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Top five bargain destinations for fall 2005

SmarterTravel

Fall is arguably the best time of year for bargain travel. After the travel frenzy of summer, autumn offers rewards such as lower prices, smaller crowds, and generally pleasant weather to those who wait, or who want to travel again. We’ve been watching travel trends and keeping tabs on sales to bring you the top five bargain destinations for fall 2005.

To illustrate the trend of cheap travel to these destinations, we mention deals available at press time. Our examples, like all deals, are sure to expire, while others are likely to pop up. When you’re ready to book, take our suggestions on where to look, and do a little sleuthing to uncover similar results. Also, be sure to check the SmarterTravel.com air and vacation sections for current offers from travel providers to these and other destinations.

Our top five picks for spring travel are Scotland, Tahiti, Jamaica, Budapest, and New York State.

Scotland

Scotland can be a travel bargain, but it may not be for long. Just as nearby Ireland travel prices rose with its burgeoning popularity as a major tourist destination, Scotland seems poised to become more expensive in the coming years. Why? Not least of all because the U.K. recently gained “Approved Destination Status” by China, and the British Isles are now gearing up to welcome a whole new tourist population in the coming years.

Scotland is on the radar as an up-and-coming tourist destination for other reasons as well. In the same way New Zealand got a lot of buzz from the Lord of the Rings movies, Scotland is already seeing a surge of Da Vinci Code tourists visiting locations featured in the book (and upcoming movie). Poised at the beginning of a popularity boom, Scotland is springing into action to accommodate the increased traffic. Glasgow Airport will undergo a major expansion, making it capable of welcoming 24 million passengers each year. And, a few national parks are testing technology that turns old phone booths into Wi-Fi kiosks for tourists.

There are multiple ways to maximize value on a Scotland vacation this autumn. Flight sales, such as US Airways’ fares from $333 round-trip from New York during September and October, have been cropping up in recent weeks. The US Airways fares must be booked by August 31, but if you’re not ready to buy, check back in early September to see if the sale has been extended. Another option is to find an inexpensive fare to London, then either take the train or fly to Scotland. There are often cheap flights to London during fall, for example, 1-800-Europe is offering a $272 round-trip fare from New York to London. And low-cost European carrier Easy Jet is offering fares as low as $24 each way from London to Edinburgh. Also, air-and-hotel package prices, such as those from Go-Today, start to drop from summer highs after the first week of September, and hit lows by the beginning of November.

Find the most current Scotland deals: Air and vacations.

Tahiti

Seeing Tahiti on any bargain destination list is highly unusual. In fact, there’s just one reason why it’s on this one: Air Tahiti Nui is having a sale for flights on select dates in September, from $550 round-trip from Los Angeles. A quick look at other carriers’ fares makes the appeal of this price obvious, as no other airline comes in at less than $1,000. Travelers who aren’t already in Southern California can tack on a cheap flight from one of the many low-cost carriers that serve Los Angeles, and still benefit from this offer. The Tahiti Tourism website offers packages that combine this discounted airfare and five nights’ accommodations for $999. Because the dates are restricted and the prices are unusual, we don’t expect availability to last long.

Tahiti is less than an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles, making it closer than London for West Coasters. It’s in the same time zone as Hawaii (GMT -10 hr), so jetlag isn’t a huge issue from the Pacific and Mountain time zones.

Jamaica

Cheap fall travel to Jamaica is a parenthetical between the summer and early fall hurricane season and the crowds and high prices of the winter holidays. It’s even easier to get to Jamaica this season because Spirit Airlines has just expanded its Caribbean service, with more flights to Montego Bay. And recently, the deadline for passport travel between Jamaica and the U.S. was pushed back from this coming December to an unspecified date before 2008.

There are plenty of ways to save on a Jamaican vacation this fall. US Airways Vacations is offering $100 off per room on packages to select SuperClubs Super-Inclusive Resorts in Jamaica. Jet-A-Way Holidays is offering eight-day fall packages to Ochos Rios starting at $549 from New York, or $699 from San Francisco. Read our Caribbean vacation guide for a list of other good places to check for Jamaica packages.

There are plenty of airfare-only options as well. United is currently having a sale for travel in October and November, with fares starting at $165 one-way from Seattle to Montego Bay. US Airways has put first-class airfare to the Caribbean on sale through December, with prices starting $300 to $500 above coach fares. Other airlines may well get in the game as fall approaches, so browse the current airfare sales when you’re ready to book.

Find the most current Jamaica deals: Air and vacations.

Budapest

Like much of Europe, prices for airfare and package travel to Budapest drop when summer ends. But what sets the city apart from other major continental centers is the affordability that travelers can still find once they arrive.

Package prices from providers such as Go-Today and Octopus Travel begin to drop from their summer highs around the beginning of September. Rates drop even more—up to 40 or 50 percent off summer rates—after the first of November. Prices start to rise again after the New Year, so fall really is the best time to go for a bargain in Budapest.

If you’re not interested in a package, there are still reasonably priced options. Fall is an especially important time of year to shop around for a flight before buying because sales to Europe tend to crop up more often as travel slows from its summer peak. Seasonal rates at three-star hotels start from around 40 euros ($49) per night on the official Budapest tourism site, and the Mercure hotel chain has discounted online rates at its six Budapest properties, with late September special weekend rates for 25 percent less than rack rates. And for savings in the city, the Budapest Card bundles free and discounted entry at more than 60 city attractions.

Find the most current Budapest deals: Air and vacations.

New York State

In autumn, the Empire State is full of vivid colors sure to impress foliage enthusiasts. And this season, the deals are everywhere. While the high tourist season in New England coincides with the turning of the leaves, New York state tourism peaks in summer, and sees a downturn in fall. And that’s good news for rates and availability.

With more than 10 major airports scattered around the state, it’s easy and convenient to fly to New York. JetBlue will begin flying to New Jersey’s Newark Airport (just across the border from New York City) from six cities starting in early October. Recently, American, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and US Airways all announced domestic sales with fares to cities in New York State. Also, last-minute package provider Site59 has many affordable options for weekend getaways to New York from destinations around the country.

When planning a New York vacation, keep in mind the foliage starts to turn first in the Catskill and Adirondack mountain regions in early September, and spreads across the state to New York City by November. Also, don’t forget fall is a prime time for festivals around the state, including the Chautauqua Fall Festival, the New York Film Festival, and the Hudson Valley Wine Festival.

Find the most current New York deals: Air and vacations.

Use these suggestions and examples of offers as a jumping-off point for planning. The deals mentioned for each destination probably won’t last through the end of fall, but other deals may pop up. When you’re ready to book, check the mentioned providers, as well as the SmarterTravel.com air and vacation sections for current offers.

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