and Franklin-themed items, including Ben-tinis and $17.06 prix fixe lunches.

For the latest advice and current reviews of sales, visit the Philadelphia guide.


The American Society of Travel Agents has named Hawaii a top ten “best value” destination for 2006. However, some speculate that as Hawaii reaches tourist capacity, prices may rise, so it might not remain a top value destination in years to come. This spring, sales across the board mean that Hawaii lives up to the best value title, at least for now.

At press time, [% 297267 | | Hawaiian Airlines %] had special fares starting at $298 roundtrip for spring trips. [% 294053 | | ATA %] was offering flights in April, May, and June from $378. United Vacations was adding $125 tour and activity credits to select spring vacation packages booked before March 3. Pleasant Holidays was giving away [% 11988 | | iPod shuffles %] with Hawaii air and hotel packages. And, Castle Resorts and Hotels was running a promotion with [% 296377 | | $69 per night %] rates, more than 50 percent off rack rates in some cases. As spring approaches, offers on airfare, packages, and accommodations should continue to surface.

For the latest advice and current reviews of sales, visit the Hawaii guide.


With this year’s Olympics in Turin, winter in Italy will be a major draw. But after the games are over, and before tourism peaks again for summer, there will be a brief period of pleasant weather, smaller crowds, and less expensive airfare and accommodations. Air and hotel packages and spring airfare sales are already cropping up for destinations all over Italy.

1-800-Fly-Europe has spring fares such as [% 292427 | | $489 %] from Chicago to Rome for flights from April 1 through May 31, though tickets must be booked by the end of February. [% 304318 | | Delta %] is also having a spring sale that includes Italy destination cities. And, US Airways has announced new daily service between Philadelphia and Milan starting at the end of May.

Though there are sales on flights, the best bargains to Italy this season may come in a package. For instance, at press time, was offering a Venice, Verona, and Milan package that included airfare, train service between the cities, two nights’ accommodations in each destination, and daily breakfast for $773 from New York or $884 from Seattle. GoToday was also offering packages such as a four-night Rome air, hotel, and breakfast package from $399 when booked before February 16. GoToday often extends package booking dates with minor price alterations. TourCrafters also had some noteworthy packages to the Amalfi Coast and elsewhere for very early spring, and might very well extend such offers.

For the latest advice and current reviews of sales, visit the Italy guide.

While the specific offers listed above may expire, we selected these destinations for the likelihood of continued good bargains on travel throughout spring. Whether you choose one of these top picks or another, keep in mind that by traveling in spring, you can avoid the chill of winter and the high prices and large crowds of summer.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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