40 Best Bargain Vacations

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The Real Deals for May, June, and July

Read this first: All rates and packages are accurate and available as of press time. If we get consistent feedback that an operator is pulling a bait and switch, we'll drop them. Our deadlines make it impossible to include last-minute offers, so compare the rates listed here with those of booking engines and tour operators to be sure you're getting the very best price possible. And check BT's website (budgettravel.msnbc.com) for the latest specials.

What's not in the price: Service fees, security and passenger-facility charges, and visa costs are not included. Hotel, car rental, and airport taxes are generally not covered either. Such extra charges vary widely: $50 or less for a trip in the U.S., $50-$100 for the Caribbean and Mexico, $75-$125 for western Europe, $300 and up for spots where visas alone cost $100 or more (like Brazil and Russia). Also, most rates are based on midweek airfare; weekend travel can raise the price $100 or more each way. Port charges (for cruises) are almost always extra.

Be flexible: Prices depend on travel dates, and there's no guarantee your preferred dates will be available. (You can forget scoring a sweet deal around the holidays.) Once the least expensive options sell out, operators typically offer the next best price for the dates you've requested. Having a flexible schedule increases the odds of finding the lowest price.

Single travelers: Unless otherwise stated, all rates listed are per person, based on two people traveling together and sharing a room. Whenever possible, we list the single supplement--the fee you have to pay, in addition to the base price, taxes, and other charges, to get the total cost for going it alone.

Itinerary changes: Adding and subtracting nights is usually possible, for a price. The extra-night rate we list is per person, based on two people sharing a room. Also, most operators will adapt packages to suit your needs--bundling tours, excursions, meals, and entertainment--for an additional cost.

Take some responsibility: Hotels will be clean and safe, offering the basics for a basic price. Locations vary; the lowest-price hotels may not be in the center of town or right on the beach. We encourage you to do your own research to avoid disappointment. There are many websites (TripAdvisor and Epinions, for example) that offer reviews of hotels, vacations, and cruises. If you don't like what you see, upgrades to better hotels are almost always available.

Airfare: Where flights are included, we try to list prices from a variety of airports or gateways around the country, but we don't have space for every city.

Operators will often arrange connections from dozens of airports, but you have to call up or log on to their websites to find out the cost. Don't assume they'll always give you the best rate. It may make more sense to book your own connections using frequent-flier miles or a low-cost airline. Before you book, always check to see how many connections you'll have to make. Land-only prices do not include airfare. For international destinations, we've tried to give you the name of the airline wherever possible.

What all-inclusive means: As a general rule, all-inclusive resorts combine lodging, three meals per day, entertainment, and nonmotorized water sports (such as sea kayaking) into one price. Some, but not all, also include alcoholic drinks and gratuities.

USA

Sun, Sand & Savings for $299

Nothing will cure the blahs faster than a couple of days in Miami Beach. Leisure Link International offers flights from New York and three nights in one of nearly a dozen Miami Beach hotels. The total price depends upon which hotel category you choose. Tier 1: Howard Johnson Dezerland, Howard Johnson Caribbean, Greenview South Beach, Ocean Surf ($299). Tier 2: Beach House in Bal Harbour, Albion, Riande Continental South Beach ($338). Tier 3: Shore Club, Loews South Beach, Royal Palm Crowne Plaza ($468). Tier 4: Ritz-Carlton South Beach ($497). When: April 11-Nov. 30. Blackout dates vary by hotel. Other Gateways: D.C. (add from $30); Boston, Chicago (add from $50); Dallas (add from $75); L.A. (add from $100); San Francisco (add from $130). Details: All prices are based on midweek stays. Extra nights from $35 (Tier 1), from $45 (Tier 2), from $95 (Tier 3), from $109 (Tier 4). Single supplement from $99 (Tier 1), from $129 (Tier 2), from $289 (Tier 3), from $325 (Tier 4). Contact: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, eleisurelink.com.

