You've been talking about it for months, or even years, now: Gathering a few friends and setting off somewhere to catch up and run away from reality for a little while. Here are 40 packages that will meet your needs, whether you want to lie on the beach all day, pamper yourself at the spa, go white-water rafting, or catch the latest art exhibition in town. These trips aren't so much about rock-bottom prices--though there are some of those, too--as they are about great value. We looked for the little extras, like Godiva-chocolate turndown service and daily wine deliveries to your room, that will turn a good vacation into an experience you'll never forget.
The Fine Print
Prices are either per person or per room and may be based on single, double, or quadruple occupancy (look for details under "When:"). Packages are subject to availability and may be blacked out on holidays. Unless otherwise noted, taxes and gratuities aren't included. Where airfare is included, rates are generally based on midweek travel.
Air from Las Vegas, Phoenix, Sacramento, or Tucson; four nights at the Maison 140 hotel just off Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills; a five-day convertible rental; and one $50 certificate per room, valid for in-suite spa treatments or drinks at the hotel's Bar Noir. When: Until Dec. 31 ($599 per person, double). Other gateways: Houston (add $99), Fort Lauderdale (add $119), Chicago (add $165), New York (add $225). Contact: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, eleisurelink.com.
Tour Oprah's School
Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls is just one stop on 2Afrika's 11-day tour of South Africa. The itinerary also includes South African Airways flights from Chicago, D.C., or New York to Cape Town, five nights in Cape Town, one night in Franschhoek, two nights in Kruger National Park, one spa treatment, a cooking class, four game drives, and breakfast daily. When: Apr. 1-May 31; Aug. 21-Oct. 6 ($3,395 per person, double); June 1-Aug. 20 ($3,590). Other gateways: Atlanta (add $195); Miami, (add $225); Houston, L.A., Seattle (add $325). Contact: 2Afrika, 866/462-2374, 2afrika.com.
Soak Up Some Sun
Arawak Beach Inn on the Caribbean island of Anguilla has tailored a package expressly for Girlfriend Getaways. The deal includes round-trip airport transfers, three nights in two oceanfront rooms, a six-pack of Carib beer and a bottle of rum, four cigars, a disposable camera, a one-day car rental, a daylong excursion to the beaches of uninhabited Scrub Island (10 minutes from the resort by motorboat) with a picnic lunch, and breakfast daily. When: Until May 31 ($399 per person, quad); June 1-Oct. 31 ($299). Contact: Arawak Beach Inn, 877/427-2925, arawakbeach.com.
Sample the Good Life
The Sip in Southern California package from Temecula Creek Inn, north of San Diego, includes one night's stay, tours and tastings at three wineries, an olive oil tasting at the Temecula Olive Oil Company, a three-course dinner at Temet Grill, free overnight parking, and a basket stuffed with a bar of raspberry-olive oil soap, mint lip balm, lavender lotion, and chocolate biscotti. When: Until Dec. 30 ($149 per person, double). Contact: Temecula Creek Inn, 877/517-1823, temeculacreekinn.com.
Lie Back in Luxury
The historic US Grant hotel reopened last November after a $52 million renovation. You can enjoy the results of all that work--and the hotel's $6 million art collection--with a one-night package that covers two in-room treatments from Spa Velia, entrance to 13 museums in Balboa Park, and two trolley passes. When: Until Aug. 31 ($581 per room, double). Contact: The US Grant, 866/837-4270, usgrant.net.
Be a Cowgirl
Historic Pines Ranch, in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo mountains, runs cowgirl camps twice a year. The six-night package includes all meals, horseback-riding lessons, a weekend ladies-only rodeo, team penning and other riding activities, line-dancing lessons, a cocktail party, and a beauty treatment. When: June 10-16; Sept. 2-8 ($1,240 per person, single). Contact: Historic Pines Ranch, 800/446-9462, historicpinesranch.com.
They Went on Last Year's China Tour!
