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40 best bargain vacations

November, December, and January
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

While Christmas and New Year’s are pricey vacation periods, the rest of December and January feature bargain basement pricing for the traveler. February is similarly inexpensive, except to the tropics where peak pricing is in effect. But even to the popular Caribbean, there are deals to be found, and as always, we surveyed the entire travel industry to come up with this comprehensive list of the 40 best bargains in travel to everywhere from all corners of the United States. Enjoy!


North America rail pass: $495 a month of unlimited rides on u.s. and Canadian trains

Grab a window seat and keep on chugging for 30 days with this rail pass good in the States and up north. Where can you go? For starters: Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Mobile, St. Louis, , San Diego, , Atlanta, , and Montreal. The two caveats are that you’ve got to ride in both the U.S. and Canada sometime in your travels, and one segment in either country has to be booked when you purchase the pass. Other than that, you can make reservations on the fly. Hit the tracks now till Dec. 31 for $495 (students with a valid Student Advantage/ISIC card, children under 19, and seniors 60 and over pay 10 percent less, or $445.50). Info: Amtrak, 800/872-7245, .

Colorado: Ski the Rockies, with air, four nights’ lodging, and lifts for $639

Powder to the people! The mix of old mining town, tons of new shops and condos, and a sweet spread of varied slopes (nearly 150 of ‘em) makes Summit County’s Breckenridge a no-brainer for ski holidays. Along with four nights at the handsome Sawmill Creek Condominiums (one block from Main Street, 350 yards to the lifts), this package comes with a three-day lift ticket and United Airlines flights, running $639 from Dallas; $649 from Houston, , or L.A.; $664 from Chicago; $729 from Washington, D.C.; $739 from Atlanta or Boston; and $769 from New York. Rates are based on four people sharing a two-bedroom condo now to Feb. 9; expect higher prices around the holidays. Transfers aren’t included, so you’ll need to pay for a shuttle from the airport or rent a car in Denver. Extra nights $79. Info: United Vacations, 800/328-6877, .

Washington, D.C.: A Capital city deal, with airfare and three nights’ hotel for $314

Take in memorials, museums, monuments, and the Mall, plus hopping neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Georgetown, which overflow with restaurants, bars, and shops. A three-night package with lodging just a short walk from Dupont Circle at the Radisson Barceló Hotel Washington, plus Southwest Airlines flights, is available at prices such as $314 from Long Island/Islip, Hartford, or Cleveland; $404 from Kansas City; and $444 from Houston. The best rates are based on Wednesday or Saturday departures until Dec. 24 (some blackouts apply). Extra nights from $85; single supplement about $230. Info: Southwest Airlines Vacations, 800/423-5683, .

San Francisco: Foggy fun over four nights in the bay area, with air from $234

InsertArt(2037897)Because of the Bay Area’s marine climate, the weather in summer, autumn, and early winter hardly differs. Average temperatures in July and November are about the same (low to mid-60s), so a sweater is required no matter what the season. But in terms of crowds and expense (or lack thereof), fall is a fine time for San Fran. Spend four nights at the tastefully decorated Carlton Hotel—built in 1928 and near both Union Square and the California Street cable car line—with complimentary coffee, tea, and newspapers. This package is priced at $234 from Las Vegas, $309 from Phoenix, $430 from Denver, and $449 from New York (JFK). Rates are based on either Monday or Tuesday departures in November and December (some dates blacked out). Extra nights from $56; single supplement $141. Info: America West Vacations, 800/942-8564, .

South Dakota: Three nights, four dead presidents, air, and car rental from $365

South Dakota’s Black Hills are flooded with camera-toting road-trippers in the summer. Autumn and winter can be chilly, but things are slower, less crowded, and, all in all, better for appreciating two of the U.S.’s most impressive man-made monuments—Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. A three-night visit, with airfare and a choice of decent hotels and motels around the state, runs $365 from Minneapolis, $386 from Kansas City, and $398 from Chicago, to name a few examples. Included in the package price is a three-day Avis car rental, admission to the as-yet-unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial, and a two-for-one breakfast at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Extra nights $25; single supplement $153. Info: Black Hills Central Reservations, 888/636-0643, .