California Horseback Riding for $1,650

Ride along the northern coast of San Mateo County, from Pigeon Point Lighthouse, near Pescadero, through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, along Waddell Creek Beach, and visit Half Moon Bay before returning to Pescadero. Includes five days of guided riding, five nights at hotels and B&Bs, breakfast and lunch daily, and a 50-minute massage. When: Trips depart from the San Francisco and San Jose airports on Sundays through December. Details: Until June 15, up to two kids ages 8 to 16 stay and ride free with two paying adults. Price does not include airfare. Single supplement $450. Similar riding holidays are available in Italy, Spain, and Ireland. Contact: Cross Country International, 800/828-8768, equestrianvacations.com.

Chicago for $394

Air from Baltimore, Boston, D.C., or New York and two nights at the Hilton Chicago, which overlooks Grant Park and Lake Michigan. When: Tuesday departures May 2-July 28. Other Gateways: Colorado Springs, Denver, Salt Lake City ($424); Fresno, L.A., Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle ($439). Details: Extra nights $80. Single supplement $160. Contact: United Vacations, 888/328-6877, unitedvacations.com.

Hawaii Cruise for $749

Eleven days aboard the Norwegian Wind, sailing round trip from Honolulu. The itinerary includes four full days at sea and stops at the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and Fanning Island. When: May 21 ($749 inside stateroom/$769 oceanview), June 11 ($969/$1,019), July 2 ($969/$1,059), July 23 ($939/$1,019). Details: Prices do not include port charges or taxes; add about $260. Call for the singles price; it varies, but could be as much as 200 percent more. Contact: American Discount Cruises, 866/214-7447, americandiscountcruises.com.

Hilton Head for$260

The Sea Pines Resort on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island is offering women a Steel Magnolias weekend package, including two nights at the Inn at Harbour Town, breakfast daily, a crabbing adventure on the beach, use of the resort's bicycles, a manicure at the Sanctuary Day Spa, one mint julep on the Fountain Terrace, and a copy of Girls Raised in the South, a handbook for Southern belles. When: April 18-Aug. 15. Details: Price is per person per two-night stay (required), based on double occupancy. It doesn't include airfare. Contact: Sea Pines Resort, 800/732-7463, seapines.com.

Las Vegas for $162

Air from Phoenix and two nights at the Excalibur, at the south end of the Strip, near New York New York, MGM Grand, and Tropicana. When: Select Monday and Tuesday departures through July. Other Gateways: Dallas ($232), New York ($267), Chicago ($289), Boston ($296). Details: Extra nights $69. Single supplement $69. Contact: America West Vacations, 800/235-9298, americawestvacations.com.

Phoenix for $119

Air from Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, or San Diego and two nights at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Tempe, near Old Town Scottsdale. When: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday departures May 2-July 31 (from $119). Other Gateways: Birmingham, Columbus, Omaha, Seattle (from $239); Manchester, Norfolk, Providence (from $264). Details: Extra nights from $30. Single supplement from $55. Contact: Southwest Airlines Vacations, 800/423-5683, swavacations.com.

Canada

Newfoundland for $1,299

Air Canada flights from Atlanta or Boston to St. John's, a seven-day car rental, seven nights in hotels, B&Bs, and country inns in eastern Newfoundland (three in St. John's and two each in Salmonier and Trinity), and tickets for a whale-watching boat tour in Conception Bay. When: May 1-Oct. 31. Other Gateways: Chicago, New York ($1,399); Miami ($1,419); L.A. ($1,489). Details: Extra nights $90. Single supplement $700. Contact: Maxxim Vacations Gray Line, 800/567-6666, maxximvacations.com.

Mexico

Cancún for $439

Champion Air charter flights from Dallas, transfers, and seven nights at the Radisson Hacienda, two miles from the beach (there's a free shuttle). When: Wednesday or Friday departures May 11-18 ($449); June 3-24 ($439); July 6-27 ($489). Other Gateways: St. Louis (Thursday departures May 19, June 9 and 30, July 7 and 28, add $50); Detroit (Saturday departures May 14-28 add $80, June 4 and July 9-30 add $120); Minneapolis (Friday departures May 6-27 add $130, June 3-24 and July 1-29 add $160). Details: No extra nights. Single supplement $217. Contact: Worry-Free Vacations, 888/225-5658, worryfreevacations.com.

