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Love is in the air

Now's the time to plan a Valentine's Day getaway and get in on some early love bird savings
Image: Seine River
A couple take a stroll along the Seine River footpath after a snowfall in ParisJohn Schults / Reuters
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

If you think about it, romance has always been closely intertwined with travel. It's what newlyweds do on their honeymoon. It's what hormonal college kids do for Spring break. It's the premise of the Mile High Club, for crying out loud! It just makes sense that Valentine's Day should involve a venue change as well.

But alas, there's no bigger turn-off than a hefty price tag. Airfare, lodging, food--it all adds up only to result in a severe decrease in that bulge in your pants (your wallet, I mean).
However, this V-Day, there are great travel deals available to love birds who wish to fly away. Why? With the exception of flights to the Caribbean, February is a very slow travel month. Couple together bad weather, post-holiday poverty, and the absence of students who aren't yet on their spring recess and you have desperate airlines and travel discounters eager to lure you in with bargains.

So feel free to lustfully ogle some of the ones we found--because there's no greater aphrodisiac than a cheap boarding pass onboard a 747 metallic Cupid.

French Connection

Who cares if it's cliche--Paris is the classic destination for romance, and for good reason. France was, after all, the country who wanted to make love instead of war this past year and who else can claim an entire style of kiss named in its honor? Love is its bag, and two online travel bookers have a way to get you to it the cheapest.

Go Today and Octopus travel will send you roundtrip to Paris, put you up six nights at a decent two star hotel (upgrades are certainly available), and throw in daily continental breakfasts. Merci beaucoup! The package runs a mere $379 out of New York City, $459 from Boston and Philadelphia; $539 from Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Minneapolis; and $599 from LAX, Phoenix, Seattle and San Francisco. Many other gateways are available. Surf the website at to book or call Octopus at 877/330-7765. (We'd post Go-Today's phone number, but booking by phone costs an additional $25 with this web-based company). Go-Today's offer expires Jan. 16; there's no booking deadline for Octopus.

Czech this out!

When a major European city has a building that resembles a dancing Fred and Ginger (by Frank Gehry), it can't be passed up for Valentine's Day! After Paris, Prague is one of the most romantically artsy-fartsy cities in the world. Sipping on coffee at a cafe or admiring the 30 or so statues on the Charles Bridge is nice, but lowering your inhibitions with your lover over a stein of nectarous Czechoslovakian beer--now that's Valentine's Day fodder.

The tentacled discounter Octopus Travel ( will fly you roundtrip on Czech Airlines and give you six nights in Prague (you pick the dates) at the three-star Mira Hotel in the center of town, well within walking distance of the Powder Tower, the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, and Charles Bridge alike. Octopus has the best package prices on the market, with vacations starting at $399 out of New York and New Jersey. Call 877/330-7765 for prices at other major US Gateways.

Jamaican me hot

Normally there'd be no way you'd be able to hit up a Caribbean island in the high season for cheap. But then again, Atlas Vacations isn't your normal vacation booker. It's entirely run by Jamaican ex-pats--i.e. they know Jamaica better than Bob Marley did. As a result, they offer affordable packages (the cheapest by a long shot) to the beachy paradise, even in February.
For example, Atlas ( can arrange for a Negril holiday, an all-inclusive rendezvous, starting at under $500. The package includes roundtrip airfare, four nights at the Negril Inn Hotel on the seven mile beach, three daily meals and drinks, and airport transfers. It's $488 out of Miami, $547 from Philadelphia, $597 from New York and Baltimore, $664 from Los Angeles. Log on the website or call 800/634-1057 to book.

San Fran-sexy

If you haven't left your heart in San Francisco you haven't yet begun to use it. With its sultry fog, streets with curves in all the right places, and phallic Transamerica building, the city by the bay oozes sensuality.

And Orbitz, the mega-booking engine, will ship you to this west coast Shangri-la, roundtrip, for four nights starting under $500 (the cheapest around). Fly out on United on Feb. 12, stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center in the center of town, and return on the 16th--taxes all included. Pay $434 for a flight out of New York, $473 from Chicago, $490 out of Boston.

Orlando magic

This Valentine's Day, there's nothing like visiting America's theme-park capital to get so hot and heavy, even Walt Disney might thaw out. With or without kids, Orlando can be a perfect place for romance. Cuddle up with one another on a roller coaster at Disney World, have your dinner and LIVE your movie at Universal studios, or watch the highly flexible acrobats bend in ways you only wish you could at Cirque du Soleil.

Online vacation vendor has the best deal roundtrip from New York (other airports available for a surcharge) to Orlando, giving you three nights accommodations at a Howard Johnson's or comparable hotel, free breakfasts, and a rental car (really good news if you plan on visiting multiple amusement parks) for $269 per person. You'll also get coupons and vacation guides galore to all the major attractions. Pick your own dates for travel through April 30th, 2004. Visit eLeisure's website or call them at 888/801-8808 for more info.

Thai me up

For something a little bit off the romance radar, head down to the exotic Southeast Asian capital of Bangkok. Despite its infamous sex trade, Thailand's towering Buddha statues, ancient temples, an spicy foods all add to the ambience of traditional romance.

Gate 1, a 22-year-old travel operator, lets you fly roundtrip to Bangkok from LAX on February 12, stay 5 nights at the Manhattan Hotel, and feast on daily breakfasts for $579 a person. But book ASAP because the same deal with lodging at the Bangkok City Inn already sold out. For more information check out or call 800/682-3333.