: Your kind of town, $362 for three nights, airfare included

The midwestern metropolis of skyscrapers, Lake Michigan, blues clubs, and da Bears is yours for three nights. Bed down near the Magnificent Mile’s world-class shopping at the three-star Raphael Hotel. With ATA flights into Midway from throughout the South and Midwest, the tab comes to $362 for Saturday-night departures now through Dec. 13. If two nights will do, packages start at $287 for Monday departures, $333 for Saturday departures. No extra nights; single supplement $182. Info: OffPeakTraveler, ; Internet bookings only.

: Three nights living large on the strip, with airfare for $124

The Westward Ho ain’t the swankiest digs in town, but it’s completely adequate, and on the famed Strip—near the Stratosphere Tower, and a short, glittery walk away from hipper hotels. The Ho is your home for three nights with this package, available with Southwest Airlines flights for rates such as $124 from L.A., Phoenix, or San Diego; $174 from El Paso; and $224 from Chicago. Rates are valid through January, with Wednesday and Saturday departures resulting in the best prices. Blackouts for holidays apply. Add or subtract nights for about $20; single supplement $55. Info: Southwest Airlines Vacations, 800/423-5683, .

Hawaii: A full week on Oahu to shake your grass skirt from $449

Bookended by perennial postcard favorite Diamond Head on one side and Pearl Harbor on the other, the Honolulu-Waikiki area has been putting smiles on suntanned visitors for more than half a century. Seven nights spent a block from Waikiki Beach at the high-rise Ocean Resort Hotel go for just $449, with airfare from Oakland and round-trip airport transfers. That price is based on Tuesday departures from now until mid-December and on select dates in January. No extra nights; single supplement $150. Info: SunTrips, 800/786-8747, .

Orlando: Airfare, car rental, and five nights on Disney’s doorstep for $343

It’s easy to spend gobs of green on amusement park tickets in Orlando, so saving a bit on lodging and transportation makes a heckuva lot of sense. A package combining five nights at the Howard Johnson Express or Sleep Inn Maingate, airfare from New York or Chicago, and a five-day car rental can be had for $343. Both motels are within a few miles of Disney and include complimentary continental breakfast and shuttles to the parks. The deal is valid until Dec. 15, and again in January after the holidays. Extra nights $18; single supplement $79. Info: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, .

Vancouver: BC’s big city, with airfare and three nights’ hotel from $222

When the Olympic Committee recently named Vancouver host of the 2010 Winter Games, it reinforced what many people already knew: This cosmopolitan coastal town, with staggeringly beautiful mountains nearby, is ready for the spotlight. See what all the hype is about over three nights in the city’s tallest hotel, the Empire Landmark, as well as airfare and transfers, for $222 from San Francisco, $315 from L.A., $497 from Denver, and $515 from Newark. Valid until November 30; prices rise slightly in December and January (some dates around holidays may be sold out). Extra nights $23; single supplement $106. Info: Alaska Airlines Vacations, 800/468-2248, .

Puerto Rico: A week in the sun and sand of Puerto Rico, with airfare from $644

How does this grab you? Spend less than $100 a night to escape the bitter winds of the New York area for the tropical breezes of Puerto Rico. That’s the deal being offered from November 1 to Jan. 30 (except Dec. 13 to Jan. 7). You’ll get airfare from Newark and seven nights at Parador Perichis, on the southwestern coast of the island, just outside a fishing village called Cabo Rojo. The hotel has 58 air-conditioned rooms, each with a private balcony overlooking the beach, a pool, and an award-winning restaurant that serves the freshest seafood in the area. A 30-minute transfer from Aguadilla Airport costs an additional $20 to $30 each way, or a rental car can be arranged for the week. Extra nights from $35; single supplement $206. Info: Caradonna Caribbean Tours, 800/328-2288, .