Mazatlán for $386

Mexicana Airlines flights from L.A., transfers, and four nights at the El Cid Granada, part of a 720-acre country club with multiple restaurants, pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and a beach club. When: Until June 23 ($386), July 7-Aug. 5 ($395). Other Gateways: Seattle ($600/$609), Chicago ($740/$753). Details: Land-only price from $158. Extra nights $94. Single supplement from $200. Contact: Pleasant Holidays, 800/448-3333, pleasantholidays.com.

Puerto Vallarta for $599

Air from L.A. and five all-inclusive nights at the Buenaventura Hotel & Beach Club, on the sand and near downtown shops and restaurants. When: Until June 17 (from $599), June 18-Aug. 15 (from $679). Other Gateways: Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco (add $140); Dallas, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tulsa (add $160); Boise, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle (add $180); New York (add $220); Atlanta, Boston, Miami (add $230); Baltimore, D.C., Phoenix (add $250). Details: Extra nights from $68. Single supplement from $180. Contact: Go-today.com, 800/227-3235, go-today.com.

News Flash

As we first mentioned in our March issue, fluctuating exchange rates are wreaking havoc on package prices, and many tour operators have been forced to recalculate their rates almost daily. So please continue to bear in mind that although everyone has provided the most accurate information possible, prices may change as the dollar fluctuates.

Caribbean

Dominica for $1,082

American Airlines flights from Miami to the Caribbean island of Dominica, transfers, seven nights at the Fort Young Hotel, breakfast daily, and a massage. On a cliff overlooking the sea, the hotel has a pool, several restaurants and bars, and a tour desk to arrange excursions. The closest beach is a 15-minute taxi ride away. When: May 15-July 31. Other Gateways: New York ($1,092); Baltimore, D.C. ($1,143); Boston, Philadelphia ($1,158); Chicago ($1,263). Details: Extra nights from $66. Single supplement from $371. Contact: Caradonna Caribbean Tours, 800/328-2288, caradonna.com.

Bahamas for $699

Air from Miami and four all-inclusive nights in Nassau at the Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort, with six restaurants, three pools, tennis courts, water sports, and a golf course nearby. When: May 2-June 26. Other Gateways: New York ($709), L.A. ($819). Details: These are cash-discount prices; add 3 percent for credit card payments. Extra nights $216. Single supplement $507. Contact: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.

Barbados for $699

US Airways flights from Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York, or Philadelphia, six nights in an oceanview room at the Coconut Court Beach Hotel, and breakfast daily. The three-star, family-run resort has a pool, restaurant, and PADI dive shop. When: May 1-Aug. 31. Other Gateways: Chicago (from $835), L.A. (from $899). Details: Extra nights $51. Single supplement $300. Contact: Atlas Vacations, 800/634-1057, atlasvacations.net.

Turks & Caicos for $165

Get your sixth and seventh nights free this summer at the Sands at Grace Bay, a four-star beachfront resort in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. Prices range from $165 per night per room for a courtyard studio (sleeps two) to $725 per night per room for a oceanfront three-bedroom (sleeps up to eight; add $25 each for the seventh and eighth guests). Rates include transfers, a welcome cocktail, and use of the fitness center, bicycles, tennis courts, kayaks, windsurfing and snorkel gear, and Hobie cats. They don't include airfare. When: June 1-Oct. 31. (For travel in May, only the seventh night is free.) Contact: The Sands at Grace Bay, 877/777-2637, thesandstc.com.