Linda Henriques spotted Champion Holidays' 12-night package to China in last year's issue of Girlfriend Getaways and signed up for it with four friends. "I want to thank you for one of the best tours I've ever taken," she wrote about her October trip. "The service, hotels, and tour guides were all excellent from beginning to end." Champion Holidays still offers the deal, which covers air from L.A. to Beijing, local transportation, 12 nights at four- and five-star hotels (in Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Shanghai), most meals, and an English-speaking guide throughout. In addition to the highlights of a regular Champion Holidays trip (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Grand Canal cruise, etc.), this women-oriented itinerary includes a trip to see the pandas at the Beijing Zoo; a lesson in the Chinese art of paper cutting; a tour around a silk factory, where you can choose a fabric and have a traditional qipao dress custom-made; a home visit with a family in Beijing; and more. When: Aug. 23, Oct. 18 ($1,799 per person, double). Other gateways: New York ($1,899). Contact: Champion Holidays, 800/868-7658, china-discovery.com.
"We're planning a big trip for our birthdays"
Buenos Aires & Santiago
Lan Airlines flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, all transfers, three nights at the Mansion Dandi Royal hotel, an onward flight to Santiago, two nights at the Hotel Principado, and breakfasts. Includes tango lessons, two half-day city tours, and visits to an estancia and a winery. When: Until June 17; Aug. 16-Dec. 9 ($1,099 per person, double). Other gateways: New York (add $150); Boston, D.C., Philadelphia (add $180); Dallas, Houston, L.A., San Francisco (add $200); Chicago (add $225). Contact: Escapes Unlimited, 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.
Air from Miami, four nights at the Hotel Costa Verde, three nights at the Hotel Río Perlas Spa and Resort, a seven-day car rental, a half-day tour at Manuel Antonio National Park, a steam sauna, a facial, and breakfast daily at Río Perlas. When: Apr. 1-30 ($1,149 per person, double); May 1-June 30 ($996); July 1-Aug. 31 ($1,096); Sept. 1-Nov. 17 ($996). Other gateways: Dallas (from $1,022); New York (from $1,058); Chicago (from $1,089); L.A., San Francisco (from $1,097); Portland, Ore., and Seattle (from $1,197). Contact: Capricorn Leisure Corp., 800/426-6544, capricorn.net.
Singapore Airlines flights from L.A. to Tokyo, transfers, five nights at the Hilton Tokyo, a half-day city tour, bullet train to Hakone, and one night at the Hakone Nanpuso Hotel with full use of its onsen (open-air hot springs). The itinerary includes an afternoon tea ceremony with kimonos provided to guests, and a Kabuki theater performance. When: Until June 4; Aug. 21-Nov. 30 ($1,499 per person, double). Other gateways: None. Contact: Escapes Unlimited, 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.
Air New Zealand from L.A. to Queenstown and five nights at the Heritage Queenstown hotel. Includes a cruise on Doubtful Sound and the "Awesome Foursome" challenge: riding a helicopter above Skipper's Canyon, jet boating through the Shotover River Canyons, bungee jumping on the Nevis Highwire Bungee, and white-water rafting. When: Aug. 1-Sept. 21 ($2,065 per person, double). Other gateways: None. Contact: Air New Zealand, 800/262-1234, airnewzealand.com/vacations.
Air from L.A. or San Francisco to Bangkok and a 12-day tour of Thailand with visits to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Myanmar. The itinerary includes a private tai chi lesson, tours of Bangkok and Ayutthaya, a Thai cooking class, dinner in a Thai home, a two-hour Lanna-style spa treatment, and more. When: Sept. 20, Oct. 25, Nov. 15 ($2,649 per person, double). Other gateways: New York (add $139); Dallas (add $189); Baltimore, Boston, D.C. (add $342); Atlanta (add $403); Chicago (add $510). Contact: Gutsy Women Travel, 866/464-8879, gutsywomentravel.com.
Air from New York; four nights at the Grand Hotel Palazzo Carpegna, less than three miles from Vatican City; a half-day city tour; and breakfasts. When: Nov. 1-6 ($967 per person, double; the $35 membership fee will be waived for Girlfriend Getaways readers). Other gateways: None. Contact: Women's Travel Club, 800/480-4448, womenstravelclub.com.
"We want over-the-top luxury, if only for a day"
Two nights in two rooms at the Watermark Hotel & Spa, dinner for four at Pesca on the River, specialty margaritas and a tequila tasting aboard a private barge on the San Antonio River that can stop at River Walk bars, two 50-minute spa treatments per person with lunch at the hotel's Rooftop Café, a custom pair of Lucchese cowgirl boots per person (see right), a round-trip limo ride to Austin with dinner for four at the Gristmill River Restaurant, beer at Gruene Hall, and tickets to a live music show of your choice in Austin. When: Until Dec. 30 ($1,500 per person, quad). Contact: Watermark Hotel & Spa, 866/605-1212, watermarkhotel.com.
