New York.– A getaway to the Dominican Republic. A road trip with the kids. Even a weekend in Vegas – as long as you take it easy in the casino.
With most Americans expecting to receive a tax rebate of up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples), there are plenty of ways to get the most vacation for your buck, say travel experts. Whether it's a cruise, a tropical paradise, or family travel, these trips can all be done for under $600 a person.
CRUISES: Appealing to first-time cruisers and time-pressed travelers, several cruise companies are offering shorter cruises on older ships for as little as $60 a night per person (based on double occupancy), says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. For example, a Caribbean Princess three-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas in May starts at $259 (for a no-frills room).
Travelers seeking a longer vacation aboard a more luxurious ship can catch deals in the offseason. A seven-day cruise on Holland America to the Western Caribbean (leaving from Tampa) in November starts at $514. (Transportation to the port, tips and extras like the spa, alcohol and shore excursions will add to your bill.)
TROPICAL GETAWAY: Believe it or not, $600 can get you a beach in the Caribbean or Mexico. Cheapflights.com has an air-hotel package from Phoenix to Cancun, with a three-night hotel stay at the four-star Barcelo Tucancun Beach Resort & Hotel Villas for $585 per person. The resort is all-inclusive.
Cancun is a popular destination for spring breakers searching for the 24-hour party, honeymooners on a romantic getaway, and anyone else craving sunshine and relaxation. But travelers who are seeking more than beaches and night clubs can arrange snorkeling, diving and fishing excursions; tour the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum, about 80 miles away; or visit the nearby eco-parks Xcarat and Xel-Ha for wildlife-watching.
Travelzoo has an air-hotel package to the Dominican Republic for $499 per person, including roundtrip airfare from Miami and New York, five nights at the four-star Sunscape Casa del Mar (all-inclusive). Lie on the beach, visit the clubs, or go fishing, rafting, diving, or whale-watching.
If you want more than the beach, take the Islabon Jungle River Tour or a scenic drive on the Carretera Touristica Route, a road lined with vendors and scenic views. The Dominican Republic is also home to Columbus Aquaparque, one of the biggest water parks in the Caribbean.
ROAD TRIPS: Skip the airport hassles and hit the road. Even with the high cost of gas, driving is cheaper than flying a family of four, says Carol White, who wrote “Live Your Road Trip Dream,” with her husband Phil.
“It's also a great way to reconnect with your spouse or family,” said White, who recommends leaving the electronics at home for real bonding time. “How long has it been since you played cards or a board game?”
CITIES: It's not impossible to travel to a sophisticated city for $600. Get out of the casino, the high-end restaurants and upscale shops, and Vegas can be done for less than $500, says Bryan Allison, vice president of marketing for Vegas.com.
Vegas.com has several deals on air-hotel packages, including two airline tickets from Phoenix and two nights at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino for $474 per person (double occupancy).
Once in Vegas, spend the afternoon relaxing in your hotel pool complex, and at night wander the Strip to see free attractions like the Bellagio's fountain show, Conservatory and Botanical Garden; the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand; or the “Sirens of TI” show, staged four times a night outside Treasure Island Hotel. Red Rock Canyon, 17 miles from Vegas, offers hiking and a 13-mile scenic drive ($5 car entry fee).
Finally, you can plan a trip to New Orleans that's not only in your budget, but that can help the economy there. “We have a bit of a ways to go to get to where we were before Katrina,” said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.