At least for the time being, the travel industry has become like a Persian bazaar, with merchants shouting out bargains, grabbing your arms, urging you to step into their shop for a cup of tea—and a deal.
Orlando, and especially its Universal Studios, has the biggest whopper of an offer: Pay $95 and you get a full week of unlimited access to both of the Universal parks. This must be purchased online and not at the park gates. Usually, two-day, two-park admission at the gates is $120, but Orlando’s Internet offer buys you five more days for less money. Go to universalorlando.com /tickets.html to book.
As for Walt Disney World, it has extended the availability of its “Buy 4 Get 3 Free” deal, which gets you three free nights and three free days of theme-park tickets when you buy a four-night ticket/hotel package. That’s for between Feb. 9 and April 4 and again from April 19 to June 27, and the details can be found at disneyworld.com and click on the “Buy 4 Get 3 Free” button.
Paris is the next to grab you by the lapels and urge you to buy. From now until Feb. 14 (a date that will undoubtedly be extended), you can travel on a one-week air-and-land package to the City of Lights for only $699, including round-trip airfare, six nights at the Comfort Hotel Lamarck (near Montmartre) and breakfast daily. While taxes and government fees come to $110 more, there is no longer a fuel surcharge. So if you’ve got around $800 in the bank, you can purchase the essential features of a Parisian winter week from Virgin Vacations and undoubtedly from numerous other tour operators as well.
The hoteliers of Las Vegas are prominent in our bazaar of bargains. On numerous midweek (Sunday through Thursday) dates in January and February, suites at the palatial Encore are available for $159 a night. And because the Encore sets the upper limits of hotel prices in Vegas, everyone else is either matching that price or undercutting it. You’ll find that suites at the new 3,000-unit Palazzo are also going for as little as $159 for midweek dates in winter.
Airfares to Hawaii? They’re joining the bargain parade and have been dramatically cut for January and February. Recently, Hawaiian Airlines was charging in the low $300s for round-trip flights between West Coast cities (other than Los Angeles and San Francisco) and Honolulu. Although one such January sale has come to an end, you’ll undoubtedly find an extension of those offers by going to www.beatofhawaii.com, which makes a point of observing airfares to the islands.
Finally, you needn’t be told that the cruise-ship industry is especially frantic. Already, several months before the start of the “season” for cruising in Alaska, round-trip, weeklong sailings from Seattle of the Alaskan “inner passage” are going for as little as $599 per person, a heavily discounted rate. The source: Online Vacation Center, reached at 800-329-9002 or www.onlinevacationcenter.com. The ships: the Star Princess and the Golden Princess, of upscale Princess Cruises, sailing throughout May 2009. The seven-day itinerary stops at Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria.
And it isn’t only the standard cruise ships that are discounting their rates to fill their cabins; go to the Web sites of even the premium ships, and you’ll find attractive rates that in previous years would never have been quoted. In a time of economic slowdown, much of travel is on sale.