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hotel milano terrace san juanWe often talk about travel bucket lists filled with big-budget trips that require a lot of planning. They’re stressful, at times, because so much goes into them and we have such big expectations. There’s a reason these trips often stay on the bucket list for many years; it’s much easier to just escape, spur of the moment. So we keep a few trips in our back pocket. Not mega-bucket-list trips, but cheap and easy trips we could take without much planning and with minimal damage to our savings.

San Juan has been calling me lately. For about $520 total, my husband and I could fly there on AirTran. I’d stay at the Hotel Milano, only 15 minutes from the airport, but in the middle of the old city. The family-owned property has free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, a necessity for me. I can imagine having coffee on the rooftop terrace.

Since this isn’t a bucket list destination for me, I wouldn’t feel any pressure to do anything except wander, eat empanadillas and drink rum. Since it is hurricane season in the Caribbean, I could most likely continue to do at least two of my intended activities should the weather turn foul.

A completely different, yet equally satisfying back-pocket trip, for me, would be Acadia National Park in Maine. I want to challenge myself on the Dorr Mountain trail, a series of granite steps up the mountain, much of it through the forest. (Can you imagine the autumn foliage?)

I’d fortify my hike with popovers on the lawn at Jordon Pond House. I’d stay at the Moseley Cottage Inn, preferably in a room with a working fireplace. Sure, the rate is a bit high for my strict budget, $205 per night, but my husband and I would drive to Maine, saving on airfare.

The qualifications for a back-pocket trip are simple: cheap, quick and no stress. Not much of an itinerary is required. Need inspiration? Check out our travel deals.

We’re all about extensive travel, with plenty of planning and packing. But sometimes we just have to throw a few things in a bag and go. That’s why we need a couple of trips in our back pocket. Which destinations are in yours?

– written by Jodi Thompson

airplane sky writing loveThe Deal: JetBlue has announced a bargain that both couples and singles can enjoy this Valentine’s Day: a one-day Love-A-Fare sale with flights starting at just $39 each way, including taxes and fees. (Note that the advertised fare on the JetBlue site is $49, but if you check out the list of city pairings, you’ll see $39 and $40 fares in the mix too.)

Flights are available from gateways around the U.S. (like New York, Orlando and Boston), plus a few in the Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Croix). Travel is good between February 21 and April 3.

The Catch: For most destinations, travel is only valid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (but check the fine print on the JetBlue site for a few exceptions).

The Competition: Southwest is running a U.S. domestic fare sale with flights priced from $65 each way, including taxes and fees. Like the JetBlue deal, this one is also good for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. But you have a few extra days to think about these fares — the deal doesn’t expire until February 16.

Find more bargains like these in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Ballybunion Castle RuinsEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: In just a few weeks, airlines will have to include government taxes and fees when advertising ticket prices, in accordance with new U.S. Department of Transportation regulations that kick in on January 24. Some carriers, like Lufthansa and Air France, have already begun posting full-fare ticket prices online.

Aer Lingus is the latest airline to start displaying fares in a more truthful manner. The Irish carrier just announced that it will publish prices inclusive of all taxes and fees from this point forward. It’s quite refreshing to click around on a booking rate calendar and see numbers that are actually reflective of final ticket prices — especially when combing through already-low sale fares.

Rolling out all-inclusive rates along with this competitive sale, which offers across-the-pond flights for less than $500 roundtrip, was a smart move, Aer Lingus. The sale features discounted fares to Dublin from more than 30 U.S. cities, with roundtrip tickets starting at $447.91 (which would be a pretty good price even if it didn’t include the extra fees).

The Catch: These fares are valid for travel in January, February and March, which is Ireland’s low season for tourism. In some destinations on the isle, attractions, restaurants and hotels may be closed for winter; but this doesn’t mean you can’t plan a worthy Ireland getaway. Stick to big cities like Dublin, Belfast or Galway — which will offer a wider selection of year-round attractions than small towns — and contact local tourist information offices ahead of time to make sure that the places you want to see will be open.

