The top five bargain destinations for spring 2005 - Page 2

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on February 1, 2005. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Buenos Aires, China, Christine Sarkis, Mexico, Portugal, spring, Sri Lanka, Thailand, vacation package.

According to the Singapore-based media outlet Today, Sri Lankan Airlines has launched a BounceBack Campaign with discounted packages to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The airline is also introducing a travel and volunteer work package for visitors who want to assist in relief and rebuilding. (Other volunteer organizations offering relief trips to areas affected by the tsunami include Global Crossroad and i-to-i.) Also, Malaysia Airlines is offering an AsiaPass, with three free stopovers within Southeast Asia.

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With a good exchange rate set to hold through spring and noteworthy package deals—many including tours and meals in addition to air and hotel—China has emerged as a top candidate for bargain travel this spring. However, analysts predict that the Chinese currency (yuan) will be allowed to appreciate against the U.S. dollar by mid-year, so the current travel value may be yet another limited-time offer. has an array of packages, including multi-city options. Its five-day Hong Kong package is $729 (excluding airport taxes and fees) per person with airfare from San Francisco. To put that in perspective, when we checked for mid-week flights in late March, the airfare alone was $200 more than the Go-today package price. Some packages also include multi-country stops to neighboring countries such as Japan. Gate1Travel has both guided package tours and independent options. Air China will also begin offering air-and-hotel packages in February. For additional options, the China National Tourist Office website has a tour operator locator that searches by state.

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The Azores

Though its currency is the euro, the Azores, a group of islands 800 miles west of Portugal have so far not been subject to the rising prices seen in the rest of Europe. And this spring, the price of getting to and staying in the Azores qualifies the islands (fabled to be the lost empire of Atlantis) as a bargain destination.

The nine Portugese islands that make up the Azores sit in the Atlantic, just four hours by plane from the East Coast of the U.S. The airline Azores Express (part of the SATA airline group in Portugal) has travel packages that start at $569 through the end of March (prices will rise slightly for April) for round-trip airfare from Boston and six-nights' accommodations. And while flying business class is prohibitively expensive to most of Europe (especially for the budget traveler), Azores Express offers an upgrade to business class for an extra $300 added to a round-trip ticket.

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