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DublinEvery 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: Save $400 ($200 per person) on Virgin Vacations’ low-priced Ireland escorted tour package, which bundles airfare, six nights’ accommodations, transportation and even meals into one convenient clump of an Irish adventure. The whole itinerary is preplanned. Travelers will start in Dublin (roundtrip airfare from select U.S. cities is included), and then travel by motorcoach to Waterford, Killarney, the Cliffs of Moher and Galway.

Prices start at $1,399 per person before the discount, bringing your package total to $1,199 plus taxes and fees after the $200 savings is subtracted. Taxes, which are additional, generally amount to about $96 per person. (Gratuities are extra as well.) We went through the booking process, used the promotion code and found that the final cost of the air-inclusive package came to $1,295.21 per traveler, departing from New York.

The Catch: This discount is only available for departures on November 19. You’ll need to pack something warm. Still, with the world economy in its current state, we’re growing fonder of the idea of cut-rate off-season travel. (Same experience. Lower price. Less sun.) Plus, the Irish make a mean hand-knit Aran sweater.

The Competition: Do package tours and motorcoach transfers make you want to burn your suitcase? (If you’re nodding, check out Eight Tours for People Who Don’t Like Tours.) Aer Lingus is offering a discounted seven-day fly and drive package that combines roundtrip airfare and a car rental, but leaves the rest of the planning to you. Prices start at $729 per person plus taxes and fees for travel in September and October.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

VeniceEvery 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: As summer’s end nears, high-season fares to Europe are dropping like falling leaves. Lufthansa’s Sizzling Summer Special offers the lowest last-minute Europe fares we’ve seen yet, with prices starting at $286 each way plus taxes and fees (which generally amount to roughly $200 roundtrip) for travel this August.

We love Lufthansa fare sales because the airline connects a wide range of U.S. gateways to a multitude of European cities. Flights to popular Western European spots — Dublin, Rome, Venice — are featured in this sale. But travelers can also grab discounted tickets to many cities in Eastern and Central Europe, including Tirana, Kiev, Moscow and Budapest.

The Catch: These cheap August fares are a last-minute special, of course — and that’s the rub. You must depart by August 28. A seven-day advance purchase is required, too, which limits your travel dates even further.

The Competition: American Airlines’ late-summer Europe sale features flights from the U.S. to dozens of European destinations, with fares starting at $295 each way plus taxes and fees for travel this summer and fall. This deal’s travel dates are more forgiving, as you can depart through October 27. Plus, American’s offer features flights to some major cities not covered in the Lufthansa deal (biggies like London and Paris are noticeably absent from the latter), so check out both sales before booking.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

French PolynesiaEvery 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: Air Tahiti Nui is currently offering discounted fares from the West Coast to Papeete for as little as $980 roundtrip plus taxes and fees — a savings of 30 percent. The extra fees generally amount to just $92.60 roundtrip, bringing your total lowest possible roundtrip fare to $1,072.60. But, as this is an early-bird sale, travel isn’t valid until this fall, between November 1 and December 14.

Tahiti’s wet season starts in November and lasts through April, so if you take advantage of this deal you’ll be hitting the islands during low season. But not to worry — Tahiti’s like Hawaii. There’s not really a bad time to visit. Conditions will likely be humid and occasionally rainy, but crowds will be fewer and you’ll have a better shot at snapping up the more sought-after hotel rooms.

The Catch: Your tickets must be booked a whopping 120 days in advance, which shaves some time off that November 1 to December 14 travel period. According to my calculations, November 23 is 120 days from today’s date. The longer you wait before booking, the smaller your window of available travel dates becomes.

The Competition: We haven’t spotted a published fare from another airline that beats this price. But Air Tahiti Nui is offering another similar deal with a wider range of travel dates: fly from Los Angeles to Tahiti for just $965 roundtrip plus taxes and fees from November through May (with the exception of some blackout dates). The catch? Your trip must be quick. Travelers who book this deal may stay in Tahiti for no longer than five nights.

– written by Caroline Costello

Washington D.C.Every 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: For just 48 hours, JetBlue is slashing prices on fall fares to destinations in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Discounted flights start at $29 each way plus taxes and fees, and travel is valid between September 6 and November 16, with the exception of some blackout dates and day-of-week travel restrictions. Prices for select routes are rather competitive. For example, you can fly between Los Angeles and New York for $159 each way, between Chicago and Boston for $52 each way, and between Orlando and Washington D.C. for $74 each way.

