Trip Coach: July 5, 2005

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Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Because of the high volume of questions, we'll be answering your questions throughout the afternoon. Let's get started...

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West Roxbury, MA: I have a chance to go to Florence - is it really as expensive as people say can it be done on a budget - hotels etc?

Budget Travel Editors: You can do Florence on a budget -- read our "Secret Hotels of Florence and Venice" article from our archives.

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Jackson, MI: Hi. Looking at going to Ireland for our honeymoon in early April. We have lodging booked but are still working on airfare. Can you tell me where to look for cheap airfare? We're trying to make it as budget-friendly as possible! Thanks!

Budget Travel Editors: Try using airline "aggregators" for the best fares. Some of the more popular aggregators include Sidestep.com, Qixo.com, and Kayak.com. You can read about aggregators here in our archives.

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Captain Cook, HI: I am looking for moderately priced accomodation in Hanalei on the Island of Kauai State of Hawaii for 5 to 7 days in September for a wedding on the 10th of September 2005.

Budget Travel Editors: For a week at a time, the best value you'll find is by renting a condo. Regency Pacific Realty (vacationrentalsinkauai.com) has a great search engine, and includes photos of all of their condos. The Hanalei Colony resort is a bit of a splurge, at $210 a night for a 2-bedroom condo, but they throw in the 7th night free, and you have a kitchen, so you don't need to spring for all your meals out. You might want to consider staying in Princeville over Hanalei. You'll lose some of the extraordinary beauty in the big development but there are a LOT more places to rent and it's only a 10 minute drive away. Considering that you'll need to drive to most of the beaches anyway, it's not that big of a deal.

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Denver, CO: If I want to travel somewhere and am open to where I go, how can I find airline deals that are based on when I am traveling as opposed to where I am traveling?

Budget Travel Editors: One way is to sign up for the airlines' email offers, which will let the deals arrive in your inbox. Since you're writing from Denver, it makes sense to sign up for deals from at least United and Frontier Airlines, which both have hubs in Denver. Then, whenever they announce special airfares to anywhere, you'll be among the first to know about it, and hopefully something will work with your time restrictions. Also, when you're talking about when to travel as opposed to where, there are a bunch of operators that specialize in last minute trips --11thhourvacations.com, site59.com, lastminutetravel.com. It can be fun to take some time off from work yet not actually plan a trip until a couple weeks beforehand. The sites will tempt you with trips all over the globe (though most are in the U.S.), and you can make the decision based on whatever destination intrigues you at the moment, or where you think you're getting the best deal. The deals often cost a lot less than you would have paid if you'd done the prudent thing and booked ahead of time. That said, there won't be all that many deals if you wait until the last minute on peak times such as Christmas-New Year's and spring break season. During those periods, it's almost always smarter to book well in advance.

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San Francisco, CA: My 15 year old and I are interested in improving our Spanish.I am a social worker and he is insecurely heading into his second year of Spanish. He has a few weeks this summer before school begins (August 17) or we could do it during winter vacation. Where is there a good program that could take us both. It needs to be a school that uses family hosts so that we are forced to use our Spanish. I would like to do this as inexpensively as possible. Thanks.

Budget Travel Editors: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico has justifiably earned a worldwide reputation as one of the best places to learn Spanish. The Insitituto Allende ( instituto-allende.edu.mx) has been around for decades, and conducts courses both in classes and private, for all levels year-round. One-to-one classes are $13/hour, or you spend about $890 for a four-week intensive. It offers classes in other disciplines (namely the arts), and many say it's well worth the money.

The less prestigious Academia Hispano Americana (ahaspeaksspanish.com) has a four-week program for $480. It's just $35/week for a one-hour class/day at the Centro Mexicano de Lengua y Cultura ( infosma.com/centromexicano), and Instituto Habla Hispana (mexicospanish.com) also has month-long courses, and charges $390/week for 20 hours of instruction per week. One week of classes is $110, and homestays arranged through them are $17 per double, and $20 for a room all your own. In general, stays with local families run about $24 for room and full board. There are many message boards around town, with one of the best at the public library (Biblioteca Publica, 25 Insurgentes).

San Miguel de Allende is a charming Spanish colonial town located on a plateau three and a half hours northwest of Mexico City. It has a large expat community, so the town is used to dealing with foreigners. If you're looking to flights to the area, you'll want to fly into Leon (Guanajuato) or the new international airport at Queretaro, both of which are 45 minutes from SMA, and serviced by Continental and American airlines.

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Missoula, MT: I would like to go to India, Nepal and Tibet, but I am a single woman in my early 30s and would feel safest going with a tour group. Do you know of any reputable, affordable tour operators that specialize in this part of the world? I am especially interested in visiting Dharamsala, India; Khatmandu and Lhasa. Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: I'd start by looking at the offerings of companies like Adventure Center (800/227-8747, adventurecenter.com) and G.A.P Adventures (800/465-5600, gapadventures.com). Their trips will allow you to avoid the dreaded single supplement because they'll pair you with another female single traveler if they can. You should also check out the various programs from Djoser (877/356-7376, djoserusa.com), Smartours (800/337-7773, smartours.net), and Friendly Planet (800/555-5765, friendlyplanet.com). Before booking any trip, be sure to read the latest travel warnings issued for Nepal, which are in place because of the ongoing violence between government forces and Maoist rebels (travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_927.html).

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Laguna Woods, CA: Can you suggest a reliable consolidator for a one way ticket BOM/HKG/LAX? I have been scouring the Internet with no luck, as the ticket commences in India. Please help!!!!

Budget Travel Editors: Asian, Canadian, and European websites--like Zuji, Destina, and Opodo respectively--all sell flights originating in cities outside the U.S., but often the easiest (and most cost effective) way is to contact a local travel agency that regularly sells airfare to foreign nationals. Located in cities with large immigrant populations, (think New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami), the agencies are often given first dibs on great deals for U.S.-bound flights, but be forewarned that many agents speak limited English.

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Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for your great questions. We're sorry we weren't able to answer them all (because of the high volume of queries, we cannot answer all of your questions or answer them individually).
If you'd like to send us a question, you can submit it anytime, and we will do our best to research your question in advance. Please include detailed information (dates of your trip, your departure gateway, etc.) so we can be as helpful as possible.

And if you'd like to be considered for the magazine's Trip Coach column, please include your email address (we won't post your address online, but it's helpful if we need to contact you). Thanks!

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