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As cities like Boston continue to be slammed with record snowfall and freezing temperatures, we here at IndependentTraveler.com are daydreaming of warm-weather spring vacations to quench our thirst for sunnier, more exotic days ahead.

From last minute steals in Australia to safari splurges in Southern Africa, book these vacation deals soon to assuage the gloom of mid-winter and instead, look forward to a killer upcoming trip.

victoria fallsLuxury South Africa Safari
Why Go: Splurge on a safari in style with reduced pricing for late spring departures (May through June) and included internal flights when you book by May 31. This vacation is for lovers of animals and luxury alike. Victoria Falls is one of the world’s most remarkable natural attractions.

Learn More: Click here

waterfront view from Croatia's Dalmatian CoastWalking Tour of the Dalmatian Coast
Why Go: Soaking in the scenic Mediterranean coast is easily accomplished on a walking tour that offers local experiences such as lunch in a family-run tavern set in an olive grove. A mid-May departure offers enough time to plan, without too much time to wait.

Learn More: Click here

bagan at sunrise in MyanmarNine Nights in Myanmar
Why Go: At a great price for a 10-day vacation ($1,995 per person), this adventure through the country of Myanmar is during a hot season, but tours are timed during cooler mornings and evenings. A combination of cultural sightseeing and free time allow for full immersion.

Learn More: Click here

Sutton pass vancouver island canadaVancouver’s Remote Island Region
Why Go: Get to know one of Canada’s hidden wonders with a trip to Pacific Rim National Park along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Save 20 percent when you book by March for a trip this April or May. Explore rain forests, beaches and wildlife.

Learn More: Click here

yarra river melbourneHighlights of Southern Australia and Tasmania
Why Go: Australia can be pricey due to its distance from most of us, but these get-em-while-you-can deals blend culture, history, wildlife and even cuisine into intriguing vacation packages to lesser-traveled parts of Australia and Tasmania. Highlighted departures with low pricing range from May 1 through June 21.

Learn More: Click here

11 Best Australia Experiences
Planning an African Safari
Best Things to Do in Canada

— written by Brittany Chrusciel

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

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

Grand CanyonAugust is over; to many, this means that summer has left town and fall is pulling its car into the driveway. But if you’ve got a case of the first-day-of-September blues, perk up. Falling leaves signal falling prices in the travel space. And we’ve got proof. Feast your eyes on the following four fabulous fall packages, which offer shoulder-season savings in top destinations: the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

$100 Savings, Rental Car Steals and More in Las Vegas
Southwest Vacations is running an enticing Las Vegas sale, piling deals on top of more deals. The savings include up to $100 off packages plus up to 30 percent off your hotel stay, 20 percent off car rentals and more. The longer your trip, the more you save. (You have to stay five nights or longer to get that $100 discount.) This deal is valid for travel through the end of December.

Deep Discounts at the Grand Canyon
Two- and three-night Grand Canyon Railway packages are on sale for travel through the beginning of November. Discounted packages start at $390 per couple — a savings of $88 — and include accommodations and train travel to the Grand Canyon. Some of the pricier packages (the $575 three-night Canyon Limited package and the $772 three-night Canyon Limited Plus package) include a stay inside Grand Canyon National Park at the Maswik Lodge North, which is a short walk from the canyon rim.

Half-Off All-Inclusive Adventures in Aruba
Travelers can save up to 55 percent on all-inclusive fall stays at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Aruba when they travel by October 31. We found all-inclusive nightly rates as low as $315 (for two people) for a week-long stay in October. The beachfront Aruba resort’s all-inclusive rates cover unlimited meals, some alcoholic beverages and non-motorized water sports. Additionally, kids ages 12 and younger stay free.

Cut-Rate Costa Rica: Save 60% on Vacations
Fall marks the last few months of Costa Rica’s rainy season, and it’s an excellent time to find discounts on hotel stays and packages in the region. We found a great one: TravelByJen.com, a discount travel agency, is offering a seven-night Costa Rica package with roundtrip airfare, accommodations and a car rental for just $599 per person. Airfare prices are based on travel from Fort Lauderdale, but you can find quotes for travel out of your local hub on TravelByJen.com.

