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The best bargain vacations for top island destinations

The Greek Isles. Tahiti. Hawaii. Ireland. It doesn’t matter which island you want to visit; there will be dozens of vacation-package providers with a “great” deal for you. But not all vacation packages are made equal. I compared dozens of packages for destinations in the U.S., Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific, and found a handful of bargain-basement vacations that offer the most bang for your buck. Note that prices do not include [% 14164 | | taxes and fees %] for airfare.

Four nights in the Bahamas from $299

For less than $300, this package offered by BeachDestinations.com includes round-trip airfare from Miami and four nights’ accommodations at the Nassau Palm Resort, located on Nassau Harbor close to Junkanoo Beach.

Departures from most U.S. cities are available at higher prices. The offer is valid for travel in October and November. To book, visit BeachDestinations.com or call 877-433-4378.

Five nights in Hawaii from $433

Pleasant Holidays is offering [% 255 | | Honolulu %] vacations from $433. Packages include round-trip airfare departing from Los Angeles or San Francisco, five nights at the Castle Island Colony hotel, a rental car for five days, and an Aloha Dinners Club guide.

Although the lowest prices are for Los Angeles and San Francisco departures, Pleasant Holidays offers the same package from other cities for higher prices. Travel is valid Wednesdays and Thursdays through December 7, but must be booked by October 31. To reserve this package, visit Pleasant Holidays’ website and click on “More Detail” below the “6 Days at the Castle Island Colony” heading.

Three nights in Ireland from $499

Flexible Ireland bed-and-breakfast vacations are on sale from Aer Lingus Vacations. Packages include round-trip airfare from Boston or New York to Dublin or Shannon, an economy rental car with unlimited mileage, and three nights’ accommodations. One night’s stay is at the Clare Inn Golf and Leisure Hotel in Shannon, and the other two are at your choice of more than 400 farmhouse B&Bs around the country. Also included are admission to the Waterford Crystal Factory, and complimentary Irish coffee reception for Shannon arrivals.

Departures from other U.S. cities are available at higher rates, and extra nights cost $60 per person, per night. Travel is valid from November 2006 through March 2007. To book, visit Aer Lingus Vacations’ website.

Seven nights in Singapore and Bali from $799

Escapes Unlimited has a vacation deal that features Singapore and Bali. The package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Singapore, an onward flight to Bali, seven nights’ accommodations, and a few extras. In Singapore, two nights’ accommodations at a three-star hotel and tickets to a sightseeing tour, a river cruise, a night safari, the National Orchid Garden, and the Bird Park are included. In Bali, you can choose between five nights at the Ari Putri Hotel, Sanur Beach; Bakung Beach Cottages, Kuta Beach; or Sri Bungalows, Ubud; and also receive daily breakfast and a half-day tour of villages and temples on the island.

The package is valid for travel through December 5. To book, visit Escapes Unlimited’s website and click on “Singapore and Bali” under “Combos.”

Six nights in Tahiti from $1,198

Tahiti Vacations, a partner of Air Tahiti Nui, is offering six-night Tahiti packages starting at $1,198. The deal includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, one night’s stay in Tahiti at the Hotel Tiare Tahiti, five nights on the island of Moorea at Club Bali Hai Moorea, and round-trip ferry transfers. Tahiti Vacations also throws in an airport arrival meet-and-greet (complete with flower lei), airport transfers, and hotel taxes.

The package is valid for travel Sundays through Thursdays through December 12, but costs $100 more after November 30. To book, visit Tahiti Vacations’ website.

Eight nights in the Greek Isles from $1,299

Package-tour provider Gate 1 Travel is offering independent packages to two Greek Isles that also include a short stay in Athens. The $1,299 price includes round-trip airfare from New York, three nights each in Santorini and Mykonos, two nights in Athens, breakfast daily, airport transfers, all ferries and flights within Greece, and host services in each destination. Gate 1 Travel offers a selection of hotel choices at four different price points, and departures are available from dozens of U.S. cities at varying prices. Sightseeing tours are offered for an additional charge.

Travel is valid in 2007 from April to June and again in September and October. Book before December 15 for the lowest prices. The packages remain available for booking after December 15, but prices are substantially higher. For more information and to book, visit Gate1Travel.com.

Seven nights in New Zealand from $1,399

Vacation packages to New Zealand‘s North Island (where Auckland, Rotorua, and the Bay of Islands are located) are on sale from Qantas Vacations, through partnerships with Qantas Airways and Tourism New Zealand. Prices start at $1,399 and include round-trip airfare on Qantas from Los Angeles to Auckland, an eight-day car rental, and a Golden Chain Hotel Blue Pass valid for seven nights. The rental car and hotel pass allow flexibility in your itinerary. There are 37 hotels in 21 destinations on the North Island included in the pass. For an additional $699, a five-night South Island excursion can be added on.

Travel through December 8 for the advertised rates, but note that other dates are available at higher prices. Other departure cities are available as well. For more details, visit Qantas Vacations’ website, and to book, call 800-682-6022.

Even if these particular packages won’t work for your vacation, note that booking deadlines are often extended, and packages can remain similar year after year even if the prices fluctuate. The providers mentioned consistently offer good-value packages, and are good places to start when planning your next island vacation.

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