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Seven great tax-rebate trips

Torrey Pines State Reserve is located within San Diego city limits and yet remains one of the wildest stretches of land on our Southern California coast. Get round-trip tickets from Denver to San Diego on  from $159 in early June.
Torrey Pines State Reserve is located within San Diego city limits and yet remains one of the wildest stretches of land on our Southern California coast. Get round-trip tickets from Denver to San Diego on from $159 in early June. San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau
/ Source: ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL

In May, the Internal Revenue Service begins mailing out tax rebates of up to $600 per person to help Americans weather the current economic slump. We can't think of a better way to take advantage of the extra cash—and grease the U.S. economy—than to spend it on a summer getaway. We've priced out seven possible tax-rebate trips, some for couples and others for families of four.

The itineraries are based on the assumption that couples will receive $1,200, plus $300 for each qualifying child (so $1,800 for a family of four). But we've factored in plenty of wriggle room for those who don't end up getting the maximum amount—and there are cheaper hotels and restaurants you can choose, if you don't want to blow the whole rebate.

Read the fine print on the rebate at and estimate how much you'll receive with the IRS's .

For two

New York City to D.C., 3 nights

Getting there: The new low-fare bus company offers one-way fares between the Big Apple and D.C. for as low as $1.50, including fees—if you get lucky and book weeks in advance. But even average one-way fares are reasonable: $7.50-$20.50, with last minute prices topping out at $22.50.

Where to stay: Three nights at the , a hip boutique hotel on Capitol Hill, comes to $787, for a King Deluxe Room with a plasma TV and leopard-print bathrobes. A weekday wine hour in the lobby, a complimentary daily shoeshine, and in-room spa services (for an additional fee) are added perks.

Something extra: With the money you save on transportation, you'll have plenty left over to splurge on a romantic dinner. , a James Beard Award winner, is one of D.C.'s ritziest restaurants. The "Dinner à la Carte" three-course prix fixe menu starts at $95 per person; choose from main courses like veal with steak and sweetbreads or lamb in a white bean and jalapeño sauce.

Freebie: Watch the cute pandas play on the Asia Trail at the , which charges no admission. Tip: Take the 's Red Line to the Cleveland Park stop; it's actually closer to the National Zoo entrance than the Woodley Park-Zoo stop, and getting out there will save you an uphill walk.

Total: $983 ($491.50 per person)
4x$1.50 (2 round-trip tickets) + $787 (hotel) + 2x$95 (dinner) = $983

Milwaukee to Chicago, 3 nights

Getting there: Like BoltBus, offers low-fare bus service: One-way fares between Milwaukee and Chicago start at $1.50 but will most likely fall between $3.50 and $5.50 (last minute fares run as high as $12.50). Megabus has routes all across the Midwest and a few in the Northeast and the West—the Milwaukee-Chicago leg is among the cheapest.

Where to stay: Treat yourself to the , which earned a designation for preserving its landmark beaux arts architecture and two-story, gold-tinged lobby. Pause on your way in to admire the ceiling's opulent scenes from Greek mythology. The hotel, which has more than 1,600 rooms, is right by Millennium Park and the theater district and costs $758 for a three-night stay.

Something extra: The Chicago Architecture Foundation's two-hour —one of 85 led by experts—includes interior and exterior views of the Richard J. Daley Center and 1 South Dearborn tower ($15). Make a post-tour stop at , an independent store specializing in books on architecture and design, where you can read while perched on Le Corbusier and Stanley Tigerman furniture.

Freebie: The Chicago Gospel Music Festival, held in May, is one of many free events held in downtown's , whose grounds include art installations and a garden. Download a self-guided audio tour .

Total: $794 ($397 per person)
4x$1.50 (2 round-trip tickets) + $758 (hotel) +2x$15 (architecture tour) = $794

Denver to San Diego, 3 nights

Getting there: Round-trip tickets from Denver to San Diego on are $159 (including taxes and fees) in early June. Fares go up later in the month and stay high throughout the summer, but it's possible to find some special Web-only rates for as low as $219 in July and August.

Where to stay: The is a good bet for mod, earth-toned accommodations in the swinging Gaslamp Quarter. Three nights will set you back $557 midweek ($647 Thursday-Sunday). If you prefer to stay on the waterfront—and within walking distance of SeaWorld—try the 10-acre on Mission Bay for $638 midweek ($750 Thursday-Sunday).

Something sxtra: The lowest price for a four-day economy-size car rental on Kayak is $75 (Advantage Rent-a-Car). Use your wheels to explore San Diego's , all of which are free to the public. Watch seals and surfers on the beaches of La Jolla or take a dip at Coronado Municipal Beach. It's right by the iconic , which has hosted European royalty and U.S. presidents and formed the backdrop of Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot".

Freebie: The has two locations—one on a cliff in La Jolla with breathtaking ocean views, and another in downtown San Diego. Both offer free admission on Thursdays, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., with free tours at 6 p.m. (Members and those ages 25 and under get in free anytime.)