Seven nights in a seven-bedroom villa overlooking Montego Bay. The villa comes with a staff of five, including a cook, housekeeper, maid/laundress, and two butlers; a private pool; guest privileges at the Rose Hall Resort & Country Club; a van with a driver for the whole week; an arrival-night barbecue; and a 45-minute massage per person. The cook will do all the food shopping, but the groceries are not included in the package. When: Apr. 15-Dec. 14 ($1,710 per person based on one person per room; two people in each room is half that amount per person). Contact: Villas and Apartments Abroad, 212/213-6435, vaanyc.com.
"We'll go anywhere, as long as there's a beach"
Two nights in a partial-ocean-view room at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel on the west coast of the island, a two-day car rental, lunch for two at the Tiki Grill restaurant, one facial and massage per person at the hotel's spa, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and turndown service. When: Until Dec. 17 ($699 per room, double. Add $265 per room for each additional night with the rental car. Book by June 30). Contact: Kaanapali Beach Hotel, 800/262-8450, kbhmaui.com.
Four nights in a two-bedroom beachfront suite at the Reef Resort on Grand Cayman, a five-day Jeep rental, a manicure and pedicure, and a T-shirt-painting workshop. When: Apr. 14-Dec. 20 ($395 per person, quad, includes a $50 discount for GG readers). Contact: The Reef Resort, 888/232-0541, thereef.com.
Five nights in an ocean-view room at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, two 30-minute massages, a round-trip shuttle to Charlotte Amalie for duty-free shopping, an island tour, a $50 certificate to the Lobster Grille restaurant, an introductory scuba lesson, and an all-day excursion on a 53-foot catamaran to a beach on St. John, with lunch and an open bar. When: Until Aug. 31 ($1,541 per room, double); Sept. 1-Oct. 31 ($1,432); Nov. 1-Dec. 22 ($1,541). Contact: Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, 800/524-4746, bolongobay.com.
"We like exploring the local culture of a place"
Two nights at the Gaylord Opryland, an in-room breakfast one morning, two treatments at the Relâche Spa, one $25 credit at the Relâche store, a specialty martini, tickets to the Regal Cinemas at Opry Mills, free live music at the Grand Ole Opry Plaza's Saturday night concert series, and Godiva chocolate turndown service. When: May 26-July 28 (from $300 per person, double). Contact: Gaylord Opryland, 615/889-1000, gaylordhotels.com.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Two nights at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, a RockResort; one massage or facial per person at the hotel's Avanyu Spa; two passes to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and a 10 percent discount at its store and café; a free coffee-table book about O'Keeffe; a bottle of champagne upon arrival; and tapas from the Staab House. When: Until May 12 ($670 per room, double; parking and the resort activity fees are included); May 13-Oct. 20 ($853 midweek/$905 weekend). Contact: La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, 866/331-7625, rockresorts.com.
Montreal & Quebec City
Air from Atlanta, Boston, or New York to Montreal; a five-day car rental; three nights at the Delta Centre-Ville hotel; and two nights in Quebec City at the Manoir Victoria. Includes a pedicure, a $50 gift certificate at the Place Montreal Trust shopping mall, and admission to 32 Montreal museums and attractions. When: Until Sept. 30 ($1,399 per person, double). Other gateways: Miami ($1,419), Chicago ($1,449), L.A. ($1,519). Contact: Maxxim Vacations, 800/567-6666, maxximvacations.com.
"We enjoy relaxing over wine and nibbly bits"
Jekyll Island, Ga.
Two nights at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, breakfast daily, a picnic lunch for two, two full-day bike rentals, Victorian tea service for two, a bottle of the hotel's signature wine delivered to the room each day, beach towels, and two one-hour massages. When: Until Nov. 25 ($775 per room, double). Contact: Jekyll Island Club Hotel, 800/535-9547, jekyllclub.com.
Three nights in a three-bedroom cottage at the waterfront White Elephant hotel, champagne upon arrival, port and cheese every day, a bunch of chick flicks with popcorn and chocolate, one manicure or pedicure per person, and breakfast daily. When: Until June 30; Sept. 1-Nov. 30 ($2,400 per cottage, for a group of up to six). Contact: The White Elephant, 800/445-6574, whiteelephanthotel.com.