Bahamas: Air and four nights at a big resort in the Bahamas for $279

Spread out and relax all you want at the sprawling 1,000-acre, 845-room Royal Oasis Golf Resort & Casino, featuring two golf courses, a spa, and a huge pool area. With airfare and transfers included, four-night prices start at $279 from Fort Lauderdale, $449 from Raleigh-Durham, $459 from Cincinnati, and $469 from Cleveland. Rates are valid through Jan. 4, with some dates blacked out (most notably around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s). Add $140 to $230 for seven-night packages; the single supplement is about $150. Info: Grand Bahama Vacations, 800/545-1300, .

Spring break in fall: airfare and five nights on the beach for $379

There’s nothing historical or cultural about Mexico’s most popular resort, but that doesn’t seem to bother most visitors—Cancún’s sun-scorched beaches and tequila-filled, booty-shaking nightclubs keep them plenty happy. (If you’re sick of partying, amazing Mayan ruins such as Cobá and Tulúm aren’t too far away.) Plop down oceanfront for five nights at the Hotel Carisa y Palma, with a pool, tennis courts, and a gym, priced at $379 with airfare from Miami, $385 from Raleigh-Durham, $446 from Boston or New York, and $459 from Baltimore. These rates are in effect November 1 to 20, Dec. 5 to 12, and Jan. 6 to 31. Extra nights from $25; single supplement from $75. Info: Vacation Travel Mart, 800/288-1435, .

Jamaica: Six jammin’ nights in Ocho Rios, including airfare for $399

With three pools, in-room kitchenettes, complimentary breakfast, and beach shuttles, a studio apartment in Ocho Rios’s Columbus Heights makes a good home base for a week’s exploration of Jamaica. Through Dec. 14, six-night prices are $399 from Miami, $454 from Chicago, $460 from New York or Philadelphia, $487 from Baltimore, and $554 from Los Angeles. For travel Jan. 10 to 30, add about $105; the holiday period is largely blacked out. Extra nights from $35; single supplement from $30. Info: Atlas Vacations, 800/634-1057, .

:A steamy Pacific resort for seven nights, with airfare for $369

There are 26 miles of beaches along Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, so finding a few square feet of sand to call your own shouldn’t be difficult. Pulling off this seven-night escape should be pretty easy, too: $369 is the cost for airfare and a week’s lodging at the three-star Hotel Rosita, right on the beach at the start of the popular Malecón (boardwalk). Rates include airport transfers and flights from Oakland or Denver until mid-December; add $10 in January. No extra nights; single supplement about $225. Info: SunTrips, 800/786-8747, .

Playa Del Carmen


A week at a five-star resort on Mexico’s Mayan riviera for $857

Check out a brand-spanking-new, top-of-the-line resort with all of the all-inclusive amenities you’d expect: three meals a day, drinks, activities, entertainment, and a wide selection of pools, restaurants, and bars. Officially opening on October 31, the five-star Reef Coco Beach is located a short walk from the once-sleepy village of Playa del Carmen, 30 miles south of Cancún, and a quick ferry ride from the island of Cozumel. And it’s yours for seven nights, with prices such as $857 from Newark, $864 from Houston, $889 from Miami or Chicago, and $949 from Los Angeles, valid from November 1 to Dec. 13. For departures Jan. 5 to 23, add $262. Extra nights $69; single supplement $263. Info: Caradonna Caribbean Tours, 800/328-2288, .

