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BellaOnline's Adventure Living Editor

Year of the Bargain

This is the year to take that adventure you’ve been dreaming about. With travel down as a result of the slow economy, hotels, airlines and tour operators are luring vacationers with some exceptionally good bargains.

“2010 may go down as the ‘year of the deal’, ” says Gabe Saglie, senior editor of Travelzoo.com, an online travel guide and booking agency. “People have become less interested in investing money now for travel six months from now,” notes Saglie.

Hotels and even airlines cater to the impulse traveler by offering short term deals and, in hopes of motivating vacationers, some vendors, even this early in spring, are posting uncommon buys. Saglie cites airline seats discounted by about 30% on Air France for spring travel as well as 20% to 30% for summer travel by SAS if purchased by March 9.

Where else can you find deals? For international travel, look to Mexico, Central America and other destinations where the U.S. dollar remains strong. Residents on the east coast of the U.S. should check out the Caribbean.

For example, at the Grand Velas Resort, Riviera Maya, Mexico, a luxury all-inclusive, winter rates can start at around $500 per person, double occupancy per night, and an additional $175 per night for children staying with parents. Beginning in May for travel through fall, rates drop to as low as $375 per person, double occupancy plus up to two children under 16 years-old stay free in the same room as adults.

With the U.S.Virgin Islands’ Family Fun package, reserve a room and receive 50% off the price of the second room for kids plus $200 in certificates for dining, shopping and sailing. Among participating properties are the Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas, the Buccaneer on St. Croix, and the Westin St. John Resort & Villas on St. John. The package must be booked by May 31, 2010 for travel between June 1 and August 31, 2010.

Domestically, think big cities—Chicago, San Francisco, Boston. “New York City hotel rates have tumbled nearly 50%,” says Saglie. Major cities also come with the added appeal of being within a four to five hour drive of many vacationers. By taking the car instead of flying you save money and add convenience. After all, flying long ago ceased being fun, even for those cosseted in business and first-class. Those living on the west coast of the U.S., notes Saglie, should also think about Hawaii.

As always, the buyer should beware. “More than ever before,” notes Saglie, “people need to read the fine print.” Those rock bottom prices for rooms, airfares and vacation packages may be non-refundable, not a problem if you don’t cancel, but a potentially costly loss if you do. Also, look for any additional fees for baggage, housekeeping, resort activities and taxes. Add these up to find out just how good a deal you purchased.

Even so, “it is still a buyer’s market,” notes Saglie. “This could be the year to take that adventure of a lifetime.”

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