Central America

Costa Rica for $735

Delta flights from Chicago to the Liberia airport in northwestern Costa Rica and four all-inclusive nights at the five-star Fiesta Premier Resort & Spa. Each oceanview room has its own terrace or balcony; there's a private beach, a pool, tennis courts, several restaurants and bars, a casino, a fitness center, and a spa on the property. When: May 1-June 30 ($735), July 1-31 ($784). Other Gateways: L.A., San Francisco ($749/$798); New York ($776/$825); Boston ($785/$834). Details: Extra nights from $92. Single supplement from $199. Add round-trip airport transfers (20 minutes) for $40. Car rentals are available, starting at $24 per day. Contact: Leisure Link International, 888/801-8808, eleisurelink.com.

Guatemala for $727

American Airlines flights from Miami, transfers, five nights at the Hotel Princess Reforma in Guatemala City, a full-day trip to Chichicastenango market and Lake Atitlán (with lunch), and a half-day tour of colonial Antigua. When: Thursday departures until Dec. 9, except July 1-Aug. 15 (add $60). Other Gateways: Atlanta, Dallas, L.A. (add $50); Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia (add $60); Denver, San Francisco (add $130); Chicago, Detroit (add $180); Phoenix, Seattle (add $230). Details: Add $60 to travel Friday-Wednesday. Extra nights $35. Single supplement $241. Contact: Tara Tours, 800/327-0080, taratours.com.

Panama City for $549

Copa Airlines flights from Miami, transfers, five nights at the Hotel Marbella (or similar), breakfast daily, and a half-day tour of the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. When: Until June 15 ($549), June 16-Aug. 15 ($619). Other Gateways: New York ($599/$819), L.A. ($644/$819). Details: Extra nights $25. Single supplement $120. Add a full-day excursion to Taboga Island for $46 (includes lunch, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling) or a full-day trip to the rain forest for $117 (includes swimming, hiking, and a visit to an Embera Indian village by dugout canoe). Contact: Escapes Unlimited, 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.

South America

Argentina & Chile for $899

Aerolíneas Argentinas flights from Miami to Buenos Aires (return is from Santiago, Chile), transfers, four nights downtown at the Regis Hotel (or similar), breakfast daily, and a half-day city tour. Then fly to Santiago and spend two nights at the Hotel Los Nogales (or similar) with breakfast daily and a half-day city tour. When: May 1-Nov. 1. Other Gateways: New York ($949). Details: Extra nights from $25. Single supplement from $200. Contact: Escapes Unlimited, 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.

Brazil & Argentina for $1,249

Tam or Varig flights from Miami to Rio de Janeiro (return is from Buenos Aires); all flights between Rio, Iguazú Falls, and Buenos Aires; transfers throughout; eight nights' lodging (three nights in Rio at the California Othon on Copacabana Beach, two nights on the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls at the Sheraton Internacional, and three nights in Buenos Aires at the Regis Hotel); breakfast daily and one dinner in Rio at a traditional churrascaria; city tours of Rio and Buenos Aires; and entrance fees at the falls. When: May 1-June 15 ($1,249), June 16-July 31 ($1,399). Other Gateways: New York ($1,456/$1,609), L.A. ($1,539/$1,689). Details: The itinerary can be reversed at no extra charge. Extra nights from $24 in Buenos Aires, from $35 in Rio, from $91 in Iguazú Falls. Single supplement $350. Contact: Marnella Tours, 866/993-0033, marnellatours.com.

Peru for $995

LanPeru flights from Miami to Cuzco (via Lima), transfers, four nights at the El Puma Hotel with breakfast daily, a full-day tour to Machu Picchu (by backpacker train, includes lunch), an onward flight to Lima, transfers, and two nights at the Carmel Hotel with breakfast daily. When: May 1-Aug. 31. Other Gateways: L.A., New York (add $137). Details: Extra nights from $25 in Lima, from $30 in Cuzco. Single supplement $200. Upgrade to Machu Picchu's Vistadome train for $30; over-night at the Machu Picchu Inn for $55. Add a full-day excursion to Pisac Market, Ollantaytambo Fortress, and Chinchero for $28. Add a four-day/three-night Inca Trail excursion for $420, including camping equipment, all meals, and a porter for baggage handling. Contact: Analie Tours, 800/811-6027, analietours.com.