The Competition: Lufthansa is also running a Europe winter fare sale; this one offers some nicely priced routes, as well as a wide selection of departure and destination gateways. Fares start at $507 roundtrip (that price is for a flight from New York to Dublin), including all taxes and fees.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Harbour IslandEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: Major winter storms have hit the Midwest, and the darkest day of the year just happens to be Thursday. These tidings are reason enough to drop everything — even that fancy ribbon bow you’re struggling with, which is just going to get ripped off the present anyway — and run as fast as you can to the Caribbean.

Here’s more vindication for a vacation in the sun: the Islands of the Bahamas Tourism Board is offering up to $400 cash back for winter trips to said destination. Save $400 on stays of six nights or longer or save $250 on stays of five nights at select properties in the Bahamas (there’s a long list of eligible hotels on the tourism board’s Web site). To get this deal, you must book an air-inclusive package through the Bahamas Tourism Board.

The Catch: Sorry, spring breakers and summer vacationers. This offer is valid for travel from January 1 through March 14 and April 15 through June 20 — so choice spring break and summer vacation travel dates are not covered in this sale.

The Competition: The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board is offering discounts for travelers heading to what it calls “the real Bahamas,” the less-traveled Bahamian atolls outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama Island. Receive up to two free plane tickets with purchase of an air-inclusive package to participating local resorts on islands like Andros, Cat Island and Eleuthera. Keep in mind that the Bahamas Tourism Board deal detailed above is also valid for stays at some hotels in Out Islands, so check out both deals before booking your Bahamas trip.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Vacation Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Paris snow winterEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: There are lots of super holiday gifts one can bestow on globetrotters, from travel gift cards to pet suitcases. Still, we wish we could whip out our credit cards and reserve a flight to an exciting destination for a special person or two on our lists — but we can’t. Or, at least, we can’t without stealing our loved one’s passport and requesting vacation days from his or her boss. All in all, it’s a bit rash to buy a flight for someone without any word of warning.

That’s not the case any longer. Aer Lingus has waived the name and itinerary change fees for flights booked by tomorrow, December 14. Purchase a flight from Boston, Chicago or New York to select European destinations, and you’ll have the option to make one change to the name on the ticket as well one change to the ticketed travel dates through the end of January. Tickets are valid for travel from January 1 through March 31, 2012.

It’s a fabulous gift idea: Present Mom with a flight to Paris, and let her pick her own travel dates! This deal is perfect for the holidays, but it’s also an excellent option for travelers who want to plan a European winter getaway but aren’t ready to commit to a set itinerary just yet.

The Catch: As we said, you may only make one change to the ticketholder’s name and one change to the travel dates for the flight. Further changes will incur a $210 fee each way. Additionally, if you change your dates and end up with a more expensive ticket than the one you originally purchased, you’ll have to pay the difference in fares.

The Competition: We haven’t seen another deal quite like this. But the next best thing is a travel gift card. Don’t miss this roundup of our favorite travel gift card deals.

Find more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

gift cardGift cards are foolproof presents for the travelers who don’t fall into the “gadget,” “book” or “hilarious SkyMall purchase” categories of your holiday gift list. You buy the card. They book the excursion, hotel room or spa day, and send you contented Facebook status updates of thanks when their vacation comes around.

But here’s the best part: You get a little something, too. We’ve unearthed five travel gift card offers that sweeten the deal with discounted prices (hint: the amount on the card isn’t the amount you’ll have to pay), bonus gifts and other goodies.

Free $10 Gift Card with Best Western Travel Card
Receive a free $10 gift card with every $100 Best Western Travel Card you purchase. The $10 bonus card can be cashed in at the establishment of your choice (options include Amazon.com, Best Buy, Darden, Walmart and — naturally — Best Western). The Best Western Travel Cards can be loaded with several currencies (perfect for the continent-hopping jetsetter in your life) and are valid at Best Western hotels around the world.