The airline is touting this deal as “The Fall Shipping & Handling Sale,” advertising free first checked bags for JetBlue passengers. While a complimentary first checked bag isn’t particular to this sale (it’s simply JetBlue’s policy), it’ll save you as much as $25 each way when compared to what many of the major carriers charge for checked luggage.

The Catch: Travelers looking to cash in on this sale will have to think ahead and act fast. This offer expires at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow, and travel isn’t valid until the beginning of September. Additionally, there’s a web of day-of-week travel restrictions that apply to select destinations, so be sure to keep an eye on the fine print when booking.

The Competition: AirTran Airways just announced this systemwide sale featuring fares to destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean and Mexico starting at $54 each way plus taxes and fees. JetBlue beats AirTran’s prices on many routes, but AirTran offers a wider range of travel dates (fly from the end of July through mid-November) plus a healthy selection of cut-rate fares to Caribbean gateways.

– written by Caroline Costello

Hyatt Key West Resort and SpaEvery 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: Stay at participating Hyatt properties and receive up to $500 in free resort credit. The credit can be used for activities, spa treatments, meals, drinks, you name it. In short, anything that could be charged to your room can be paid for with resort credit. (Exceptions include casino charges, resort fees and hotel taxes, and gratuities.) The longer you stay, the more you can save:

-Get a $100 resort credit with a two-night stay
-Get a $200 resort credit with a three-night stay
-Get a $400 resort credit with a four-night stay
-Get a $500 resort credit with a five-night stay

While Hyatt has hundreds of properties around the world, only 20 resorts are participating in this promotion. But the eligible resorts, we must add, are all located in popular vacation destinations, such as Maui, Aruba, Cancun, Clearwater Beach, Key West, Lake Tahoe and San Diego.

The Catch: You’d better be set on your vacation plans, because nothing about this deal is refundable. To get the free resort credit, you have to submit a full nonrefundable payment at time of booking. And if you don’t use all of your credit during your stay, you won’t be able to receive a refund of any kind for the never-touched bonus bucks.

The Competition: Wyndham Resorts is offering a $100 American Express Reward Card plus free one-night accommodations to guests who stay at participating properties for five nights or longer. In addition, Hotels.com is running a summer “GIFTAWAY” sale featuring discounts on hotel stays plus perks like free Kindle e-readers.

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

parisEvery 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: Hotels.com is offering discounts of as much as 60 percent on select properties around the world. But this deal won’t be available for long. The offer is on the table for 48 hours only and, given that the countdown clock started this morning (we’re being literal here — there’s an actual countdown clock on the Hotels.com home page), your 48-hour window has already shrunk a bit.

Now that you feel sufficiently rushed, let’s take a closer look at how much you can save. We spotted some big markdowns in this 48-hour sale, including half-off prices at Sole on the Ocean, a beachfront Miami property, and 60 percent off accommodations at two Parisian hotels, Hotel Magenta Paris and Hotel Cervantes Paris.

The Catch: Watch out for minimum stay requirements at some of the hotels, like that beachside Miami spot we mentioned a few sentences ago (you must stay four or more nights to get the 50 percent discount).

The Competition: We found a few offers lurking in our hotel deals that come close to matching the discounts offered in the Hotels.com 48-hour sale. Starwood Hotels is offering half-off second-night stays at select hotels in the U.S. and abroad, and Wyndham is serving up a similar deal, with 50 percent off second-night stays at select properties across the globe.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

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

galapagos crabEvery 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:
Galapagos vacations are famously expensive. The remote volcanic islands don’t lend themselves to bargain-basement independent travel, as they’re best explored by small ship or on a well-run tour package; and these are usually very pricey. With packages, Galapagos travelers are often at the mercy of high fixed rates, especially during the islands’ peak travel season, which is from June through September. But we came across a fantastic shoulder-season deal for travel in the fall, with a price tag that drops well below what we’re used to seeing for Galapagos tour packages.

Friendly Planet Travel is currently running a special on its Galapagos Island Express package, with savings of up to $500 per person. Package prices start at $1,999 per traveler, which covers most meals, roundtrip airfare from Miami, local transportation, six nights’ accommodations, naturalist-led tours and even the $100 Galapagos National Park fee. Departure dates range from mid-August through December.

