How to Spend Your Tax Rebate
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 GuestHouse International Inn & Suites 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 Sixth Avenue Inn, a short walk from Pike Place Market and the Experience Music Project. Four nights are $620 if you book through the Convention and Visitors Bureau's Seattle Super Saver program. 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 website).
Something Extra Rent two double kayaks from the Agua Verde Café and Paddle Club 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 Arboretum. Rates start at $18 an hour for a double kayak.
Freebie The nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park opened in 2007 as an outpost of the Seattle Art Museum, 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 Fuel Cost Calculator, a late model station wagon will need about $100 worth of gas for the round-trip journey.
Where to Stay Local Marriott hotels have teamed up to offer the Big Easy Spirit to Serve Getaway. 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 Mardi Gras World, 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 Jean Lafitte National Historical Park.
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