— written by Caroline Costello

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

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

bike tourSummer vacation planning is in full bloom, and money-saving travel options are as varied as June flowers. A long-established choice is the standard vacation package, a three-pack of airfare, hotel and rental car bought on some hulking brand-name travel booking engine. You could cross all appendages and apply for membership at exclusive private sale travel sites. And, yes, you could always put on your special travel agent hat and plan your own trip, speaking empty bluffs to the booking agent at that beach-front hotel in your quest for a better rate.

These options are fine if they work for you. But allow me to introduce a fourth alternative: Find a less common, off-the-beaten-path kind of package — at a reduced rate. There are tons of unique packages that, for one easy, affordable price, include cheese-making classes, desert tours or accommodations in tiny historic B&B’s. I’d like to think of these as packages for people who don’t like packages (a spin-off of our well-loved 8 Tours for People Who Don’t Like Tours). But this time, there are deals to boot!

Save Up to $700 on New England and New York Bike Tours

Explore bucolic New England or the Hudson Valley by human-powered two-wheeled vehicle (also known as a bike). Pedal through colonial towns, covered bridges and riverside meadows as you embark on an environmentally-friendly tour of the Northeast. You’ll sleep in historic inns. You’ll tour vineyards and working farms. You’ll get in shape. And the best part? You can save up to $700 per person on the price of select Great Freedom Adventures summer tour packages when you book by July 15.

Save $126 on Sedona B&B Package

Settle into guestrooms with breathtaking red rock views at Arizona’s Casa Sedona. This B&B serves scrumptious Southwest-inspired breakfasts (think huevos rancheros and quiche verde) on the house, and offers easy access to Sedona’s burnt-orange desert landscapes. Book the two-night Great Escape Package at the B&B and receive a Sedona SuperPass coupon booklet, two T-shirts or hats, bottled water, hors d’oeuvres and tickets to a Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour (an excursion through surrounding canyon lands). The package costs $595 for two people, which includes $126 in savings.

Save 25% on International Vacation Packages

Are you a less-traveled type of traveler? Trek to exotic destinations like Peru’s Inca Trail, the Galapagos, Ethiopia or Cambodia this summer, and save up to 25 percent on the price of your package when you book with Gap Adventures. The international tour company is touting this offer as a “last-minute special,” but I beg to differ. Many of the discounted tours take place in July, August and September, so it’s not like you’ll have to stuff some hiking boots in a backpack and head to the airport this week.

Mountain Goat Lodge Cheese-Making Package for $75

Why should you fraternize with goats on vacation? Well, for one, the animals can carry your camping gear during a pack goat hiking excursion in the Colorado wilderness. And goats produce some really delicious dairy products. At Mountain Goat Lodge, a rustic B&B set near the Arkansas River in Salida, Colorado, guests can partake in an assortment of surprisingly fun goat-centric activities. Our favorite is the B&B’s cheese-making class, during which guests learn to make their own chevre, mozzarella, ricotta and Greek yogurt from fresh goat’s milk. The four-hour class costs $75 per person. But reserve your summer stay on BedandBreakfast.com and you can save $25 on the cost of your booking.

Save 25% on Grand Canyon Train Packages

Got an AARP membership card? Good. That makes you eligible to save 25 percent on Grand Canyon train packages this summer. Book a two- or three-night package with Grand Canyon Railway and save 25 percent on rates when you upgrade to first class. It’s a good excuse to add a little opulence to your vacation, no? Packages start at $242 per person (that’s before the first-class upgrade) and include accommodations, roundtrip train travel from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon, plus breakfasts and dinners.

— written by Caroline Costello

England lake district 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: We’ve found it — a rare Europe travel deal that features discounts during the summer high season, which is decidedly the most popular time for travel to the Continent. Book one of Brendan Vacations‘ Escorted Europe packages by February 28, and you can save $500 per couple on land-only trips or $1,000 per couple on air-inclusive vacations.

