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5 cheap summer vacation packages

There are tons of packages that include cheese-making classes, desert tours or accommodations in tiny historic B&B's.
/ Source: Independent Traveler

Summer vacation planning is in full bloom, and money-saving travel options are as varied as June flowers. A long-established choice is the standard vacation package, a three-pack of airfare, hotel and rental car bought on some hulking brand-name travel booking engine. You could cross all appendages and apply for membership at exclusive private sale travel sites. And, yes, you could always put on your special travel agent hat and plan your own trip, speaking empty bluffs to the booking agent at that beach-front hotel in your quest for a better rate.

These options are fine if they work for you. But allow me to introduce a fourth alternative: Find a less common, off-the-beaten-path kind of package — at a reduced rate. There are tons of unique packages that, for one easy, affordable price, include cheese-making classes, desert tours or accommodations in tiny historic B&B's. I'd like to think of these as packages for people who don't like packages. . I'd like to think of these as packages for people who don't like packages (a spin-off of our well-loved 8 Tours for People Who Don't Like Tours.) But this time, there are deals to boot!

Save up to $700 on New England and New York bike tours
Explore bucolic New England or the Hudson Valley by human-powered two-wheeled vehicle (also known as a bike). Pedal through colonial towns, covered bridges and riverside meadows as you embark on an environmentally-friendly tour of the Northeast. You'll sleep in historic inns. You'll tour vineyards and working farms. You'll get in shape. And the best part? You can save up to $700 per person on the price of select Great Freedom Adventures summer tour packages when you book by July 15.

Save $126 on Sedona B&B package
Settle into guestrooms with breathtaking red rock views at Arizona's Casa Sedona. This B&B serves scrumptious Southwest-inspired breakfasts (think huevos rancheros and quiche verde) on the house, and offers easy access to Sedona's burnt-orange desert landscapes. Book the two-night Great Escape Package at the B&B and receive a Sedona SuperPass coupon booklet, two T-shirts or hats, bottled water, hors d'oeuvres and tickets to a Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour (an excursion through surrounding canyonlands). The package costs $595 for two people, which includes $126 in savings.

Save 25% on international vacation packages
Are you a less-traveled type of traveler? Trek to exotic destinations like Peru's Inca Trail, the Galapagos, Ethiopia or Cambodia this summer, and save up to 25 percent on the price of your package when you book with Gap Adventures. The international tour company is touting this offer as a “last-minute special,” but I beg to differ. Many of the discounted tours take place in July, August and September, so it's not like you'll have to stuff some hiking boots in a backpack and head to the airport this week.

Mountain Goat Lodge cheese-making package for $75
Why should you fraternize with goats on vacation? Well, for one, the animals can carry your camping gear during a pack goat hiking excursion in the Colorado wilderness. And goats produce some really delicious dairy products. At Mountain Goat Lodge, a rustic B&B set near the Arkansas River in Salida, Colo., guests can partake in an assortment of surprisingly fun goat-centric activities. Our favorite is the B&B's cheese-making class, during which guests learn to make their own chevre, mozzarella, ricotta and Greek yogurt from fresh goat's milk. The four-hour class costs $75 per person. But reserve your summer stay on and you can save $25 on the cost of your booking.

Save 25% on Grand Canyon train packages
Got an AARP membership card? Good. That makes you eligible to save 25 percent on Grand Canyon train packages this summer. Book a two- or three-night package with Grand Canyon Railway and save 25 percent on rates when you upgrade to first class. It's a good excuse to add a little opulence to your vacation, no? Packages start at $242 per person (that's before the first-class upgrade) and include accommodations, roundtrip train travel from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon, plus breakfasts and dinners.