Dominican Republic: Five fat nights of luxury beachside in Punta Cana for $513

Just about everything is covered, including all drinks and three meals a day; entertainment, nonmotorized sports, and activities; and five nights’ lounging at the 447-room LTI Beach Resort in Punta Cana. The hotel sits right on one of the prettiest stretches of white sand in the Dominican Republic, Bávaro Beach. Rates are $513 with flights from Miami, $591 from New York or Philadelphia, and $638 from Boston as a few examples, valid until Dec. 18 and from Jan. 6 to 31. Prices may be lower when you call, so be sure to ask. Extra nights from $46; single supplement from $110. Info: Vacation Travel Mart, 800/288-1435, .


Panama: A five-star resort on the Pacific Coast for six nights for $799

Eight restaurants and bars, nine pools, uncrowded beaches, and an array of activities from sailing to snorkeling to tennis are some of the attractions that woo guests to the five-star Royal Decamerón Playa Blanca, 90 minutes southwest of Panama City and a certain large canal. A six-night all-inclusive stay, with round-trip transfers and airfare from Miami, goes for $799 until the end of November, $988 from Dec. 1 to 23, and $997 in January. Sample add-ons from other gateways include $40 from Dallas or New Orleans; $80 from New York, Hartford, or Baltimore; and $170 from Chicago or Detroit. Extra nights $60; single supplement $198. Info: Tara Tours, 800/327-0080, .

: Airfare and five nights in Argentina’s elegant capital for $515

With its broad avenues and grandly designed buildings, Buenos Aires presents a stylish and sophisticated face even during its ongoing financial hardships. A five-night visit, with lodging at moderate properties such as the Hotel Nogaro, which features air-conditioning, a pool, and continental breakfast daily, is being offered for $515 with LanChile flights from either Miami or New York ($670 from Los Angeles). Prices are valid through Dec. 11, and again from Jan. 15 to Mar. 22. Extra nights from $20; single supplement from $90. Info:, ; Internet bookings only.

Peru: Six nights in Lima, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu, with air for $795

The legendary “Lost City” of Machu Picchu, perched high in the jaw-dropping Andes, is simply one of the most impressive sites in the world—and it is also the highlight of a six-night stint in Peru. The package consists of two nights in Lima, three nights in Cuzco, one night in Machu Picchu, and a full-day tour of the ruins, with lunch provided. Including breakfast daily, decent hotels throughout, all transportation within Peru, and Aero Continente flights from Miami, the price comes to $795 (other gateways approximately $200 more). Extra nights about $25; single supplement $150. Info: Analie Tours, 800/811-6027, .

Honduras: Airfare and three nights on the island of Roatán for $379

InsertArt(2037888)Off the coast of mainland Honduras, Roatán is home to laid-back beaches and colorful underwater reefs that can keep divers bubbling for days. A three-night getaway spent in a luxury suite at the Luna Beach Resort, spread out over 15 acres right on the beach, with a restaurant, two bars, and a pool, is $379 through Dec. 15; $100 more in January. Rates are based on Sol Air flights from Miami. The package is available from other gateways (Dallas for $529; valid November 20 to Dec. 15). Extra nights from $35; single supplement from $105. Info: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, .

:Brazil’s city by the sea, with air and five nights’ hotel for $597

Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana Beach, Corcovado, and saucy locals who like to wear as little as possible—is any city as easy on the eyes as Rio? From now through Dec. 11 (and only slightly more from Jan. 4 to Mar. 24), a rate of $597 covers five nights at Augusto’s Copacabana Hotel, located just two blocks from that legendary beach, as well as United Airlines flights from Miami or New York. Departures are also available from dozens of other cities for an additional fee. Extra nights $56; single supplement from $116. Info:,; Internet bookings only.

Costa rica: Six nights at the beach, with airfare and a rental car just $752

It’s the standard all-inclusive, with a special four-wheeled extra thrown in. Airfare to Costa Rica and six nights at the Best Western Jacó Beach, with three meals a day, soft drinks, cocktails, and beach activities, are all included. Instead of the usual airport transfers via shuttle, however, you’ve got your own set of wheels for the week, which should come in handy for exploring all the rain forests, beaches, and national parks you desire. Packages available at prices such as $752 from Dallas, $764 from Miami, $828 from New York, and $860 from Chicago, valid through Dec. 8; add $147 from Jan. 4 to Feb. 29. Extra nights from $62; single supplement from $213. Info: Capricorn Leisure, 800/426-6544, .

