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Top five off-peak destinations for spring 2006

SmarterTravel

With melting snow, budding flowers, and warming temperatures, spring provides a great opportunity for travelers willing to chance a rainstorm or two. Additionally, missing the rush of peak summer means avoiding the crowds and corresponding high prices. Our destination picks offer a variety of cultural activities, festivals, and affordable pricing to make a trip worth your time and budget.

When traveling in spring, circle June 15 on your calendar. Travel providers consider this date the official beginning of summer, and prices skyrocket. As a general rule (excepting Orlando), the earlier in spring you travel, the cheaper the prices will be.

Our picks for the top five off-peak destinations for spring 2006 are Amsterdam; Ashland, Oregon; Croatia; Orlando; and Vermont.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam in spring brings flowers, festivals, and temperatures inching towards the 50s and 60s. The city’s famous tulips will start to bloom, and with improving weather, it will be easier to explore the city by bike, Amsterdam’s popular form of transportation.

Major events this spring include the Bollenstreek Flower Parade, held yearly at the end of April; the Jumping Amsterdam international equestrian event, to be held April 20 through 23; and Queens Day, a national celebration of the Queen’s birthday featuring a street market, music, and entertainment, scheduled for April 28 through 29. 2006 also marks Rembrandt’s 400th birthday, and the city has a variety of events planned to celebrate.

Visitors can head indoors to check out some of the city’s most popular attractions including the Heineken Experience brewery tour, the Anne Frank House and Museum, De Hortus botanical garden, and the city’s Van Gogh and other art museums.

We checked vacation packages to Amsterdam to calculate how much you can save by taking advantage of off-peak travel this spring and found savings up to 29 percent.

Package Provider Spring rate Summer rate
Airfare from New York, four nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast Go-Today $809 (March 26 through May 26) $1,139 (May 27 through September 6)
Airfare from New York, four nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast EuropeASAP $689 (April 1 through May 24) $899 (June 1 through August 31)
Airfare from Boston or New York, four nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast Air France Holidays $849 (March 26 through May 25) $1,169 (May 26 through September 6)

Prices were on found the providers’ websites. Rates vary by departure date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

Amsterdam’s airport, KLM’s hub and frequent stopover for many European flights, offers a large number of flights going in and out each day and easy access to the city.

To find more information about visiting Amsterdam, refer to the Holland.com website. For more tips and strategies for saving money in Amsterdam, visit the SmarterTravel.com Amsterdam Travel Guide.Top

Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, located in Oregon’s Cascades and Siskiyou mountain ranges, offers arts, culture, and theater in a cozy, small-town setting. The town is famous for its yearly Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which includes performances this spring ranging from The Importance of Being Earnest, The Winter’s Tale, and The Diary of Anne Frank, among many others. Better yet, spring is considered the festival’s value season, with ticket prices discounted by 25 percent through June 4, after which prices rise for the summer peak demand.

Beyond the theater, spring in Ashland offers many other incentives for value-oriented travelers. The weather, generally pleasant in spring, typically ranges from the 40s all the way up to the high 70s. Outdoorsy travelers may want to hike the Cascades or bike the Bear Creek Greenway. The area is also home to several wineries. And during the week, you can leave your car behind, as Ashland offers free bus service within the town Monday through Friday; rides to locations outside of Ashland are just $1 each way.

By traveling during the off-peak value season, we found savings of up to 24 percent per night at several Ashland B&Bs.

Room type B&B Spring rate Summer rate
Queen room Ashland Mountain House B&B $95 (October 15 through May 14) $125 (May 15 through October 14)
King room Chanticleer Inn $155 (February through April) $195 (May through October)
Suite Coolidge House $125 (April through May) $160 (June through October)

Prices were on found the providers’ websites.

Ashland, a day trip from San Francisco and Portland, is serviced by the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. Carriers to Rogue Valley include America West, Delta, Horizon Air, and United Airlines.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s website provides a wealth of information about travel to Ashland, including a festival planner, activities, and a comprehensive visitors’ guide. For more tips on Ashland travel, visit the SmarterTravel.com Ashland Travel Guide. Top

Croatia

Croatia, one of Eastern Europe’s up-and-coming destinations, entices visitors with cosmopolitan cities, national parks, a burgeoning fine dining scene, and an extensive coastline. Spring is typically the rainy season, so you may want to pack an extra umbrella for your trip. Despite the rain, however, prices are among the lowest of the year and there are plenty of indoor activities.

