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winter new hampshireEvery 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: Southwest Airlines just kicked off a 72-hour sale featuring fall and winter flights for as little as $35 each way. Travel dates range from November 30 through December 14 and from January 4 through February 15. You can fly on any day of the week except Sunday. (We’re thrilled to see a sale that doesn’t tether travelers exclusively to midweek departures.) Fares are tallied based on length of flight as follows:

-Flights up to 450 miles cost $35 each way
-Flights from 451 – 1,000 miles cost $65 each way
-Flights from 1,001 – 1,500 miles cost $95 each way
-Flights more than 1,501 miles cost $125 each way

The Catch: While travel dates extend from November through February, flights around the holidays are excluded. Also, there’s that 72-hour problem. This sale doesn’t leave much wiggle room for anyone still sketching out a winter travel itinerary.

The Competition: AirTran Airways is running a fall and winter fare sale that’s virtually identical to this Southwest offer. But let’s be honest. AirTran isn’t exactly Southwest’s competition, per se. Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011, and the two carriers will eventually merge into a single operator.

So how do the sales compare? Fares are similar and travel dates are the same. You’ll want to check prices for your particular itinerary with both airlines to see which one offers the best bargain for you. But keep a wary eye on those extra fees.

Southwest defeated AirTran in our deal of the week dust-up for one big reason: surcharges. First off, Southwest’s baggage policy beats AirTran’s by a mile. Southwest allows each passenger to check up to two bags for free, whereas AirTran charges $20 for your first checked bag and $25 for your second. AirTran collects an extra $15 for reservations made over the phone; Southwest doesn’t. And Southwest allows passengers to change their plans and use what they’ve already paid for future travel with the airline. AirTran, on the other hand, pockets a $75 change fee for any itinerary alterations.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

freeport bahamasEvery 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: Vision Airlines is currently offering base fares to the Bahamas for the price of a song on iTunes. Flights from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama Island are on sale for just $1 each way before taxes. Additionally, fares from other U.S. cities to the tropical destination are selling for as little as $29 each way before taxes. Travel is valid between November 3 and December 19.

Vision is a new airline that just started offering commercial flights to select U.S. cities and to the Bahamas this year. The carrier begins nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale, Louisville, Richmond, Raleigh and Baltimore to Grand Bahama Island in November.

The Catch: Taxes aren’t included in that $1 fare, so your final ticket won’t amount to a buck — nevertheless, we still think this is a great offer. We went through the booking process, and the lowest total fare we found was $122.58 roundtrip, with all taxes and fees (a $4.99-each-way booking fee is also included) for a November flight from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport.

Keep an eye on baggage fees, too. A $15 charge applies per checked bag on each leg of your flight. And if you don’t pay for your bag ahead of time, you’ll shell out $25 per piece of checked luggage at the airport.

The Competition: Right now, travelers can find discounted fall fares from select U.S. cities to the Bahamas from AirTran Airways. AirTran doesn’t fly to Freeport, but you can get to Nassau for as little as $129 each way plus taxes and fees.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

cozumel cabana seaEvery 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: Not ready to stow those summer flip-flops for another year? Grab your sandals and book a fall or winter trip to someplace sunny and warm — and save up to $550 in the process. Funjet Vacations is currently offering a special 72-hour sale on air/hotel or hotel-only trips to Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

The more you spend on your vacation, the more you save. For example, if your total trip cost is between $1,500 and $2,000, you’ll get a discount of $115. Raise the total to between $2,001 and $3,000, and you’ll save $200. You get the picture. For the maximum discount of $550, you’ll have to spend at least $6,001.

The Catch: This isn’t the type of sale you can mull over for a week or two before booking. Come this Thursday at 6 p.m. CT, it’ll be gone — so make your decision and act quickly.

The Competition: Hyatt is offering up to $500 in resort credit at participating properties in Aruba, Cancun, Maui, Key West and other sunny destinations. Unlike the Funjet discount, which reduces the total cost of your trip, this credit is like free extra cash that you can spend on spa treatments, meals and activities at your resort.

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

– written by Sarah Schlichter

new england mill fall autumnEvery 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: Fall has arrived, and so has this year’s crop of shoulder-season travel deals. Especially ripe for the picking is AirTran’s latest three-day sale, which launched this morning with fares as low as $43 each way. The airline is offering reduced-rate flights to destinations all over the U.S. as well as to Aruba, Bermuda, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

Travel is good between October 7 and December 14 — ideal dates for catching some fall foliage or booking a tropical getaway before the busy winter season. The cheapest domestic flights we saw were between Boston and Baltimore ($43 in either direction), while you can escape the continental U.S. to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from as little as $69 each way (from Tampa).

