The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare on a Korean Air carrier to Bangkok, a local flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on Thai Airways, 11 nights' accommodations at upscale hotels, airline fuel surcharges, hotel taxes and service charges, full American breakfast buffet daily, a welcome dinner, ground transportation (including airport-hotel transfers), sightseeing tours and the services of a professional English-speaking tour director, from $1,199 per person — plus estimated taxes and fees of $88.
When: Oct. 6, 2009, Apr. 20, 2010; add $50 for Oct. 20, 2009; $100 for Nov. 3, 17, 2009, Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 9, 23, 2010; $300 for Dec. 27, 2009; $600 for July 21, 2009.
Gateways: L.A.; add $100 for New York City; additional gateways are not available.
The fine print: The starting rate reflects $500 in savings. Taxes and fees are about an additional $88 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $199. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: June 23, 2009; prices increase by at least $500 per person after this date.
Contact: SmarTours, 800/337-7773, smartours.com.
Why it's a deal: According to a recent search on Kayak, the lowest multicity fare between L.A. and Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and Bangkok and L.A., is $998 with taxes for travel in October (Korean Airlines/Thai Airways). For an additional $289, SmarTours' Amazing Thailand package covers international and local airfare, as well as 11 nights' accommodations, breakfast daily, a dinner, guided sightseeing, all ground transportation, and all taxes and fees. Plus, you benefit from the knowledge of the company's English-speaking guides — and you save $500 per person off regular tour rates if you book by June 23.
Highlights: Tour Bangkok's Buddhist temples, including Wat Trimitr, known for its five-ton solid-gold statue of the Buddha; Wat Po and its 150-foot-long Reclining Buddha; and the White Marble Temple. Visit the giant bronze statue of Wat Mongkol Borpith and the three ancient pagodas at Wat Phra Sri in the ancient capital, Ayutthaya. See the stone carvings of Phra Prang Sam Yod as well as the Monkey Temple in Lop Buri. Continue north past rice paddies to Phitsanulok, where you'll see the Bronze Case Factory. The following morning brings excursions to Sukhothai and Sri Satchanalai before you arrive in Lampang, a northern fortified city. Stop by a ceramic-making village, then continue to the lakeside town of Phayao, followed by Chiang Saen on the border with Laos, and then hop on a boat to cross the Mekong River toward the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos intersect. Visit Mae Sai on your way to Chiang Rai. Drive to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant camp and an orchid farm. Hop on a one-hour flight back to Bangkok, from where you'll catch your connecting homebound flight. You can find a detailed day-by-day itinerary here.
Lodging: Four nights at the Century Park Hotel in Bangkok. One night each at the Topland Hotel in Convention Centre in Phitsanulok and the Wiang Lakorn Hotel in Lampang. Two nights at the Phowadol Resort and Spa in Chiang Rai. Three nights at the Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel in downtown Chiang Mai.
More: You can choose from a variety of optional excursions and activities, such as a canal boat ride ($30 per person) or a tour of the Grand Palace ($35 per person) in Bangkok; a boat trip down the Mae Kok River to explore local hill tribe villages in Chiang Rai ($35 per person); or a Khantoke dinner of local specialties accompanied by a performance of songs and dances by a hill tribe dressed in traditional costumes in Chiang Mai ($25 per person). A few other excursions are available. You can tack on a side trip to the beaches of Phuket (an additional $500 per person) or to the temple complex of Angkor Wat (an additional $600 per person). Visit smartours.com for more information about these tour extensions.
Before you go: For information about the area, visit the official Web site of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. U.S. citizens must bring a passport but do not need a visa if staying less than 30 days. Thailand has seen a rise in political instability over the past several months, with (mostly peaceful) political demonstrations; traffic through the Bangkok airport was brought to a halt in late 2008. Check the State Department's Thailand page for the latest travel updates.