Guatemala: Four nights with two guided tours (one to Lake Atitlán), $599

Using sprawling Guatemala City as a home base, you’ll go on a half-day tour of colonial-era capital Antigua and a full-day excursion to the mountain market of Chichicastenango and the gorgeous 72-square-mile Lake Atitlán. Including four nights at the Pan American Hotel, daily breakfast, and round-trip airport transfers, packages are available for $599 with air from Miami, $649 from ., $659 from New York, and $779 from Chicago; these rates are valid now through Dec. 11. Add $220 from Dec. 12 to 24; add $170 Dec. 25 through Mar. 31. Extra nights $43; single supplement $120. Info: FreeGate Tourism, 888/373-3428, .


A swinging good time, with airfare and six nights for $399

Sounds like rubbish, but it’s true. Six nights in England’s cultural, economic, and political capital, including airfare, standard hotel, and breakfast daily, is up for grabs at a rate of only $399 now through Dec. 10. Come Jan. 12, and stretching through Feb. 23, things get even more mad. That’s when rates dip an additional $50, down to $349 for the same package. Prices are based on midweek flights out of New York (JFK or Newark), and most other cities are available for a bit more. Extra nights from $50; single supplement about $200. Info:, 425/487-9632,

; $20 fee for phone bookings.

Portugal: Three nights’ Lisbon, three nights’ Porto or the Algarve, just $639

On the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal gets overlooked even by travelers on their third and fourth visits to Europe. This may not do much for the Portuguese economy, but it’s good for seekers of an authentic setting, free from crowds and tourist schlock, and rich on castles, seaside villages, and maritime history. Sample this and that with six nights split in the hillside capital of Lisbon and a choice of the Algarve (famous for its beaches and resorts) or the northern city of Porto (loved for its wine and olives), running $639 from November 1 to Dec. 14 and Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, based on flights from New York. Other gateways can be quoted. Add $485 for travel Dec. 15 to 24. Extra nights $60; single supplement $180. Info: Petrabax, 800/265-4842, .

Turkey: A 12-night tour with air, guides, and all meals for $1195

Turkey never tasted so good: A fully guided dozen-night adventure via private bus, including stints in the commercial mecca of Istanbul, the preserved ancient city of Ephesus, and the capital city of Ankara, plus visits to ruins, museums, and natural wonders galore. Including three- or four-star hotels throughout and Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa flights, prices from November 1 to 15 are $1,245 from New York, and $1,450 from Los Angeles; from November 16 to Dec. 11, rates are $1,195/$1,400; from Dec. 12 to 24, $1,505/$1,775; and from Dec. 25 to 30, $1,245/$1,450. January prices were not available at press time. Single supplement $225 (or, for no extra cost, you can share a room with another single). Info: Pacha Tours, 800/722-4288, .

PARIS: Air and six nights—you gotta Louvre the city of light, $429

Springtime in Paris is the stuff of legends, but autumn isn’t too shabby either. Stripped of summer’s hot days, high prices, and tourist throngs, fall is peaceful and pleasant in ever-pretty Paris, even with a little nip in the air. A six-night stay, including hotel, breakfast daily, and a one-hour Seine cruise with ample opportunity to smooch your sweetie, goes for $429 from November 1 to Dec. 14, and Jan. 4 to 30, with airfare from New York or Boston. Dozens of other gateways are available for $80 to $280 more. Extra nights $50; single supplement $200. Info:, 425/487-9632, ; $20 fee for phone bookings.