Total: $950 ($475 per person)
2x$159 (airfare) + $557 (midweek hotel) + $75 (car rental) = $950

Boston to Bar Harbor, 4 nights

Getting there: The five-hour, 280-mile drive from Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine, will cost about $67 in gas for the round trip in a late model midsize car, according to AAA's .

Where to stay: The at Bar Harbor's covers all the romantic-getaway basics. You'll get four nights' accommodations, wine and cheese nightly, fresh flowers in your room, breakfast daily, and three or four activities of your choice. Options include tickets to the Acadia Repertory Theatre, one-day bike rentals, and dinner for two at a local restaurant. The package starts at $702 (including taxes) for May 25-June 21 and at $877 for June 22-October 25. You can browse similar deals throughout the U.S. on .

Something extra: In surrounding , you'll find opportunities for hikes, picnics, scenic drives, and horse-drawn-carriage rides. A seven-day entry pass costs $10 per car May 1-June 22, and $20 June 23-early October.

Freebie: The , a microbrewery run by a husband-and-wife team, has daily tastings of its stouts and ales from mid-May to October.

Total: $779 ($389.50 per person)
$67 (gas) + $702 (hotel) + $10 (Acadia park pass) = $779

For families of four

Detroit to Orlando, 4 nights

Getting there: A search on Kayak found a round-trip fare from Detroit to Orlando in early June of $129 (Northwest), including taxes and fees.

Where to stay: A family of four can stay four nights at the strategically located on International Drive—opposite Wet 'n Wild Water Park and with free scheduled transportation to Universal Orlando and SeaWorld—for $382 in late June. Weekend rates may be higher, and the base rate goes up slightly in July.

Something extra: If you book online at least two days in advance, a two-park, unlimited seven-day pass to costs $86. (In comparison, a two-park pass for just one day costs $90 when purchased at the gate). The stops at all the major attractions and hotels along International Drive, including the Best Western MovieLand, so you won't need to rent a car. A single ride is $1, or you can buy a three-day pass for $5. Kids under 12 ride free when accompanied by a paying adult.

Freebie: The March of the Peabody Ducks at the , also on International Drive, takes place twice daily. Watch as the hotel's resident waterfowl traipse along the red carpet on their way to and from the lobby fountain.

Total: $1,252 ($313 per person)
4x$129 (airfare) + $382 (hotel) + 4x$86 (4 park passes) + 2x$5 (three-day adult trolley passes) = $1,252

L.A. to Seattle, 4 nights

Getting there: Round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Seattle in early June are $179 (Virgin American or American), and a five-day economy-size car rental is $85 (Enterprise), according to searches on Kayak.

Where to stay: At the 116-room in the suburb of Renton, about 11 miles from downtown Seattle, four nights for a family of four costs $382, with breakfast daily included. If you'd rather ditch the rental car, consider the , a short walk from and the . Four nights are $620 if you book through the Convention and Visitors Bureau's . The site is useful for browsing hotels by neighborhood and price ranage (but the price for budget hotels like the GuestHouse will likely be the same as what you'd find on the hotel's Web site).

Something extra: Rent two double kayaks from the on Portage Bay, about a 15-minute drive from downtown. You can fuel up with fish tacos at the café and then paddle in the direction of your choice: toward houseboats or views of the city skyline, or off to Foster Island and the . Rates start at $18 an hour for a double kayak.

Freebie: The nine-acre opened in 2007 as an outpost of the , about a mile to the northwest. A Z-shaped path snakes through the park from an exhibition pavilion down to Elliott Bay. Works like the geometric forms of Beverly Pepper and Mark di Suvero's sculptures in motion are scattered throughout.

Total: $1,219 ($304.75 per person)
4x$179 (airfare) + $85 (car rental) + $382 (hotel) + 2x$18 (kayak rentals) = $1,219

Houston to New Orleans, 5 nights

Getting there: It's a five-and-a-half hour drive (348 miles) from Houston to the Big Easy. According to AAA's , a late model station wagon will need about $100 worth of gas for the round-trip journey.

Where to stay: Local have teamed up to offer the . Each participating property will donate $50 per night's stay to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and will also give guests a list of local volunteer opportunities. The package rate comes to $913 for five nights ($159 per night) for a family of four at the New Orleans Marriott in the French Quarter, which includes breakfast for two adults. Breakfast for kids under 12 is an additional $6 per day at the hotel's restaurant, and valet parking is $30 per night.

Something extra: Kids and parents alike will dig , an artists' workshop and museum of memorable Mardi Gras floats. Tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for kids aged 4-11.

Freebie: Hourlong tours through the French Quarter into Jackson Square depart twice daily from the French Quarter Visitor Center and are led by rangers from .

Total: $1,217 ($304.25 per person)
$100 (gas) + $913 (hotel) + 5x$30 (parking) + 2x$17 (2 adult tickets to Mardi Gras World) + 2x$10 (2 kids tickets) = $1,217