One night at The Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, Wash.; a wine-and-cheese welcome; $175 spa credit; $100 dining credit at the hotel restaurant; kayaking; a cruise on Lake Washington aboard the Woodmark II; free access to the kitchen for snacks from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. When: Until Dec. 30 ($535 per room, double). Contact: The Woodmark Hotel, 800/822-3700, thewoodmark.com.
Expedia's B&B aggregator, bedandbreakfast.com, lists more than 160 different deals nationwide that are aimed at women. You can find them on the website in its specialty packages section. One of our favorites is in New York's Finger Lakes area: Two nights at the 10 Fitch; a one-hour massage per person; pajama party with hors d'oeuvres and wines; a seven-hour limo tour of Finger Lakes wineries and stores, with a picnic lunch; a private cookout with a fire pit for roasting marshmallows; and breakfast daily. When: Apr. 1-Oct. 31 ($495 per person, based on a group of six). Contact: 10 Fitch, 315/255-0934, 10fitch.com.
"Let's be honest--it's all about the spa"
One night at the Tropicana Casino and Resort with two $100 spa credits to the Bluemercury Apothecary & Spa, two tickets to a revue at the Tropicana Showroom, two makeup consultations and applications, and one $50 voucher valid at the hotel's entertainment complex. When: Until Sept. 30 ($360 per room, double). Contact: Tropicana Casino and Resort, 800/345-8767, tropicana.net.
Big Sky, Mont.
Five nights at The Summit at Big Sky Resort; a welcome wine-and-cheese basket; white-water rafting day trip with lunch; a lift pass up Lone Peak (for amazing views); and an all-day spa package with a facial, massage, and wrap at Solace Spa. When: June 4-Sept. 30 ($699 per person, double). Contact: Big Sky Resort, 800/548-4486, bigskyresort.com.
Air from L.A. to Mexico City, transfers, and three nights at the all-inclusive Ixtapan Spa Hotel & Golf Resort. This package includes all meals, three massages, two facials with reflexology foot massages, a pedicure and manicure, nail treatments, a hair styling and treatment, three golf or tennis lessons, a yoga session, and two classes in aerobics, Pilates, yoga, and aquatic fitness. When: Until Aug. 31 ($1,105 per person, double). Other gateways: Chicago ($1,384), New York ($1,399). Contact: American Discount Cruises & Travel, 866/214-7447, americandiscountcruises.com.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Two nights in a two-bedroom suite at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, two spa treatments per person, strawberries and champagne, and a four-hour limo rental. When: Until Dec. 30 ($699 per person, quad). Contact: Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, 954/765-3132, marriottharborbeach.com.
Palm Springs, Calif.
Two nights in two rooms at the Miramonte Resort & Spa with a manicure, a Polynesian foot washing, and a 15-minute massage per person. When: May 28-Sept. 16 ($1,156, quad). Contact: Miramonte Resort & Spa, 800/237-2926, miramonteresort.com.
Two nights at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, a $200 credit to The Spa, and a $100 dining credit at Reds restaurant. GG readers who book two rooms or more get a third night free. When: Until Aug. 31 ($699 per room, single or double). Contact: Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, 866/312-4111, sedonarouge.com.
"All we need is one fabulous night in a really good hotel"
Napa Valley, Calif.
One night in a suite with a fireplace, a 50-minute spa treatment per person, a wine tasting at William Hill Estate, and breakfast. When: Until Nov. 17 ($240 per person, quad; $285 per person, double or triple). Contact: Silverado Resort, 800/532-0500, silveradoresort.com.
One night at the Sofitel Lafayette Square hotel, a champagne welcome, dinner at Café 15, and a private-car transfer to the Piaf Salon and Day Spa for a facial and manicure. When: Until Sept. 30 ($385 per person, single). Contact: Sofitel Lafayette Square, 202/730-8800, sofitel.com.
"We love the energy of a big city--and we can't wait to go shopping!"
Flights from Denver and three nights at the Imperial Palace (across The Strip from Caesars Palace). Add spa and shopping packages starting at $20 more per person. When: Until May 23 ($310 per person, double). Other gateways: Houston ($330), Dallas ($365), Chicago ($385), Cleveland ($445), New York ($465). Contact: Funjet Vacations, 888/558-6654, funjet.com.
