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updated 5/20/2005 8:16:06 PM ET 2005-05-21T00:16:06

You know what they say about taxes – it's one of only two things in life you can be sure of. But for many, tax time isn’t nearly as dismal as the other certainty in life – in fact, millions of Americans who overpaid the federal government last year will receive a tax refund this spring.

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The Associated Press reported that the average tax refund (as of early March) was nearly $2,500 this year. With that in mind, we’ve come up with five great destinations where travelers can blow that extra cash.

COROLLA, NORTH CAROLINA
The northernmost town in the Outer Banks, Corolla is a haven for travelers seeking miles of unspoiled beaches, quaint villages and plenty of water sports and wildlife. Although the last 10 years have changed Corolla from a sleepy seaside village to a summer destination teeming with visitors and traffic, the shoulder season in the Outer Banks still provides a peaceful retreat for those seeking refuge from busy lives. Wild ponies, historic lighthouses, oceanfront mansions and remote four-wheel-drive beaches are all part of the scenery in Corolla.

Most of the homes in Corolla have one thing in common: They’re huge, and perfect for large or multiple families. Rentals on or very close to the ocean typically have seven or more bedrooms and an equal number of bathrooms along with a pool and a hot tub. These rentals will fetch upwards of $5,000 per week in the summer months but are often less than half that price in April and May. Take, for example, a rental home called "Voyage" in the Whalehead Beach section of Corolla: a seven-bedroom, five-bathroom, third-row home with ocean views, a pool and hot tub costs nearly $4,500 per week in the summer months. But now through the end of May, the house is available for as little as $1,095 and at maximum $1,795 depending on the week. Want to be right on the ocean? You can be –- "Wish You Were Here," an eight-bedroom oceanfront with similar amenities -- ranges from $2,195 to $2,795 this spring.

Read what our members have to say about the Outer Banks.

BALI, INDONESIA
It's official -- Bali is back. After suffering a massive blow to the tourism industry following the October 2002 nightclub bombing in Kuta, Bali tourism is on the upswing. Prices for lodging and food are extremely low by western standards and visitors to the “land of a thousand temples” will be rejuvenated by the lush greenery, the beautiful beaches and most of all the gentle Balinese people. The opportunities for adventure are endless – whether you want to hike a volcano, ride an elephant or white-water raft through the rainforest. If soaking up the spirituality of Bali is more your speed, you’ll find it in ornate temples, lush green rice terraces and emotionally moving sunsets.

A trip for two to Bali is within your budget – now through June 5, Asian Affair Holidays (a division of Singapore Airlines) has a five-night vacation package that includes round-trip airfare from New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles on award-winning Singapore Airlines, hotel accommodations, breakfast daily and a full-day tour for just $1,120 per person from the West Coast and $1,240 from New York. Add on the estimated $138 in taxes and fees, and you’ve got yourself a trip of a lifetime just barely covered by your tax refund. The United States government does advise against travel to Bali; read and understand all travel warnings before you book your trip.

Read what our members have to say about Bali.

CHATHAM, MASSACHUSETTS
If you’re one of those people who just can’t get enough of New England, you’d be hard-pressed to find a town more charming than Chatham, Massachusetts. Located on the “elbow” of Cape Cod, Chatham boasts not only beautiful beaches, but also a village center lined with white clapboard shops, a main street bursting with shopping, restaurants and a laid-back vibe that disappears between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If whale watching sounds appealing, the spring is usually a great time to see the humpbacks feeding off the shores of the Cape. The spring is also the perfect time to explore the Cape by bicycle via the Cape Cod Rail Trail – a 22-mile paved trail that winds through several towns and past some of the Cape’s best beaches.

For the best Chatham has to offer, the Chatham Bars Inn is second to none. The Inn is located on 25 landscaped acres overlooking Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and has been named among the world’s best resorts. Through May 26, deluxe room rates range from $200 - $250. The same room in the summer months costs up to $430 per night. If you’re looking for something less pricey, there are plenty of quaint hotels and inns in Chatham with reduced rates in the off-season.

Read what our members have to say about Cape Cod.

AUSTIN, TEXAS
Even if you’ve only a mild interest in music, Austin will get your toes tapping in no time. The city that bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” is defined by its ever-growing and diversifying music scene and known worldwide for its homegrown talent. On any given night, you’ll have over 100 choices of live music acts to pick from. Besides music, Austin offers a dizzying array of activity for visitors with a laid-back vibe – thanks in no small part to the large student population of the University of Texas at Austin. Many of the city's cultural attractions – museums, theater companies and dance troupes – are found on the UT campus. And come hungry – Austin has some of the best barbecue and Tex-Mex in the world.

The capital of Texas enjoys temperate weather year-round, so there is really no bad time to visit Austin. Austin is served by several major airlines and a few of the discounters -- Southwest offers fares from as little as $39 with a 14-day advance purchase and PlacestoStay.com lists hotel rooms in downtown Austin for as low as $38 per night.

Read what our members have to say about Austin.

DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA
Situated between Savannah and Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie Island is the ultimate for getting away from it all. Accessible only by ferry via Hilton Head, the island’s pristine tranquility is a haven for those seeking solitude. The tiny island boasts two championship golf courses, a world-class spa, tennis, horseback riding and fishing as the main activities. The beaches are vast and unspoiled – you likely will not see another soul as you walk its length. You can explore the island’s trails and wildlife by renting a golf cart or by bicycle – no cars allowed.

There is only one hotel on the island, the pet-friendly Daufuskie Island Resort and Breathe Spa, recently named a “Best Island Hotel” by the Travel Channel. We found single rooms in May for as little as $189 per night. There are also vacation rentals available, but they are few and need to be arranged through local realtors. If you are a guest of the resort, your water transfers are complimentary; otherwise you’ll pay $38 for a round-trip ride.

Related Links:
Vacation Rentals
Bargain Box
Passports & International Travel
State Department Advisories
Message Boards: Bali Driver
New England Message Boards

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at
www.independenttraveler.com, or at www.bargainbox.com.

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