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Top five bargain destinations for winter 2007/2008

SmarterTravel

As the shortest day of the year draws close and the chill of winter descends, a vacation often starts to look like a pretty good idea. Whether you’re envisioning a chance to thaw out on a tropical beach or hoping to embrace the snow, these standout destinations can help you make the most of your cold, hard, winter vacation cash this season. And while the terrible exchange rate puts most of Europe (and Canada, for that matter) out of the bargain traveler’s reach for now, there’s no shortage of great destinations that still offer good value.

I’ve monitored trends, industry news, and sale patterns to point you in the direction of places that offer the best bargain value for the coming season. Below you’ll find examples of deals presently available for winter trips. Like all deals, these are sure to expire; however, a little research on your part can yield similar results when you’re ready to book.

Florida

Low-cost carriers have caught on that Florida is the darling of chilly East Coasters in need of a quick thaw, and a number of airlines are boosting service in time for winter. No matter what your destination within the state, you’ll be able to find more flight options this season, often at better prices than in recent years.

Super low-cost carrier Skybus has expanded operations beyond its Columbus hub to include flights between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and St. Augustine and Punta Gorda, Florida, starting December 17. The airline has also debuted a second hub at Piedmont Triad Airport in North Carolina, with flights to Punta Gorda and St. Augustine beginning on January 15, 2008, and service to Ft. Lauderdale from January 17. Skybus offers a limited number of $10 one-way fares on all flights.

But Skybus isn’t the only low-cost carrier with new routes this winter. Alaska Airlines has launched flights between Portland, Oregon, and Orlando. Air Tran will kick off additional service between Kansas City and Orlando, Miami, and Ft. Myers in early November. A few months ago, Frontier initiated a route between Denver and Jacksonville. Jetblue is introducing ten routes between Florida destinations and other U.S. cities this winter. Continental has sale fares from $106 one-way to destinations throughout Florida. And, recent sales by JetBlue and Southwest suggest that travelers will be able to find more discounted rates for winter travel to the Sunshine State.

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