The Catch: Spots are filling up fast. As of this writing, seven of the nine cheapest tour dates are sold out (those are the tours going for $1,999 per person). You’ll have to make a quick decision if you want to grab this deal before the last two tours are full.

The Competition: We did some more searching and found this package from Gate 1 Travel, which includes six nights’ lodging, roundtrip flights from Miami, some meals and more, with prices starting at $1,999 per person. But this package doesn’t include the Galapagos National Park fee, and the itinerary is slightly different from Galapagos Island Express, with two nights in Quito instead of one.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

uniworld passau germany river cruiseEvery 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: If you’re dreaming of exploring French vineyards or visiting historic Turkish mosques this summer, you’ll be intrigued by this deal from Uniworld. The river cruise line is offering up to $2,000 in savings per couple on a variety of summer and fall sailings when travelers purchase both a cruise (or a cruise/land tour combination) and airfare to Europe. The discount starts at $1,000 per couple for itineraries like “Burgundy & Provence” and “Enchanting Danube,” and rises to the full $2,000 per couple for longer sailings such as “Legendary Rhine & Moselle” and “Grand European Discovery.”

This deal must be booked by June 30. Travel dates vary by itinerary, but range from late June through November.

The Catch: The $2,000 discount is hefty, but that’s because the base fares are pretty hefty too. (Think $5,000 and up per person for some of the two-week voyages.) That said, remember that Uniworld’s rates include meals, drinks, shore excursions and onboard activities — so if you can get past the initial sticker shock, there won’t be too many unexpected expenses when you get onboard.

The Competition: Viking River Cruises is offering a nine-night Elbe River voyage from $2,706 per person, sailing from Prague to Berlin on November 5, 2011. Airfare is not included in this price — but given that fall is shoulder season in Europe, you should be able to find a fairly affordable flight.

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

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Hawaiian Sunset Every 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: Save up to 40 percent on bed and breakfast rates at Hilton Hotels and Resorts in destinations around the world. Your level of savings depends on where you travel:

-Save 20 percent in North and South America

-Save 40 percent in Africa, Europe and the Middle East

-Save 25 percent in Asia, Australia and the South Pacific

Hilton’s B&B rates include a hot breakfast buffet for two people in addition to accommodations. (Kids ages 5 and younger eat free with an accompanying adult.) We checked prices for a one-night weekend stay in July at Hilton New York and found discounted B&B rates starting at $247.20 per night; this beats the hotel’s best available rates at $259 a night, which don’t include breakfast. Clearly this deal is a good choice even for travelers who don’t want to line up for scrambled eggs and potatoes at the hotel buffet.

The Catch: Get ready to commit. A full, nonrefundable payment is required at time of booking. Additionally, a two-week advance purchase is required.

The Competition: This summer, AAA members can get free breakfasts and a 10 percent discount on nightly rates at Hyatt Hotels in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. And we found another breakfast deal that’s worth a mention: BedandBreakfast.com is running a promotion that features $25 off summer stays at B&B’s around the world, where rates, naturally, include the most important meal of the day.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

New York central park Every 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: Sometimes it pays to book a few months in advance — especially when an early-bird sale like this three-day Southwest deal comes along. Plan ahead and enjoy significant savings on late-summer and fall travel with this domestic fare sale. More than 1,000 discounted routes between U.S. cities are featured in this offer, including cut-rate flights to popular vacation destinations like Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Orlando and more. Fares start at $29 each way plus taxes and fees — and don’t forget that Southwest allows passengers to check up to two bags free of charge.

To be clear, only one route is priced at $29 each way: Birmingham to/from Louisville. But bunches of affordable $39, $49 and $54 fares (and up) are on offer for a nice variety of domestic routes.

The Catch: This deal’s distant travel dates are probably its biggest drawback. You’ve got to book by Thursday, June 9, but travel is valid from late August through mid-November. And, as is the case with most airfare sales, these tickets are nonrefundable.

The Competition: AirTran has initiated a similar 72-hour sale, which features fares starting at $54 each way plus taxes and fees. AirTran’s current sale includes international fares to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, while Southwest is selling discounted tickets to U.S. destinations only. AirTran’s limited weekly travel dates (to get the cheapest fares, you have to travel on Tuesdays or Wednesdays) are a drag. But AirTran beats Southwest’s prices on select routes, so be sure to check both sites before booking your flight.

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

– written by Caroline Costello