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Top five off-peak destinations for winter 2004/2005

SmarterTravel

Off-peak winter travel need not involve freezing your tail off in some inhospitable locale just to save a few bucks. In fact, we found a variety of destinations that offer temperate weather, plenty to do, and low-season prices during the winter. And if you don’t mind frigid temperatures, we also pinpointed a couple places where the cold drives prices down but the local scene keeps on kicking.

Our top five choices for off-peak winter travel include Bermuda, Napa Valley, Santa Fe, Tahiti, and Sweden.

Bermuda

While sun-deprived tourists flock to the warm Caribbean islands during the winter, BermudaÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?which lies north, about on parallel with Charleston, SCÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?is refreshingly free of crowds. Travelers who visit the island during its winter low-season can expect an average temperature of 70 degrees, which is a bit cool for swimming and diving, but perfect for golf and tennis. And, in January and February, the island stages the Bermuda Festival, an arts celebration featuring six weeks of theater, dance, music, and other performances.

With fewer visitors in the winter, rates for accommodations can drop by 40 percent or more, making this affluent British territory affordable for more budget-minded travelers. To demonstrate how much you save by traveling in the low season, we compared summer and winter rates at several Bermuda resorts, and found price differences of $100 or more per day.

Sample rates include:

Hotel Peak rates Winter rates
Pompano Beach Club $460 to $540 (May 1 to October 31) $260 to $310 (December 1 to March 31)
The Reefs $454 to $824 (April 14 to October 31) $284 to $514 (December 1 to March 31)
Cambridge Beaches $495 to $1,615 (April 16 to October 31) $335 to $1,100 (December 1 to February 28)

Prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. All rates are based on the Modified American Plan, which includes breakfast, afternoon tea, and a full dinner each day along with accommodations. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

Visit the Bermuda Tourism website to find other accommodations and special offers. To find sale fares to the island, go to the SmarterTravel.com air section. Currently, USA3000 is offering two-for-one Bermuda fares for travel through March 31.Top

Napa Valley

Cool winter temperatures averaging in the high 40s won’t prohibit you from partaking in Napa’s primary attractionÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?wine tastingÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?but they will make it a lot more affordable for you to stay in one of the Valley’s numerous upscale inns and B&Bs. And despite fewer visitors, Napa still offers a full schedule of events such as arts shows and gourmet food tastings. Plus, before sampling wine, you can stop by COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, to learn about fine wine and cuisine, or visit the Napa Valley Museum to view changing exhibits focusing on fine art, history, and natural science.

To demonstrate the difference in pricing between peak-season rates and off-peak winter rates, we researched seasonal room rates for accommodations in the town of Napa.

Sample summer rates compared to winter rates are:

Hotel Peak rates Winter rates
Arbor Guest House $145 to $210 (March 15 to November 30) $120 to $175 (December 1 to March 14)
McClelland-Priest B&B Inn $189 to $269 (February 3 to October 31) $169 to $199 (November 1 to February 2)
Silverado Resort $260 to $460 (March 28 to November 20) $180 to $295 (November 21 to March 27)

Prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

For more information about where to stay and what to do in Napa during the winter, visit the WineCountry.com website. To find air deals to San Francisco International, the nearest major airport, go to the SmarterTravel.com air section or check out the latest last-minute fares.
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Santa Fe

Although winter is ski season in Santa Fe, rates for accommodations still drop by 20 to 40 percent, because summer attracts the most visitors and is considered peak. Skiers looking for options outside the pricy resorts of Colorado and Utah will find affordable lodging in Santa Fe and good runs at Ski Santa Fe in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains. If you’re not a skier, you can still tour the city numerous art galleries, shops, and museums. Or, catch a performance of the Santa Fe Symphony, the Santa Fe Concert Association, the Santa Fe Pro Musica, or the Lensic Performing Arts CenterÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?all in session during the winter.