Air from Atlantic City, Chicago, D.C., New York, or Providence; five nights at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel; and one $50 certificate per room to Emeril's restaurant. When: June 6-Sept. 30 ($599 per person, double). Other gateways: Boston, Dallas, Houston (add $89); L.A., San Francisco (add $149). Contact: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, eleisurelink.com.
The San Francisco-based boutique hotel company lists women-friendly packages like these on its website, kimptonhotels.com:
New York City: Overnight accommodations, two 45-minute in-room foot treatments using Fresh products, two pairs of J.Crew flip-flops, and one $50 Bloomingdale's gift certificate. When: Until Sept. 3 ($395 per room, double). A 70 Park Avenue Hotel, 877/707-2752, 70parkave.com.
San Francisco: One night in a double or king room, a $50 gift card at Bloomingdale's in the new Westfield Centre shopping mall (just around the corner), a $40 credit at the hotel restaurant, a tote bag, and an in-room pedicure. When: Until Dec. 30 ($365 per room, single or double). Contact: Hotel Palomar, 866/373-4941, hotelpalomar-sf.com.
Vancouver: One night in a South Beach suite, two manicures, a bottle of wine, and snacks such as truffle popcorn and taro chips. When: Until Apr. 30, Oct. 16-Dec. 30 ($278 per room, single or double); May 1-Oct. 15 ($365). Contact: Pacific Palisades Hotel, 800/663-1815, pacificpalisadeshotel.com.
The Sonesta hotel chain has Just Us Girls packages available at all eight of its Sonesta hotels in the U.S. and the Caribbean. You can find more information on all of them at sonesta.com. Three we liked a lot:
Boston: One night at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston on the Charles River, a coupon book valid at stores in the CambridgeSide Galleria shopping mall across the street, and a champagne-and-dessert tasting menu for two at the hotel's Dante restaurant. When: Until Dec. 30 ($259 per room, double).
New Orleans: Two nights at the Chateau Sonesta Hotel New Orleans, two in-room pedicures, dinner for two at the Red Fish Grill, an in-room movie, and breakfasts. When: Until Dec. 30 ($450 per room, double).
Miami: Two nights at the Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort Sunny Isles; a Swedish massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure per person; a free shuttle to nearby Bal Harbour shops and Aventura Mall; and breakfast daily. When: May 1-30 ($870 per person, double); June 1-Sept. 30 ($690).
"It's high time we had a thrilling adventure"
New England Tour
A five-day, women-only, escorted round-trip tour from Boston with all local transportation (private bus and ferry) and four nights at B&Bs and inns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island: two in Rockport, one on Block Island, and one in Boston. Includes a two-hour schooner sail off Gloucester, Mass.; a kayaking excursion on the Essex River; a guided hike and a one-hour horseback ride, both on Block Island; tours of Gloucester, Salem, and Boston; tickets to the play Shear Madness; and most meals. When: Aug. 6, 20 ($925 per person, double). Contact: Wolfe Adventures & Tours, 888/449-6533, wolfetours.travel.
Two nights at The Grande Colonial Hotel in upscale La Jolla, breakfast each day for four people, and a two-hour surf lesson with Surf Diva, a well-known local company that specializes in teaching women to surf. When: Apr. 1-Sept. 30 ($1,022 per room, quad). Contact: The Grande Colonial Hotel, 866/530-5766, thegrandecolonial.com.
Five nights at the all-inclusive Coconut Bay Resort & Spa on the southern coast; 50 percent off one spa treatment; and one free, 30-minute personal training session per day. When: Apr. 15-June 15 ($463 per person, quad). Contact: Coconut Bay Resort & Spa, 866/978-6226, coconutbayresortandspa.com.
Official Rules for the Girlfriend Getaways "Got a GG Tradition?" Contest
The prize (estimated retail value: $3,500) is valid for 12 months after it's awarded, subject to availability (blackout dates and holidays apply, and airline tickets must be booked in V class inventory); it's nontransferable, and nonnegotiable, and can't be redeemed for cash value. Taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner. One prize will be awarded; your chances of winning depend on how many entries we receive and whether yours is best. Open to residents of the 50 United States and its territories, except Arizona. Budget Travel (the contest's sponsor) employees and their relatives are ineligible. Winner and travel companion must sign an affidavit of eligibility and release. Void where prohibited. All submissions, including photos, become Budget Travel's property.