Europe

Deluxe European River Cruises for $2,195

"River cruising is our most popular type of vacation," says Mark Frevert, executive vice president of Grand Circle Travel, the leading tour operator for Americans over the age of 50. This summer's offerings include a 13-day "Eastern Europe to the Black Sea," which follows the Danube River from Budapest to Constantsa, Romania, and a 16-day "Great Rivers of Europe," cruising the Rhine, Main, and Danube from Amsterdam to Vienna. The virtually all-inclusive price covers round-trip flights from Boston or New York, transfers, accommodations aboard a deluxe Grand Circle Travel river ship (120-140 passengers; all outside cabins with private baths) and in tourist-class hotels (on some itineraries), most meals, entertainment, onboard lectures, guided tours via private bus, baggage handling, and more. When: May (from $2,595 Eastern Europe, $2,995 Great Rivers); June (from $2,295/$3,195); July (from $2,195/$3,295). Other Gateways: Miami (add $200), L.A. (add $200-$250). Details: Single supplement add 25 percent. Pre- and post-trip extensions are available. Contact: Grand Circle Travel, 800/959-0405, gct.com.

A Week in Portugal for $809

"For a taste of the Iberian Peninsula less traveled, Portugal is an excellent choice," says Joaquin Pradas, director of Petrabax USA. "From Lisbon, you can head north to Porto and the wine country. Or go south to the Atlantic beach resorts of the Algarve, which offer all kinds of activities--golf courses, tennis, sailing. Many of the small fishing villages are now resort areas, but there's still the flavor of the past in places like Albufeira and Lagos." Get TAP Air Portugal flights from New York to Lisbon, domestic air in Portugal, and six nights split between Lisbon (Hotel Lutécia or similar) and either Porto (Fénix Porto Hotel) or the Algarve (Montechoro Hotel in Albufeira or Don Pedro Marina Hotel in Vilamoura). When: Until June 15 ($809), June 16-Aug. 31 ($1,295). Other Gateways: Boston (add from $74); Atlanta, Chicago (add from $121); Miami (add from $139). Details: Extra nights from $69. Single supplement from $210. Six nights in Lisbon starts at $969. Contact: Petrabax, 800/265-4842, petrabaxusa.com.

Amsterdam, Brussels & Paris for $879

Air from New York to Amsterdam (return is from Paris), second-class Thalys train tickets from Amsterdam to Brussels and Brussels to Paris, and two nights in each city with breakfast daily (Avenue Hotel in Amsterdam, L'Hôtel Vendôme in Brussels, and Timhotel Nation in Paris). When: Until May 29 ($879), May 30-Aug. 25 ($1,179). Blackout dates for these hotels are June 11-19. Other Gateways: Boston ($899/$1,209), Atlanta ($959/$1,299), Chicago ($979/$1,329), Houston ($1,009/$1,359), L.A. ($1,089/$1,429). Details: Extra nights from $36. Single supplement from $230. Contact: Go-today.com, 800/227-3235, go-today.com.

Athens & Greek Isles Cruise for $1,399

Lufthansa or Swiss International flights from Boston or New York, transfers, three nights in Athens at the Divani Palace Acropolis, three nights aboard Louis Cruise Lines MS Perla (with stops in Ku¸sadasi, Patmos, Rhodes, and Mykonos), breakfast daily in Athens, all meals while on the ship, and the services of a tour host. When: May 18 ($1,399); June 22, July 13, Aug. 10 ($1,599). Other Gateways: Chicago, D.C. (add $100); Miami (add $150); L.A. (add $220). Details: These are cash-discount prices; add 4 percent for credit card payments. Add $210 for airport departure taxes and $60 for port charges. Single supplement $370. Upgrade to an outside cabin for $100. One child under 11 sharing with parents costs $659. Adding a three-night extension to Mycenae, Olympia, and Delphi costs $375 (singles add $190). Contact: Friendly Planet Travel, 800/555-5765, friendlyplanet.com.