Poland: Warsaw and Kraków with airfare and train tickets for $729

Having survived a torturous twentieth century, Poland lives, and somehow manages to retain that romantic, cobblestoned Old World feel—especially in major cities Warsaw and Kraków. Three nights of three-star hotels in each, with airfare, daily breakfast, and first-class train travel between cities, costs $729 from New York; $739 from Boston; $769 from Chicago; $815 from Washington, D.C.; $859 from Miami; and $899 from Los Angeles. To save an additional $50 per couple, book your trip via e-mail (send it to ) and mention you’re a BT reader. Rates are valid November 1 to Mar. 25 (Dec. 12 to 24 blacked out). Or, stay put in Warsaw for all six nights, and it’ll cost about $80 less. Extra nights from $34; single supplement $189. Info: Affordable Poland, 800/801-1055, .

Egypt: A week of tours: the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and Museums for $899

We’ve unearthed an extraordinary value: Egypt, which, like everywhere in Africa, tends to be a stretch for most folks, is priced within reason for the near future. You don’t have to slum it either, staying six nights in the five-star Mena House Oberoi (located at the foot of the Pyramids in Giza) and taking part in guided tours of the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, and the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. A rate of $899 covers the lot, including EgyptAir flights from New York departing most Tuesdays through Dec. 9, and selected dates from Jan. 6 to Apr. 30. Info: Misr Travel, 800/223-4978, .

Spain: Three weeks of the Costa Del Sol, with airfare included for $795

Just after New Year’s, become a snowbird of a different feather, skipping Florida or Arizona in favor of Spain’s temperate southern coast, the Costa del Sol. Not for a mere seven days, mind you, but for 20 nights in your own studio apartment at the oceanfront, three-star Timor Sol in Torremolinos. Each unit has a balcony and kitchenette, and the complex is located near shopping, cafés, and restaurants in the fishing village of La Carihuela. Thrown in free are two sightseeing tours in Andalusia (depending on the date, the Rock of Gibraltar, Málaga, or Mijas, for example). From New York, departures in January, February, and March range from $795 to $1,015. For most other cities, add about $150 to $250. Extra weeks from $130; single supplement from $450. Info: Sun Holidays, 800/422-8000, .

Ireland: Hitting the road with air, a car, and six nights at B&B’s for $479

Sure, there are craggy coastlines, ancient Celtic sites, and all that green everywhere you look, but most visitors to Ireland return home talking about the people. The ones they meet over a pint in pubs and at bookstores; the ones who are so talkative and friendly they can’t be forgotten. Explore all the isle has to offer on a six-night B&B package, with car rental, a gluttonous full Irish breakfast daily, and vouchers good for lodging all over the country, priced with airfare from New York, Boston, or Baltimore at $499 from November 1 to Dec. 16, and $479 from Dec. 26 to Feb. 29. Add $100 from Chicago, $200 from L.A. Extra nights with car are $67; the single supplement is $298. Info:, 800/896-4600, .

Croatia: Airfare and 12 nights on the cool Adriatic for $1190

At the end of each hot summer, the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik and neighboring villages and islands in southern Croatia quiet down into a fall-winter lull. Streets empty out and it’s too chilly to swim in the sea, but the slow season makes for a soothing escape for vacationers. A unique package with six nights in Dubrovnik, four nights on the cozy island of Hvar, and two nights in either Split or Makarska, as well as breakfast and dinner daily, ferry tickets, and three-star lodging throughout, runs $1,190 with airfare from New York, Boston, or Philadelphia. Add $50 to $250 from most other cities. These rates are valid November 1 to Dec. 12, and again Dec. 25 to Mar. 31. Extra nights from $69 in Dubrovnik, $55 in Hvar, and $70 in Split or Makarska; single supplement $230. Info: Travel Time, 800/354-8728, .