From March 16 through April 2, the capital city of Zagreb hosts the Springtime Jazz Fever Festival, a series of jazz concerts by local and international musicians. Southward, historic Dubrovnik hosts an International Film Festival yearly at the end of May, showcasing independent features, documentaries, and short films, with awards distributed for each category.

We compared off-peak vacation packages to summer vacations and found spring savings from 32 percent.

Package Provider Spring rate Summer rate
Airfare from Newark, 12 nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast, seven dinners, sight-seeing tours Friendly Planet $1,899 (March 22 through April 4) $2,799 (July 5 through July 18)
Airfare from New York, eight nights’ accommodations, 14 meals Gate1 Travel $1,999 (April) $2,399 (June)
Airfare from New York, six nights’ accommodations Travelocity $2,095 (April 5 through 12) $2,496 (June 21 through 28)

Prices were found on the travel providers’ websites and compare travel from March and April to peak travel in June and July.

Major carriers servicing Croatia include Air France, British Airways, Air Canada, KLM-Northwest, and Lufthansa.

Keep track of Croatia deals and other resources by checking SmarterTravel.com’s Croatia Travel Guide. For more information on traveling to Croatia, see the Croatian National Tourist Board website. Top

Orlando

While Orlando is typically busy and full of crowds throughout the year, there is a lull from May to mid-June, when kids are still in school and most families aren’t able to schedule a vacation. And as summer has yet to settle in, visitors will miss the oppressive heat and humidity Florida is known for, although late June can get quite hot. Additionally, note that June is typically the rainiest month, and also the kick-off of hurricane season, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Orlando’s spring promotions include Star Wars Weekends, May 19 through June 11, at Disney World’s MGM Studios. Universal Orlando is offering a kids stay, play, and eat free package through July 31. For more tips and strategies on saving money in Orlando, visit the SmarterTravel.com Orlando Travel Guide.

We searched for airfare to Orlando to calculate how much you can save by taking advantage of off-peak flights this spring and found savings of up to 32 percent.

Route Spring fare Summer fare
Chicago (O’Hare) to Orlando $158 $184
Dallas (DFW) to Orlando $158 $232
Los Angeles (LAX) to Orlando $198 $248

Spring fares are based on travel between May 10 and 17, and summer fares are based on travel between June 21 and 28. Prices were found on Travelocity’s website and do not include taxes and fees.

For additional vacation planning, there are a host of resources on VisitFlorida.com. Top

Vermont

Spring in Vermont can be a charming time to visit. While it’s true that spring is also locally known as “mud season,” and hiking, skiing, and leaf-peeping won’t be ideal, the state still puts on a festive face with maple sugaring activities, arts events, and plenty of discounts on accommodations, attractions, and more. And best yet, the summer crowds won’t have arrived. “If you want to visit Vermont and have the place all to yourself, come in April,” recommends Susan McNulty, innkeeper of Rowell’s Inn in Andover, Vermont.

Popular spring events in Vermont include the fifth annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, held this year from March 24 to 26, where sugarhouses statewide kick off the maple sugaring season with tours, pancake breakfasts, and food samples including maple candy, sugar on snow, and maple cream. This year is also the 40th anniversary of the Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans, April 28 through 30, which features sugarhouse tours, a craft show, specialty food exhibits, a carnival, and the “Sap Run” road race.

Other spring festivals include the Green Mountain Film Festival in Montpelier, March 17 through 26; the Vermont Open Studios arts weekend statewide, May 27 and 28; and the Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, June 2 through 11. For more spring activities throughout Vermont, visit VermontVacation.com.

When we tested accommodations prices at several B&Bs throughout the state, we found savings of up to 40 percent for traveling during the off-peak season.

Room type B&B Off-peak rate Peak rate
Queen room with fireplace or Jacuzzi Vermont Inn, Killington $135 (March 26 through September 23) $175 (September 24 through October 21)
Queen room Four Chimneys Inn, Old Bennington $130 (All months but late September, October) $165 (First week of June, September 22 through October 22)
Standard room Ye Olde England Inn, Stowe $119-139 (Winter/Spring) $199 (Fall foliage)

Prices were on found the providers’ websites.

For more details on spring in Vermont, visit VermontVacation.com. Additionally, check SmarterTravel.com’s Vermont Travel Guide for more information. Top

By traveling in spring, you’ll enjoy affordable airfare and accommodations prices, few crowds, and warming temperatures that make winter seem far behind. Just remember the price changes associated with June 15, and plan accordingly.

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