Free $50 Hertz Voucher with Marriott Gift Card
They get no-cost accommodations. You get some cash knocked off the price of your next rental car. Receive a free $50 voucher to use toward any Hertz rental car with the purchase of a Marriott GiftCard worth $250 or more. Marriott GiftCards can be used for hotel stays, restaurant meals, spa services, golf and more at participating Marriott properties. Plus, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member, you’ll receive 10 rewards points for every card you purchase.

Get Deep Discounts with Costco Gift Cards
Costco.com sells legions of discounted gift cards for everything from gym memberships to movie theaters. And travel is no exception. The wholesaler offers cut-rate cards for hotel stays and excursions galore. Some of our favorites include $75 for a $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift card as well as Go Cards for several major U.S. cities. The Go Cards, which start at $59.99, offer free admission to a long list of attractions, as well as discounts at retail stores and restaurants. To get these offers, you have to be a card-carrying Costco member. (Annual memberships start at $55.)

$100 Spa Gift Card for $90
If you have someone on your list who’s traveling in North America soon, this gift will instantly upgrade his or her vacation — while simultaneously saving you money. For a limited time, Spa Week is selling $100 spa gift cards for just $89.99 each. You can purchase the cards in other denominations, too, and the more you spend, the more you save. Get a $50 gift card for $45, a $250 gift card for $225 or a $400 gift card for $360. You get the idea. The cards are valid at more than 4,500 spas in the U.S. and Canada.

10 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas


– written by Caroline Costello

 Le Blanc Spa ResortEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: After all the cooking, wrapping and relatives, you might be seeking a soothing kind of post-holiday vacation. Our advice? Relax and say “Spaah” at Le Blanc, an all-inclusive luxury resort in Mexico, and enjoy $1,500 worth of dinners, spa treatments, games of golf and more — for free.

Cancun’s Le Blanc Spa Resort is offering up to $1,500 in resort credit with stays of five to eight nights through December 2012. Stay four nights and receive $750 in resort credit, or stay three nights and receive $500 in resort credit. You can use the credit toward a long list of special perks that aren’t covered by the resort’s all-inclusive rates, like a dolphin swim excursion, spa treatments, a romantic lobster dinner on the beach, room upgrades, Champagne and wine, and even wedding packages.

If destination nuptials aren’t on your 2012 to-do list, you can still enjoy the much-lauded service and plush accommodations at LeBlanc. The resort is ranked number one out of 169 Cancun hotels on our sister site TripAdvisor, and it was even selected as one of TripAdvisor’s 2011 Travelers’ Choice winners. The adults-only beachfront property features five restaurants, two golf courses, three outdoor pools, and a fitness center that offers yoga and Pilates classes.

The Catch: LeBlanc is an all-inclusive luxury resort, which means it’s not exactly the best place to go for a bargain-basement vacation. The lowest rates we found came to $296 per person, per night for an autumn stay. Prices are more expensive in winter and early spring.

The Competition: JW Marriott, Renaissance and Marriott Resorts are offering $100 in resort credit plus a free companion ticket with their “Stay Here, Fly There” promotion. This deal isn’t valid in Mexico, but you can snag the offer at select properties in other balmy beach destinations like Florida, California, Texas and Hawaii.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Hotel Deals.


– written by Caroline Costello

CancunEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: If the thought of a roundtrip flight for less than $80 makes you drool, grab some napkins. JetBlue just rolled out a pretty impressive one-day sale featuring fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean starting at $29 each way before taxes and fees. With taxes, the cheapest possible flight you can get is $79.40 for a roundtrip fare from Long Beach to Las Vegas. Plane tickets don’t get much cheaper than that.

This deal offers a wide range of travel dates, too. Depart on any day of the week except Friday or Sunday from December 6 through February 15. If you have a ski trip, Florida beach getaway or Caribbean cruise penciled onto your calendar this winter, don’t overlook this deal. (There are plenty of cheap fares from select U.S. cities to Fort Lauderdale, a major cruise port.)

The Catch: Sorry, Santa. Holiday travel dates are excluded. You can’t take advantage of this offer if you plan to fly between December 16 and January 3.