Hong Kong or Beijing : Airfare and five nights in either Asian metropolis a mere $499

Soaring skyscrapers and world-class shopping in Hong Kong? Or Beijing, China’s cultural and political capital, with its palaces, temples, and Tiananmen Square? Either starts under a grand per couple (or $499 per person), with five nights’ hotel, airport transfers, and daily breakfast. The best prices include airfare from San Francisco or Seattle, with add-ons available from most other cities for $30 to $300 extra. Valid dates: Hong Kong from November 16 to Dec. 25; Beijing from November 4 to Mar. 23. Some blackouts apply. Extra nights from $24 in Hong Kong, from $41 in Beijing; single supplement $150 to $200. Info:, 425/487-9632, ; $20 fee for phone bookings.

Thailand: The grand tour of Thailand over 10 nights, with airfare just $999

It’s an introductory loop around Thailand, starting in dizzying and heading north for ancient cities and villages, the infamous Golden Triangle region, and a stupefying number of temples and Buddhas. (Along with Bangkok, the stops include Phitsanulok, Lampang, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai.) With first-class lodging for all 10 nights, private air-conditioned bus transportation, guides, transfers, all breakfasts, one dinner, and even visits to an elephant camp and orchid farm, the rate is $999 for departures on November 9 and 23, Jan. 11, and Feb. 8. Airfare from Los Angeles is included in that price. (Departures from other cities are available for an additional charge: Add $36 from New York; $65 from Washington, D.C.; $154 from Miami, Chicago, or Dallas.) Extra nights $34; single supplement $251. Info: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, .

New Zealand: A week in springtime: airfare and a seven-night RV rental for $899

New Zealand, the picturesque backdrop of the Lord of the Rings film series, is extra green, extra lush, and extra pretty at this time of year. Spring also tends to be extra moist, so it’s nice to have a solid roof over your head. After flying into Auckland, you’ll explore the North Island for seven nights with your home on your back, via a roomy camper van. Air Tahiti Nui flights from Los Angeles are included, priced at $899 for Wednesday departures through Dec. 15; for Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, add $210. Add four nights in Tahiti and Moorea for $370. Tack on an extra week with the RV for $200; single supplement $200. Info: Tahiti Vacations, 800/553-3477, .

China: A six-night guided tour: Beijing, Shanghai, and more for $799

There are no worries about figuring out trains, buses, directions, hotels, or even meals. It’s all taken care of on a six-night, all-inclusive, fully guided tour of China, with visits to Beijing, Wuxi, Suzhou, and Shanghai, among other stops. And get this: As an unexpected bonus, all lodging along the way is plush, five-star quality. Departures are available most Fridays through March 2004, priced at only $799 from Los Angeles or San Francisco, $100 more from New York. Extra nights $95; single supplement $250. For two departures over Christmas, add $100. Info: Champion Tours, 800/868-7658, .

Australia: $1599 for 12 nights in different Down Under destinations 

Combine six nights of Sydney and its famed harbor with half a dozen more nights in your choice of hip Melbourne or Brisbane and the nearby sunny coastline. The latter might be a good call, considering temperatures should be in the 80s. Along with Air New Zealand flights from Los Angeles, the dozen-night deal includes three-star lodging and flights between your pick of cities. The $1,599 price is valid through Dec. 13. Extra nights from $85; single supplement from $430. Info: ATS Tours, 800/423-2880, .

Moorea:Tahiti’s sister island for seven nights with airfare at $969

It’s not unusual for new arrivals in French Polynesia to head right off to Tahiti’s neighbor Moorea, where they find a lush, mountainous island encircled by white-sand beaches and sparkling aquamarine waters. Seven idyllic nights in an air-conditioned bay-view room at the Club Bali Hai, along with Wednesday departures from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, cost $969 through Dec. 3 and $999 in January. A welcome flower-lei greeting and round-trip inter-island ferry transfers from the airport are included. Extra nights from $45; single supplement from $300. Info: Tahiti Legends, 800/200-1213, .

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