Ireland for $824

Aer Lingus flights from Boston or New York, a seven-day car rental, six nights at any of the 60-odd Countrywide Inns throughout Ireland (must be prebooked), breakfast daily, and a Waterford Crystal factory tour. When: May 1-31 ($824), June 1-20 ($880), June 21-July 10 ($972), July 11-31 ($1,019). Other Gateways: Chicago (add $35-$114), L.A. (add $92-$228). Details: Extra nights with car from $76. Single supplement from $204. Contact: Celtic Tours, 888/833-4373, celtictours.com.

Malta & Sicily for $1,240

Virgin Atlantic and Air Malta flights from Boston, D.C., or New York to Malta (via London), transfers, six nights at the four-star Kennedy Nova Hotel in Sliema, breakfast daily, and a full-day guided excursion to Sicily by hydrofoil (includes visits to Mount Etna and Taormina). When: May 1-June 30 ($1,240), July 1-14 ($1,460), July 15-23 ($1,495). Other Gateways: Miami, Orlando ($1,365/$1,565/$1,606); L.A., San Francisco ($1,409/$1,715/$1,755). Details: Extra nights $38. Single supplement $150. Add dinner daily for $115 total. Contact: Amelia International, 800/742-4591, ameliainternational.com.

Paris for $439

Air from New York and four nights at the two-star Relais de Paris, a 54-room property in the 12th arrondissement, near the Gare de Lyon and the Bastille, with breakfast daily. When: Until May 31 ($439), June 1-6 ($529), June 7-15 ($599), June 16-18 ($779), June 19-29 ($739), June 30-Aug. 27 ($719). Other Gateways: Boston (add from $147), D.C. (add from $154), Miami (add from $225), L.A. (add from $298). Details: These are cash-discount prices; add 3 percent for credit card payments. Extra nights from $66. Single supplement from $211. Contact: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.

Africa & Middle East

Cape Town & Kenya Safari for $2,005

An 11-day, 8-night "Surf and Safari Adventure," including South African Airways flights from Atlanta or New York to Cape Town (return is from Nairobi, via Johannesburg); two nights in Cape Town at the City Lodge V&A Waterfront; an onward flight to Nairobi; one night each at the Nairobi Safari Club, Samburu Game Lodge (Samburu Game Reserve), The Ark (Aberdare National Park), Lake Elementaita Lodge (Lake Nakuru); and two nights at the Mara Simba Lodge (Masai Mara Game Reserve). Includes all transfers, a half-day tour of Cape Town, breakfast daily in Cape Town and Nairobi, and all meals and activities while on safari. When: Thursday departures May 1-June 30. Other Gateways: Boston, Miami, Philadelphia (add $180); L.A. (add $260). Details: This is a discounted rate for Budget Travel readers (the regular price is $2,109). Single supplement $250. Contact: South African Airways Holidays, 888/777-1138, saaholidays.net.

Egypt for $999

Egyptair flights from New York to Cairo, transfers, five nights at the deluxe Sheraton Royal Gardens Hotel in Giza, breakfast daily, and two half-day guided tours of the Pyramids and Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, and the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. When: Sunday departures until May 29 ($999), June 5-July 31 ($1,299). Other Gateways: None. Details: Single supplement $125. Add three nights on the Red Sea in the resort area of Sharm al-Sheikh for $349 (includes flights, transfers, hotel, and breakfast daily), or a three-night Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor for $499 (includes flights, transfers, meals, and shore excursions). Contact: Misr Travel, 800/223-4978, misrtravel.org.

South Africa Family Safari for $2,499

South African Airways flights from Atlanta or New York to Cape Town (return is from Johannesburg), four nights in Cape Town at the four-star Commodore Hotel on the V&A Waterfront, an onward flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and three nights on safari at the Bakubung Game Lodge near Sun City. Includes all transfers, guided tours (Cape Town, Cape Point, Cape wine country), three game drives at Bakubung, breakfast daily, and three dinners. When: May 1-31 ($2,499), June 1-Aug. 31 ($3,199). Other Gateways: Baltimore, D.C. (add $140); Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis (add $180); Denver, L.A., Phoenix, Seattle (add $260). Details: One child under 12 allowed in room with two adults; May ($1,499), June-Aug. ($1,999). Spend three nights at the Ngala Game Lodge (instead of Bakubung) for $100 more. Contact: Lion World Tours, 800/387-2706, lionworldtravel.com.

