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Vacationing in the off-season can lead to big savings

November 09, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Does soaking up the sun in Hawaii, strolling the streets of London or sipping coffee at a sidewalk caf in Paris sound good right now? If so, get ready to book your trip. Off-season travel can add up to big savings.

Except for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, this time of year is not generally a high-travel time so travelers should find some bargains for such off-season destinations as Europe and Alaska, says Amanda Knittle, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Destinations in cooler climates can mean lower prices and shorter lines at popular tourist sites, she says. Most people, however, seek out the sun when cold weather strikes. The results of a recent poll conducted by AAA World magazine - which AAA Mid-Atlantic publishes every two months for its 3.4 million members in Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia - found that nearly 30 percent of the hundreds of people surveyed head south when the weather gets cold, Knittle says.

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Most Tri-State area AAA members are now booking Walt Disney World trips and Caribbean cruises for the peak travel months of January through March, she says.

"Right now people are traveling. People are traveling a lot," says Lynn Rogers, co-owner of Cruise Holidays Mid-Maryland in Frederick, Md.

That means cruisers won't get heavy discounts the likes of which followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the start of the war with Iraq, she says. And since cruising has become a year-round hobby, it's difficult to find big off-season bargains.

"Off-season has become a fairly small window," Rogers says.

Cruise enthusiasts likely will save money, however, if they book trips during the hurricane season in September and October, before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in early November and December, and during times when children are in school, she says.

Even during the peak season, local cruise enthusiasts can save hundreds of dollars in airfare by sailing out of ports in Baltimore, Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia, Knittle adds. Most of the Caribbean cruises departing from Baltimore, however, last at least 10 days, Rogers says.

Amy Ziff, editor-at-large for Travelocity in Fort Worth, Texas, came up with the following 10 deals for off-season, round-trip flights to destinations where American dollars will travel farther:

-- Flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to Cancun, Mexico, through Dec. 10, $413, United Air Lines. Hotel room at the luxurious Camino Real Cancun from Dec. 5 to 8, $81 per night.

-- Flight from BWI to Mexico City from Dec. 5 to 8, $453, US Airways. Hotel room at Mexico City's Galeria Plaza Hotel, $85.

-- Flight from BWI to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Nov. 3 to 6, $504, United Air Lines. Hotel room at the Premier Copacabana Hotel, $76.

-- Flight from BWI to Paris from Dec. 11 to 15, $326, Delta Air Lines. Hotel room in Paris at the Berne Opera Hotel, $94.

-- Flight from BWI to London from Dec. 4 to 8, $411, American Airlines. Hotel room in London at the Park International Hotel, $112.

-- Flight from BWI to Milan through Nov. 2, 2004, $285, British Airways. Or flight from BWI to Milan from Dec. 4 to 8, $375, Delta Airlines. Milan lodging at the Soeraga Hotel, $98.

-- Flight from BWI to Orlando, Fla., from Dec. 11 to 15, $193, AirTran Airways. Hotel room at Ramada Inn Resort in Kissimee, Fla., $51.

-- Flight from BWI to San Francisco from Dec. 4 to 8, $293, Frontier Airlines. Lodging at Edwardian San Francisco Hotel, $67.

-- Flight from BWI to Honolulu, Hawaii, through Dec. 31, $565, American Airlines. Honolulu lodging at OHANA Royal Islander, $82.

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