Looking for a break from the winter doldrums? Today we’re going to take a look at several places -- nearly a world apart -- that offer budget vacations to take you away from it all.
First on the list is Bali. “It’s the most magical spot on Earth -- magical culture, scenery, people, art. It is fantastically cheap, and
The October 2002 bombing that killed more than 200 people at a nightclub caused an immediate crash in Bali tourism. “The Balinese are so determined to prevent another attack that they’ve taken security measures that would put other places to shame,” Gruber said.
Gruber has obvious self-interest. But she also is able to point to a slight but tangible uptick in tourism to the idyllic South Pacific isle. She’s trying to lure people back with low prices and bonus features.
From now until the end of March, Escapes Unlimited, (800) 243-7227, www.escapesltd.com, will charge $799 per person (single surcharge $120) for a round-trip flight to Bali on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Included are five nights’ accommodations with breakfast, transfers, a half-day sightseeing tour, hotel taxes and service charges.
En route to Bali, travelers can stop in Singapore for the night if they wish, spending $29 per person for a hotel room, then catch the next day’s flight nonstop to Denpasar, the Balinese capital. Most programs use routes that bypass the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and go directly to and from Bali.
Most Bali tour operators no longer send their clients to the once-crowded Kuta beach area, scene of the bombing. They avoid it in favor of the quieter Nusa Dua or Sanur beaches or the inland crafts capital of Ubud (my favorite), where there are fewer large gatherings of people who might attract a terrorist.
That new pattern of Balinese tourism, the realization that Bali is not a continuing target and especially the lowering of hotel prices (packages that sold for $1,199 now sell for $899), has set off a small but growing movement of travelers to Bali.
A tour operator such as Gruber, however, must offset the decline in travel to Bali with other destinations. Escapes Unlimited is doing well with a low-cost air-and-land package to Tokyo, $799 per person (single surcharge $399) through the end of March. It includes round-trip transportation from LAX on Singapore Airlines and five nights at the Tokyo Hilton.
The sharp recent increase in the value of the Japanese yen (now 105 to the dollar) has meant that packages of this sort provide one of the best ways of enjoying Japan affordably.
Terrorism is much less an issue for travelers to Japan, and as long as that is the case, low-cost packages should attract an audience.
If you’re interested in a destination closer to the United States, Allegro might offer a solution at one of its big Caribbean beachside resorts. A budget buy for families will begin April 21 and continue until mid-December.
Allegro, recently acquired by Occidental Hotels & Resorts, will accept children younger than 12 free of charge (free room, meals, beverages and sports) during that eight-month stint in its Mexico and Dominican Republic locations.
And because Allegro resorts in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata (both in the Dominican Republic) charge as little as $92 per adult per day for all-inclusive stays, a family of four -- two adults and two children -- will pay $184 per day for everything other than airfare. It doesn’t get much better than that. Call Occidental, (800) 858-2258, www.occidentalhotels.com.