The Competition: Southwest, Alaska and AirTran are also running fare sales to select destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean right now. What’s the best deal? Ultimately, it all depends on your route. We recommend checking prices for your particular itinerary on all four airline Web sites.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Airfare SaleThe airlines are clearly hitching a ride on the Cyber Monday bandwagon. Today, several major carriers rolled out masses of discounted tickets in honor of this well-marketed pseudo-holiday. Some of today’s fare offers end at midnight tonight, in true Cyber Monday flash sale fashion. Others will last through the beginning of December, giving travelers some time to take a few breaths and consider their options before punching in their credit card information. Here’s a selection of the best fare sales we’ve spotted so far today.

American Airlines Fares from $54 OW
Out of all the fare sales we’ve seen this morning, this American Airlines offer wins the prize for breadth of destinations. You can find discounted tickets to a great selection of gateways across the globe, from Shanghai to Mazatlan. Fares start at $54 each way plus taxes and fees for travel in January and the beginning of February. This deal expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

Save 10% on Frontier Airlines Fares
This Cyber Monday airfare offer is refreshingly simple. Enter promo code CYBER10 and receive 10 percent off any published fare (departing through March 7) booked on the Frontier Airlines Web site. The catch? You must purchase your tickets by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time tonight in order to snag this deal.

Southwest Airlines Fares from $59 OW
Here’s a fairly typical Southwest Airlines systemwide sale, which the airline normally rolls out on Tuesdays. Fares to U.S. gateways start at $59 each way plus taxes and fees, for travel from December through mid-February. There’s more good news: No need to start desperately crafting an itinerary today. This sale’s on through December 1.

AirTran Airways Fares from $59 OW
This AirTran offer mimics the Southwest sale in so many ways: same travel dates, same blackout dates, same expiration dates. (It figures. Southwest acquired AirTran in spring 2011, and the two carriers will soon merge into a single operator.) But there’s one big difference between the two sales. Unlike Southwest, AirTran is offering discounted tickets to international destinations as well as domestic locales, including gateways in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Alaska Airlines Fares from $40 OW
Alaska Airlines advises its customers, “Hurry, sale ends December 5, 2011″ — but really, you don’t need to rush. In comparison to many of the Cyber Monday travel deals floating around on the Internet today, this offer features a pretty reasonable expiration date a week from today. Book by that December 5 deadline and you can snap up fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and Canada for as little as $40 each way plus taxes and fees. Travel is valid from December through March.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

 BedandBreakfast.com Gift CardEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: We know the holiday season is in full swing when BedandBreakfast.com rolls out its annual Black Friday gift card sale. (We also know the holidays are here when the giant penguin wearing a Santa hat appears near our office door.) Through the end of the month, BedandBreakfast.com is offering a free $75 gift card with any gift card purchase of $250 or more.

Purchase five $50 gift cards to hand out to your friends and keep the $75 bonus for yourself. Or, of course, you can gift that extra card as well — but where’s the fun in that?

The Catch: BedandBreakfast.com lists more than 11,000 properties, but these gift cards aren’t valid at all of them. The cards can only be used to book stays at B&B’s and hotels that accept online reservations through the booking site — about 4,000 properties around the world. Look for the blue “book now” button next to a property listing; if that button’s there, you can pay for your stay with a gift card.

The Competition: Costco.com is currently selling $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift cards for just $74.99 each. Which is the better deal? Ultimately, you’re saving 25 percent if you go with Costco.com and 23 percent if you pay $250 for $325 worth of gift cards with BedandBreakfast.com.

But when it comes to gift giving, we think the BedandBreakfast.com Black Friday sale comes out on top. With this sale, you can get gift cards in varying amounts ($25, $50, $100, $125, etc.) instead of just $100 increments. Plus, BedandBreakfast.com lets you pick from eight different gift card styles, and it even offers a customizable photo gift card that you can personalize with your own uploaded picture.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Holiday Travel Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello