The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, eight nights' accommodations, and intercity airfare from $2,429 per person—plus taxes of about $80.
When: Daily departures through Mar. 31, 2008.
Gateways: L.A., San Francisco; add $210 from Boise, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Seattle; $320 from Houston, San Antonio; $415 from Boston, Bradley, Chicago, Minneapolis; $440 from Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, and Raleigh.
The fine print: Breakfast daily, hotel taxes, fuel surcharges (totaling about $260), airfare within the Philippines, two half-day guided sightseeing tours, a full-day excursion to Bohol with lunch and round-trip ferry, airport transfers by private car and shuttle, the services of an English-speaking tour guide, and protection through the USTOA $1 million Travelers Assistance program are included. Airport taxes are an additional $80 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $580 for travel on Jan. 11-31, Feb. 16-29, Mar. 1-14; and $680 for travel on Dec. 13-Jan. 10, Feb. 1-15, Mar. 15-31. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Orient Flexi-Pax Tours, 800/545-5540, orientflexipax.com.
Why it's a deal: In comparison, according to a recent Kayak search, the lowest multi-city fare (L.A.-Manila, Cebu-L.A.) is $1,067 in mid-January (multiple carriers) and $1,014 in early March (Philippine Air). Consider that for an additional $1,362-$1,415, or about $170-$177 per day, the Orient Flexi-Pax package covers round-trip international airfare as well as a flight within the Philippines, all transfers, eight nights' accommodations, breakfast, guided tours and excursions, travel insurance, and most taxes and fees. Consider, too, that this package falls during the most pleasant time of year to visit the Philippines—winter and early spring, when it's not quite as humid or rainy as in the rest of the year.
Trip details: The Philippines Island Hopping package includes round-trip airfare to the Philippines on Singapore Airlines, arriving in the capital, Manila, and departing from Cebu. Your eight-night stay will be divided between Manila, the island of Boracay, and Cebu.
When you arrive in Manila, a private car and an English-speaking guide will escort you to your hotel, the Dusit Nikko, for a two-night stay. The 548-room hotel is in Makati, the city's business, shopping, and entertainment district. You'll take a half-day tour of Manila by private car, with stops including Rizal Park and Fort Santiago, a medieval fortress in the Spanish-colonial walled district of Intramuros. You'll also visit 16th-century San Agustin church, one of the two oldest churches in the Philippines, drive through Ayala Avenue in Makati, and explore American Memorial Park.
Next, you'll fly to Caticlan on Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific, then take a 10-minute ferry (included in the package) to Boracay, where you'll stay three nights at the 36-room Seawind Resort on the island's main beach. The included Manila-Caticlan flight is about an hour long, depending on the airline.
Then you'll take another hour-long local flight to Cebu for a three-night stay at the 153-room Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort. You'll enjoy a half-day tour of Cebu by car. Among the highlights are a trip to Magellan's Cross, site of the first celebration of the Mass in 1521; the Basilica del Santo Nino, which houses the image of the Holy Child Jesus, venerated by the Cebuanos as their patron saint; and Fort San Pedro, the oldest in the Philippines. You'll also stop at a Taoist temple to light joss sticks and have your fortune read.
While in Cebu, you'll take a day trip to Bohol by ferry to check out historical landmarks, such as the 16th-century Baclayon Church, and the Chocolate Hills. The grass-covered cone-shaped formations turn brown in March, resembling miles of oversize Hershey's Kisses. You'll break for lunch by taking a cruise aboard a floating restaurant on the Loboc River, and you'll likely spot the smallest primate in the world, the Philippine tarsier.
The Philippines are hot and humid year-round with temperatures highs in the upper 80s Fahrenheit. January is the coolest month of the year, with an average temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the best times for a visit. Not only is the heat less oppressive then, but January through April is also the dry season. Before you go, check the weather forecast.