Eight Unique Ways to Experience Fall

The Catch: The lowest sale fares are only available for domestic travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; on any other day of the week you’ll have to pay peak prices. Fortunately, travel dates for international itineraries are a little less restrictive: You can fly Monday through Friday. And of course, sale fares are unavailable on the most convenient Thanksgiving travel dates (November 22 – 23 and 26 – 28).

The Competition: Southwest Airlines is offering a similar three-day sale with matching fares on competing routes. Southwest doesn’t fly to any international destinations, but it’s worth checking out this deal if you’re flying within the States, as the airline covers some cities and itineraries that AirTran doesn’t.

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

– written by Sarah Schlichter

paris 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: Fall’s first day is Friday, but travelers mourning the end of summer can take comfort in knowing that super-cheap winter flights are a-comin’. Scratch that — they’re here already. Aer Lingus, the Irish discount airline, has just rolled out an expansive low-season Europe sale featuring tickets as cheap as $227 each way plus taxes and fees. Travel is valid this winter, from November through March.

Book early for your winter trip and you’ll snag low fares — but you’ll also have plenty of flight options from which to choose. We did some digging and found low-priced tickets available on a wide range of Aer Lingus transatlantic flights. For example, a quick search for discounted flights departing on November 23 turned up 16 departures throughout the day, each for $233 each way or less. The cheapest total price we unearthed, for a flight from New York to London in November, totaled $691.76 including all taxes and fees.

The Catch: Be choosy about your European destination when planning a winter trip. Some places in Europe — the ones with skiing, Christmas markets or dog sledding — make for spectacular cold-weather travel. Other European cities and towns basically shut down when the tourist season ends.

The Competition: Fall and early winter flights to Europe are currently on sale from Icelandair, with fares starting at $489 roundtrip plus taxes and fees. However, the very cheapest fares are only available on a few dates in October.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

DubrovnikEvery 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: Explore botanical gardens, medieval ramparts, Roman ruins and turquoise seas in the heart of the Mediterranean this fall — and pocket half the cost of your trip. We unearthed a romantic Europe cruise that’s selling for less than 50 percent of its original price on Cruise.com. This week-long Western Mediterranean sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas is currently on sale starting at $349 per person. The seven-night cruise departs Venice on October 17 and visits Dubrovnik, Valletta, Cartagena and Gibraltar, debarking on October 24 in Malaga.

This cruise was originally listed on the Royal Caribbean Web site with rates starting at $799 for a Superior Interior Stateroom. The same stateroom is now on offer from Cruise.com for $349, which is a savings of more than 50 percent. Discounts are available on other cabins as well. Book a Large Oceanview Stateroom for $379 or a Balcony Cabin for $669. (All rates mentioned are per person, before taxes and fees.) Cruise.com is also throwing in prepaid gratuities, which generally amount to $10.50 per person, per day.

The Catch: This cruise kicks off in one port and ends in another. As a result, you may have a tricky time finding affordable transportation, as multi-leg plane tickets tend to be expensive.

The Competition: American Discount Cruises & Travel is offering a seven-night Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, which sails roundtrip from Rome in late October, with rates starting at $549 per person. Find this offer and more discounted sailings in our Cruise Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

Boats in Perkins Cove, MaineEvery 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: Labor Day has come and gone, and right now, shoulder-season deals to destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe are easy pickin’s. But if you’d like to visit a place that shows its best colors this time of year, you don’t necessarily have to pay high-season prices. We spotted this excellent high-season deal for one of the United States’ great fall destinations: Maine.

For a limited time, Orbitz is offering $50 off Maine hotel stays in addition to up to 30 percent off accommodations and free-night stays at participating properties in the Pine Tree State. This offer is valid for three-night (or longer) stays through mid-October.

Essential Portland, Maine Travel Guide

The Catch: Since it’s currently high season for travel to Maine, rooms at the more popular properties are filling up fast — especially if they’re on sale; a quick search on Orbitz confirmed this. According to the Orbitz Web site, Acadia Inn, one of the hotels featured in this offer, only had three available rooms left for the dates I punched in (September 15 through 17). Likewise, Orbitz told me only two available rooms remained at the Majestic Regency in Wells, another cut-rate property, for the same dates. Act fast if you’re thinking about snapping up this offer.