Asia

Hong Kong Turns Up the Heat for $799

It's a city famous for celebrations, and with summer come some of its best. Tin Hau, goddess of the sea, is honored in May, whenfishermen adorn their junks with colorful ribbons for luck and organize elaborate parades in her name. June brings the Dragon Boat Festival, which marks the death of the ancient national hero Qu Yuan. Crews of 20 or more men race their intricately carved canoes across the bay while thousands cheer them on from the shore. Go-today.com offers air from L.A., transfers, five nights' hotel in Kowloon (depending on the date, either the BP International House or the Stanford Hillview Hotel), and a half-day city tour. When: Until May 20 ($799); May 21-Sept. 4 ($919). Other Gateways: San Francisco ($859/$919); New York ($919/$1,289); Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle ($1,059/$1,039); Denver, Salt Lake City ($1,179/$1,159); Boston, Chicago, Houston ($1,309/$1,289); Miami, Philadelphia ($1,419/$1,399). Details: Extra nights from $47. Single supplement from $220. Contact: Go-today.com, 800/227-3235, go-today.com.

China Tour for $1,399

Air China flights from L.A. or San Francisco; transfers and all local transportation; 10 nights of four- or five-star lodging (three in Beijing, two each in Nanjing and Shanghai, and one each in Hangzhou, Wuxi, and Suzhou); most meals; escorted tours, guided sightseeing, and entrance fees (including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace); an acrobatic show in Beijing; and a cruise on the Grand Canal. When: Wednesday departures May 4-25 ($1,399), June 1-July 27 ($1,559). Other Gateways: New York (add $100; nonstop flights). Details: Extra nights $120. Single supplement $435. Contact: Champion Holidays, 800/868-7658, china- discovery.com.

Lombok for $799

Singapore Airlines flights from L.A. or San Francisco to this Indonesian Island east of Bali, transfers, five nights at the four-star Holiday Inn Resort & Spa, breakfast daily, and a full-day island tour. The 12-acre beachfront property has a pool, tennis court, and fitness center. When: Until June 5 ($799), June 6-July 31 ($1,149). Other Gateways: Denver, Phoenix, Seattle (add $175); New York (add $200); Boston, Chicago, D.C. (add $295); Dallas, Miami, Orlando (add $325). Details: Extra nights from $30. Single supplement from $150. Free stopovers in Singapore; add two nights' hotel, transfers, and a riverboat tour for $80. Add three nights on Bali starting at $229. Contact: Sayang Holidays, 888/472-9264, sayangholidays.com.

Sri Lanka for $1,899

Air from L.A. or San Fran-cisco, an arrival transfer, transportation by bus and train, 14 nights' hotel and one night camping, breakfast daily, and one lunch. The fully escorted itinerary of Sri Lanka's inland hill country includes the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, hiking and biking through tea plantations and rice paddies, elephant viewing in Kaudulla Nature Preserve, and the cultural center of Kandy. When: May 5 ($1,899); May 19 ($1,999); June 16 and 30, July 14 and 28, Aug. 11 and 25 ($2,199). Other Gateways: New York (add $100). Details: Maximum group size is 15. A local payment of $180 is due upon arrival in Sri Lanka. Optional single supplement of $325 (or singles can share with others). Contact: Adventure Center, 800/227-8747, adventurecenter.com.