To see how much you can save by visiting Santa Fe in the winter rather the summer, we compared seasonal rates at three local hotels. Sample peak rates compared to off-peak winter rates are:

Hotel Peak rates Winter rates
The Chapelle Street Casitas $99 to $199 (late June through Labor Day) $79 to $129 (November through February)
Eldorado Hotel $169 to $1,500 (April 30 to October 30) $129 to $1,000 (January 2 to March 4)
Inn of the Anasazi $295 to $475 (June 24 to November 28) $199 to $405 (January 5 to February 26)

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

Find accommodations, search for special offers, and learn about winter activities by visiting the Santa Fe CVB website. Search for airfare deals to Santa Fe on the SmarterTravel.com air page.Top

Tahiti

Tahiti and the other 117 islands that make up the tropical paradise of French Polynesia are considered year-round destinations by many, but slightly warmer, wetter weather causes visitation to drop off somewhat between November and March. As a result, prices for airfare and accommodations also fall in the winter. Taking advantage of these deals won’t lead to a soggy vacation, however. Although afternoon rainstorms are common in winter, Tahiti still averages more hours of sunshine per day than Honolulu, according to research complied by UCLA.

To get an idea of the savings you can expect by traveling to Tahiti in the winter, we researched rates for air-and-hotel vacation packages to the islands from three different providers. Overall, per-person rates for weeklong vacations in the winter months were about $100 to $200 cheaper than travel during the summer.

Sample per-person package rates, not including taxes and fees, are:

Package Provider Peak rate Winter rate
Seven nights in Tahiti and Moorea Go-Today $1,799 (June 1 to October 31) $1,629 (January 1 to May 31)
Six nights in Tahiti and Moorea Gate1Travel $1,979 (June 1 to October 31) $1,799 (January 4 to May 26)
Seven nights in Tahiti and Bora Bora GoTahiti.com $2,279 (June 1 to October 31) $1,999 (November 1 to May 31)

Prices are based on flights from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, and hotel double occupancy and were on found the providers’ websites. Rates vary by departure date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

To learn more about travel to Tahiti and to find listings of accommodations and vacation specials, go to the Tahiti Tourism website. Find air deals by browsing the websites of airlines that service Tahiti, including Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, Hawaiian Airlines, and Qantas.Top

Sweden

The idea of spending a vacation in a place that has below freezing temperatures and 20 to 23 hours of darkness per day isn’t appealing to many travelers, but those who do venture to Sweden in the winter will discover a culture that embraces its frigid climate. Starting December 13 with the feast of St. Lucia, Sweden begins its lavish holiday celebrations, which culminate with boisterous New Year’s celebrations. Throughout the winter, Swedes take advantage of the weather, staging numerous winter-themed events like snow carnivals and ice-sculpting competitions. Visitors can also partake in winter sports such as skiing, as well as more unique activities like reindeer sledding and ice surfing.

Winter is also time to take advantage of low prices on airfare and accommodations. For example, we researched rates for two-night air-and-hotel Sweden packages from Icelandair Holidays, and found that low-season travel can save you nearly $200 per person. For our comparison, we looked at Icelandair’s lowest “Value” rates for travel from November to March, and its peak rates, which begin for travel in May. Rates for travel in the summer months may be even higher.

Sample per-person package rates, not including taxes and fees, are:

Package hotel Peak rate Winter rate
Stockholm Globe $760 $585
Scandic Malmen $820 $668
Radisson SAS Royal Viking $948 $766

Prices are based on flights from New York (JFK) to Stockholm and hotel double occupancy and were found on Icelandair’s website. Rates may vary depending on your dates of travel.

Besides packages, Icelandair offers cheap fares to Sweden and other Scandinavian destinations during the winter. Check SmarterTravel.com’s air section and last-minute airfare database to find current sale fares to Sweden. Also check for sales on Scandinavian Airlines website. Top

This feature is the final 2004 installment of our off-peak travel series. Go to the SmarterTravel.com Travel Advice section to read past features covering the top off-peak destinations for spring, summer, and fall. Next year, we start all over again with the top off-peak spring destinations for 2005. For general off-peak travel planning strategies, read our feature Low season, low cost: Five tips for off-peak travel.

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