The real deal: Round-trip airfare, 10 nights' accommodations, car rental, some meals, and game drives at wildlife reserves, from $2,599 per person—plus taxes and fees of about $278.
When: May 21-31, 2008; add $100 for Aug. 20-31; $300 for May 1-20; $800 for April 1-30, June 1-Aug. 19; $900 for Sept. 1-30.
Gateways: Baltimore, D.C., New York City; add $50 for Atlanta, Boston, Hartford; $100 for Detroit, Miami, West Palm Beach; $275 for L.A., San Francisco, Seattle.
The fine print: Hotel taxes, fuel surcharges, breakfast daily, three lunches, three dinners, an 11-day car rental, car insurance, and six guided tours of a game reserve are included. Airport taxes and fees are an additional $185 per person. Additional one-time car rental surcharges of $93 for delivery fee, contract fee, and one-way drop-off fee are payable directly to Hertz. Adding another driver to the contract costs an additional $16 per rental. Based on double occupancy; single supplement starts at $999. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit South Africa, but their passports must have two blank (unstamped) pages in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back or risk deportation and fines, according to the U.S. State Department. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Foreign Independent Tours, 800/248-3487, fittours.com.
Why it's a deal: A recent search on Kayak for this package's multi-city itinerary for May 21-31 yielded lowest round-trip airfares of $1,481 for Baltimore and D.C. (multiple carriers) and $1,500 for New York City (South African Airways) (prices include airport taxes and fees). For an additional $1,284 to $1,350 per person, FIT includes the airfare as well as 10 nights' accommodations, the car rental and insurance, several meals, the trips to a game reserve, taxes, and fees—and the added convenience of having the details planned for you.
Trip details: The South Africa Sampler package begins with your arrival in Cape Town on South African Airways. The travel time is about 20-24 hours, with layovers in Dakar and Johannesburg. A FIT representative will meet you at the airport to go over your itinerary and travel route, including points of interest along the way, and to help pick up your Hertz car rental.
It's a short drive to the Hotel Cape Manor in Cape Town where you'll spend three nights. This 119-room four-star hotel in the Sea Point district overlooks the ocean and is within walking distance of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. At the Cape Manor's Promenade Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, simple and wholesome meals are paired with South African wines from the surrounding regions.
While in Cape Town, you might consider visiting the Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope, nearby Table Mountain, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other political dissidents were imprisoned during apartheid.
The next stop on your journey is the village of Franschhoek, approximately 45 minutes outside Cape Town, in the Cape wine region. Make the most of your one-night stay at the Protea Hotel Franschhoek, a 30-room property with a restaurant and swimming pool. The original settlers of the town in the 1680s were French Huguenots, and one section of the hotel dates back to the 1880s.
From Franschhoek it's on to Oudtshoorn, the capital of the Klein Karoo region. On your way to the Thorntree Country House, where you'll spend the night, you'll pass the Cango Caves and Swartberg Pass. Be sure to visit one of the area's numerous ostrich farms, such as the Cango Ostrich Farm.
Continue along the Garden Route through the Outeniqua Pass to the resort town of Knysna. Spectacular views of the coast are sure to keep you enthralled, and don't miss a visit to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. You'll spend two nights at Cuningham's Island Guest House, located along the beach on Knysna's Leisure Island.
It's a three-hour drive from Knysna to the Amakhala Game Reserve and the final days of your journey. Settle in for two nights at the Woodbury Lodge, which consists of five private lodges overlooking a cliff. Each day begins and ends with a drive through the game reserve to witness elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras and other majestic animals in their natural habitat. All meals are included while you're at the Woodbury Lodge.
Finally, you'll drive to Port Elizabeth for a flight back to the U.S. via Johannesburg. The compact car has manual transmission; an upgrade to an automatic costs $129. The package includes unlimited mileage and airport surcharges. Additional fees apply in the event of an accident, theft, or a fine resulting from a traffic ticket.
If you'd like to extend your stay in South Africa, extra nights average around $145 per night, depending on the hotel and the day of the week. For more information on what to see and do visit South Africa's official tourism Web site.
This package is cheapest for travel in May, the start of winter in South Africa, although daytime temperatures in Cape Town average in the 60s throughout the winter season. Before you go, check the latest weather forecast, the exchange rate, and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.