Tokyo for $999

Continental Airlines flights from New York, transfers, and four nights at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel (New Tower) overlooking Tokyo Bay. When: May 1-31 ($999), June 1-30 ($1,049), July 1-31 ($1,099). Other Gateways: For the same price you can depart from any of Continental's gateways in the eastern U.S. Details: Extra nights $90. Single supplement $280. Add $60 each way to travel Friday-Sunday. A six-night package including three nights in Tokyo, three nights in Kyoto, city tours, and a seven-day rail pass, starts at $1,559. Contact: NTA America, 800/682-7872, japanvacation.net.

South Pacific

Cook Islands for $1,093Air New Zealand flights from L.A., transfers, and five nights in a garden room at the beachfront Club Raro Resort, with two restaurants, a pool, several tennis courts, and water sports. When: May 1-22 ($1,093), May 23-June 12 ($1,132), June 13-Aug. 22 ($1,232). Other Gateways: None. Details: These are cash-discount prices; add $35 for credit card payments. Extra nights from $107. Single supplement from $292. Contact: Sunspots International, 800/334-5623, sunspotsintl.com.

Moorea for $1,169Air New Zealand flights from L.A. to Papeete, Tahiti, inter-island ferry to Moorea, five nights in a mountain-view room at the Club Bali Hai (a family-run beachfront resort on Cook's Bay), and welcome and farewell leis. When: Until May 31 ($1,169); June 1-July 31 ($1,305). Other Gateways: None. Details: Extra nights from $52. Single supplement from $252. Contact: Pleasant Holidays, 800/448-3333, pleasantholidays.com.

Australia & New Zealand

Australia for $1,399Qantas flights from L.A. to Sydney, domestic air in Australia, and eight nights split between Sydney (at the Ibis Darling Harbour, near the aquarium) and either Brisbane (Ibis Brisbane, near the Queen Street Mall) or Melbourne (Ibis Melbourne, near Queen Victoria Market). When: Until June 17 and July 19-Aug. 26 ($1,399); June 18-July 18 ($1,779). Other Gateways: New York (add $375). Details: Extra nights from $100. Single supplement from $390. Or choose an 8-day Sydney/Cairns combo (add $100), a 12-day Sydney/Adelaide/Kangaroo Island/Melbourne combo (add from $220), or a 12-day Sydney/Outback/Cairns combo (add from $620). Contact: Qantas Airways/Tourism Australia, 800/369-6863, australia.com.

New Zealand for $1,389

Air New Zealand flights from L.A. to Christchurch (the return flight is from Auckland), a 13-day Spirit 2 camper-van rental (with two berths and a kitchenette), and tickets for the ferry crossing between Picton, on the South Island, and Wellington, on the North Island. When: Until Aug. 26 ($1,389). Other Gateways: San Francisco (add $125); Las Vegas, San Diego (add $135); Seattle (add $275). Details: Extra days with camper-van start at $47. Single supplement from $260. Upgrade to a Spirit 2 Deluxe camper-van (with a toilet and shower) for $91 more. Contact: ATS Tours, 800/423-2880, atstours.com.

Reader Report

Scott Rounds of Napa, Calif., traveled to Bali in January with his wife, Shelley.  Scott booked a package he found in the December/January edition of 40 Best. Here's what he had to say about their experience: Before I called Escapes Unlimited, I kept thinking of the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Round-trip air to Bali, transfers, five nights' hotel with breakfast daily, and a half-day tour for only $829?! Surely there must be a catch. Nope. Even after we upgraded to the Meliá Bali Hotel in Nusa Dua ($300 more), the trip was amazingly affordable--and it exceeded all of our expectations. Our stay in Bali was a short five days, but the memories will last a lifetime: a guided tour of ancient temples, Monkey Forest, and the crafts capital of Ubud; luxurious spa treatments on the beach; four-course meals at five-star restaurants. When we share our experiences with family and friends, their first questions are "Wasn't Bali devastated by the tsunami?" or "Isn't it dangerous to travel there after the bombing?" We weren't sure ourselves until we went there, but we're happy to report that the answer to both is no. And the Balinese people were the friendliest we've ever encountered in any of our travels, making us feel welcomed and safe everywhere we visited. They truly touched our hearts.

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