We checked prices for the “Taste of Britain” package, which includes six nights’ hotel accommodations; transportation between U.K. destinations including London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and York; various tours, some meals; and airport transfers. The package also includes roundtrip nonstop airfare from New York to London on British Airways, departing on August 12 (airfare from other U.S. gateways and on other dates is also available). After the $500-per-person discount, the ultimate price for a summer Europe vacation for two came out to $4,510.58, including all taxes and fees. Roughly $2,255 per person for a U.K. vacation ain’t bad, considering airfare to Europe in August typically costs well over $1,000 roundtrip — and considering that lousy dollars-to-pounds exchange rate to boot.

The Catch: Pay attention to this deal’s long list of restrictions. To get the greatest discount, $1,000 off a trip for two people, you must fly on British Airways; fly with other eligible airlines and receive $800 off. In addition, this deal isn’t valid for trips to a handful of European destinations, including Greece and Turkey. Traveling solo? Sorry. This offer is available for couples only.

The Competition: Monograms is currently offering a similar deal, but the discounts aren’t quite as steep. Book with Monograms by February 15 and receive up to $400 off (that’s $200 per person) select air-inclusive Europe vacation packages.

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

— written by Caroline Costello

beach travel deal Attention Cyber Monday shoppers: Sneakers and flat-screen TV’s aren’t the only discounted Web perks on offer today. Travel providers are cashing in on the Cyber Monday shopping craze, serving up cut-rate hotel stays, vacation packages and plane tickets galore. But if you need a vacation, do book post haste. Many of these deals are extremely limited-time bargains that expire by the end of today.

Flights to Europe from $389 RT
Icelandair has just released this winter Europe fare sale, which features flights to popular spots on the Continent starting at $389 roundtrip. Destinations include Amsterdam, London, Paris, Oslo, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Stockholm and more. Additional taxes typically add up to about $200 roundtrip, so you’re looking at a transatlantic flight for roughly $600 total (depending on where exactly you’re flying), which isn’t bad. Travel is valid between January 15 and April 10, 2011, and bookings must be made by December 6.

One-Day Sale: U.S. Flights from $29 OW
Frontier Airlines is enticing Cyber Monday shoppers with dirt-cheap $29 domestic flights (taxes and fees not included). More than 1,800 routes are on sale, for travel through mid February. Want to snag a seat? You’ll have to hurry. This offer expires at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time today.

JetBlue “Top Secret Sale”: Vacation Packages for $99
This is a pretty good deal, at least for travelers who aren’t nitpicky about hotels. Today only, you can book a three-night air-inclusive JetBlue vacation package for just $99 per person, choosing from destinations including the Caribbean, Mexico, Florida and Las Vegas. Here’s the catch: You won’t know what hotel you’re staying at until 72 hours prior to your departure date. At that time, JetBlue will send you an e-mail revealing the surprise hotel where you’re going to be spending your mini-getaway. (Read: You’ll most likely be booked at whichever local hotel has extra rooms available at that time.)

Funjet Vacations from $59/Night
You have just 24 hours to book this Funjet Vacations Cyber Monday deal, so set your watch and start planning. Air-inclusive vacation packages to places in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Las Vegas and other dreamy destinations are on sale starting at $59 per person, per night. And unlike the JetBlue sale, you’ll actually know well ahead of time where you’re going to be staying.

Virgin America Flights from $39 OW
Virgin America flights to domestic cities from Boston to San Francisco are on sale starting at $39 each way, not including taxes and fees. Travel dates are broad — fly from December 6 through May 11. But day-of-week restrictions and holiday blackout dates do apply. (In other words, you can’t fly on weekends or around Christmas and New Year’s.) The best part about this bargain is that, unlike many other Cyber Monday deals, the offer stands through December 6, giving you a few days to think before booking your flight.

Receive 30% Off New York & Boston Hotels
Save up to 30 percent on hotel stays in Boston and New York with this 48-hour Orbitz sale, which ends Wednesday. Nightly hotel rates start at $109 in Boston and $152 in New York. Even the famed New York Plaza hotel on Fifth Avenue is listed at 20 percent off (although, at the discounted rate of $836 per night, it still costs a small fortune). Other discounted properties include New York’s Dylan Hotel, Boston’s Seaport Hotel and Hotel Wales in the Big Apple.

— written by Caroline Costello