The Competition: A smart way to visit Maine on the cheap is to grab a last-minute New England cruise deal. Right now, we list several discounted leaf-peeping sailings in our Cruise Deals, including a seven-night early-October New England and Canada cruise for $649 with prepaid gratuities, and a similar late-October sailing for just $549. Both cruises sail roundtrip from Boston, and both include stops in Maine.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

hotel saleEvery 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: Hotels.com is running a short-lived promotion that will satisfy those travelers addicted to flash sales and private discount travel sites. For just 48 hours, the hotel booking site is slashing nightly rates at select properties by as much as 50 percent. But the clock is literally ticking on this limited-time offer (there’s a digital countdown clock spinning away on the Hotels.com home page).

Noteworthy discounts featured in this sale include half off stays at the Nouvel, Barcelona (reduced nightly rates start at $106); 40 percent off two-night stays at several properties in Las Vegas; and 40 percent off rates at The Alex, an upscale Manhattan property (with discounted nightly rates from $298). Travel dates range from the end of August through September 27.

The Catch: There’s not an enormous variety of hotels here (far less than the typical sweeping Hotels.com sale). Most of the hotels included in this sale are U.S. properties, with the exception of a few places in Barcelona. Additionally, you’ve got to meet some minimum-night-stay requirements before you can snag the discounts at certain hotels.

The Competition: Travelocity is having a one-day sale today, which is worth looking into. We did some digging and found 40 percent off rates in Miami (for stays in September), and even 33 percent off an ecolodge in Costa Rica. Check both sites to search for a decent hotel discount in your destination.

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

Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc., which also owns Hotels.com.

– written by Caroline Costello

 Glacier National Park If you’re traveling domestically within the next four months, take heed. Now might be the best time to book your flight.

A cluster of U.S. carriers have rolled out rival fare sales, offering fall plane tickets starting at $39 each way. Which airline wins the war? It depends where you’re flying. Travel dates vary by sale, as do prices for select routes. Run your itinerary through multiple airline sites and book what works best for you. Don’t forget to factor in those checked bag fees. (See Airline Baggage Fees for the scoop on your carrier.) Here’s what’s on sale:

JetBlue: Select domestic routes are on sale with fares starting at $39 each way plus taxes. Travel is valid in September through early November, and a two-week advance purchase is required.

Southwest: This three-day sale features fares from $39 each way before taxes for travel between September and mid-December. Southwest, we must add, has a pretty decent baggage policy. Passengers may check up to two bags for free.

American Airlines: American’s offering $39 fall fares on select routes (taxes are additional). Travel dates stretch from now through mid-December. A two-week advance purchase is required.

AirTran Airways: AirTran isn’t offering that golden $39 fare, but the airline’s systemwide sale features a wide range of discounted routes and some competitive prices. Travel is valid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from late August through mid-December. Additionally, AirTran’s sale includes cut-rate fares to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

Westin ArubaEvery 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 (top right) or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: Guests staying for two or three nights at select Starwood Hotels and Resorts are eligible to pay rates equal to their birth year for their second and third nights’ stays. For example, if you were born in 1960, the nightly rate for your second and third nights’ accommodations comes to just $60, but you’ll have to pay full price for your first night’s stay.

This promotion is valid at select Starwood properties in the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada. At some luxury resorts, rates for second and third nights’ stays amount to your birth year plus $100.

Is this deal worth your money? If you can remember the moon landing, yes. For younger travelers, it depends.

At the Four Points by Sheraton Caguas Real Hotel & Casino in Puerto Rico, nightly rates start at $169 before taxes. Say you were born in 1950. The price for your next two nights drops to $50 plus taxes. That’s a savings of roughly 70 percent on your second and third nights. A traveler born in 1980 will save about 53 percent. The older you are, the greater your savings.

The Catch: At some properties, the hotel’s standard nightly rate is actually cheaper than the first night’s rate with the age promotion; watch out for that. In a few cases, the special first-night age promotion rate is so expensive that your stay could actually cost more than it would without this promotion — especially if you’re a younger traveler.

Here’s an example: At the Westin Resort and Casino in Aruba, first-night rates start at $499 for guests booking with the age promotion. But standard nightly rates for the same room come to just $189. Only travelers born in 1934 or earlier will save money.

The Competition: You can find a number of similar age-related offers in our Senior Travel Deals, including 20 percent discounts at Days Inns for AARP members and 15 percent savings at Marriott properties for travelers ages 62 and older.

– written by Caroline Costello