Trip Coach: October 3, 2006

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Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel

BT Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!

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Janesville, WI: About 1 year ago (I think) there was an article in Budget Mag. giving e-mail sites to home exchange for a vacation or if you'd like to stay in a home in a different city/country without offering a stay in our home. Please send me a list of those sites. Thank you.

BT Editors: You're probably thinking about this article: "Make Yourself at Home."
It includes tips for first-time home exchangers and websites for major home-exchange networks in the U.S.

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Columbus, OH: Me and my sister want to take our niece to Riviera Maya as a college graduation gift in June 2007. We are in are late 30's and she is 21. We want all inclusive and alot of night life. Can you direct me where we can stay?

BT Editors: Sure. We wrote about five all-inclusive resorts on Mexico's Riviera Maya. The popular Gala Beach Resort Playacar (877/888-4252, galaresorts.com.mx) is 45 minutes south of the Cancún airport and the southernmost resort in the lush gated community of Playacar. The resort is spread over a large swath of acreage, so it feels quiet at first, but there are plenty of on-site restaurants and activities to keep you busy. There's also a wealth of off-campus offerings in the Yucatán--Mayan ruins, ATVs, horseback riding.
Or, if you prefer a smaller "boutique" all-inclusive, Sunscape Tulum (866/786-7227, sunscaperesorts.com) has only 232 rooms and resembles an elegant hacienda. But perhaps its coolest feature is its proximity to the famed Mayan city of Tulúm. The Sunscape is the southernmost resort before the coastline turns wild and winds in toward the ruins.
Read about these and three other all-inclusives: The Easy, Breezy Riviera Maya.

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Rancho Cucamonga, CA: My husband and I often find ourselves with a few days here and there with only a week or two notice to plan a small inexpensive trip. We would love to take advantage of discount airlines' last minute deals but once we decide on a city, what's the best and fastest way to plan everything else? Or is this the worst way to go about planning a last minute trip? This might be too general to ask but I'm sure a lot of young couples with little time and small budgets think about this. Thanks!

BT Editors: Try searching for last-minute trips at Site59.com, a website specializing in discounted last-minute air/hotel, air/car, or car/hotel vacation packages. While destinations and dates are limited (you can only search up to two weeks in advance), packages are discounted up to 70% while still earning frequent flier miles on your flights. For example, a quick search turned up a weekend package from nearby Ontario, Calif. to Phoenix, Ariz. from $191 per person, including airfare, two nights' accomodations, taxes, and fees. Or fly to Seattle, Wash. and stay for two nights from $258 per person.

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Chatham, IL: What website is the best to order first class reserved train tickets in Italy? Not looking for passes but for intermittent travel between, say, Rome to Florence and then Florence to Venice? Also a site that does not charge an extra fee for the service. Can I print or get the ticket on line? Thanks

BT Editors: Go straight to the source--the official website of Italy's rail system, Trenitalia. You can price out train tickets for various types of service and make purchases online. Eurostar trains are the nicest, fastest option, and make the trip between Florence and Rome in about an hour and a half. You have two choices for how to obtain the tickets. Free ticketless service allows you to print out your email confirmation and bring in onboard the train in lieu of a ticket; self-service, also free, requires you to print out your ticket from a self-service machine at an Italian train station before boarding. (Home delivery is available for €3.35, but only within Italy.) For advice on making the most of your visit, consult our Rome Snap Guide and Eat Like a Local: Florence and Venice.

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Seattle, WA: My fiancé and I are traveling to Cape Town South Africa in November. We need suggestions on places to stay (B&B) in a cool area that won't break our budget.

BT Editors: Our free downloadable Cape Town Snap Guide is full of insider tips on hip, affordable places to stay, shop, eat, and play. Here are a few B&Bs to get you started: An African Villa, a 12-room guesthouse in the city with a pool and rates from $100; Dunkley House, a hidden haven in a gentrified neighborhood of narrow one-way streets and Victorian homes, with rates from $114; or Rosedene Lodge, on a quiet lane behind Sea Point's busy main road, just a couple of blocks from the water, with rates from $92 in the off-season. Before you go, read 25 Reasons We Love Cape Town.

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St. Louis, MO: Do you know anything about a travel company called Maxxim Vacations based in St. John, Newfoundland, Canada? They have escorted trips as well as independent trips. Thanks.

BT Editors: Yes! We regularly highlight travel packages organized by Maxxim Vacations, which specializes in travel to Eastern and Atlantic Canada, and our experience has been that they offer reliable, affordable service. As you mention, their options cover independent fly-and-drive packages, fully escorted bus tours, and even customized packages. One of our recent Real Deals, Flavors of Quebec, detailed a Maxxim Vacations package including airfare, six nights in B&Bs and hotels throughout Quebec, and a rental car from $1,109 per person. Over the summer, Maxxim's Prince Edward Island package caught our eye: airfare, three nights, and rental car from $749 per person. Both packages are still up for grabs.

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Philadelphia, PA: A friend and I are unable to find group tours to Corsica, other than Kalliste Tours, which costs almost $7,000 for one week (without airfare)! We could go at any time of the year. Independent travel is not an option because neither of us likes to drive, and we understand that train and public bus transportation on the island are infrequent.

BT Editors: Yikes! While group tours to Corsica are hard to come by, you shouldn't have to settle for such a hefty tab. In spring and summer 2007, Adventure Center has a seven-night trip to Calvi, Corsica, with guided walks, breakfast daily, and five dinners from $790 per person (airfare is additional). It would also be worth contacting Corsica's tourism board. Their deals section has no current listings for U.S. travelers, but they may know of tour operators that offer trips to Corsica. Good luck!

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