As a travel writer for a web based travel portal company, I come across quite a few travel destinations and deals and decided to share my top five travel destinations that offer the best deals including value. My focus is always value, not the lowest price. As we all have different budgets, I like to choose from a range of budget accommodations to deluxe. I sifted through everything from little known destinations for a quiet romantic getaway to all-inclusive resorts for the whole family to cruising.

The destinations and properties or cruise make my list when I see true value in the “deal”. For example, if someone says the sale price is $100 per night at 50% off, and I do my homework and realize that the property is always $100 and not really worth it – there is no value. It is when I see they are truly offering a deal that is rare, either a great price that is actually less than you would expect for the level of service and accommodations or if I see tons of added value, I want to recommend it to everyone!

My top destinations and the best deals that go with them:

1) Mexico: All-inclusive resorts continue to be a great value – you just have to be careful that it offers everything it says it does. A one price for all drinks, food, water sports (at most resorts) and activities can save hundreds on your vacation.

The Riu Palace Riviera Maya in Mexico is my first top pick for price-friendly getaway. The Riviera Maya is about 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Cancun and a 100-mile long stretch located along the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. The center of this beautiful area is Playa del Carmen, just across the ocean from Cozumel Island, and half way between Cancun and Tulum (amazing Mayan Ruins). Playa del Carmen is the perfect home base for exploring Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. The Caribbean reef off shore is a big attraction for travelers as well.

The Riu Palace offers a wide variety of suites on miles of white sandy beachfront property. With restaurants, bars, and snacks available to you 24 hours a day, this four star rated resort marks high when you’re counting pennies. Their current deal: Air & 4 nights from $606. Please note most air inclusive packages give you a sample price from Florida, assume it will be a bit more from other states – the pricing is right on the web site.

I actually found a number of great deals in Cancun as well, and yes, I checked them out through a number of sources. Just go to this site and you will see 50% off (for real) all inclusives in Cancun. During College and University school breaks, it is the Mecca of partying for 18-25yr olds, but during other times of the year it is a good place for everyone. Cancun is a big hotel strip, with tons of bars and restaurants, yes, it is very touristy. However, if you want the value we have been discussing, you will get it at a Cancun all inclusive. All inclusive deals on this page range from $69 per night, with kids free! Do the math on that one – your kids, eat, have activities and stay at the hotel free! For $69, expect a big hotel, many buffets, perhaps a few regular dining restaurants, a lot of people, but lots to do!

2) Europe: yes, Europe – I know, it is very expensive for the Americans to go there right now, but if you want to go during the Fall which is a very nice time to go – I did find some deals and steals! While gathering information for this article, I came across this economy friendly European getaway. If you have not been to Europe, having a taste of a few cities is usually a good idea. This way if you fall in love with one, you know to come back, rather than spending a long time in one place you may not end up liking. Finally experience the Eiffel Tower, London and make a wish to return to Rome at the Trevi Fountain. Starting at $805, airfare, 6 nights hotel, breakfast, inner-city flights are all included!

If you feel like avoiding the family during Thanksgiving or maybe taking them along and doing something special, I found a great deal to Italy over this time period. For food, weather, scenery and sightseeing galore, pay $819 including airfare to stay two nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice including rail to each city!

I can not discuss value in Europe without mentioning cruising. Right now, it is the best way to go considering the dollar. You can eat and play on the cruise (food and transportation is what will eat your dollars in Europe), then get off the ship and enjoy each city. One great deal is $549 per person for a 7 night cruise from Venice, Italy to the Greek Islands and Croatia! That is $78 a night for room, transportation, activities and all your food. All you have to do is enjoy yourself in the Greek Islands and be one of the first you know to explore Croatia!

One other European cruise I felt worth mentioning also departs Italy, but northern Italy and heads towards Spain and Morocco. $849 for 10 nights exploring Barcelona, Casablanca and more! To do the math again – $84 a night for all your food, activities and transportation to each European city, not to mention the outstanding views with Spain and Morocco’s dramatic coast lines to enjoy while cruisin.

3) Arizona: If playing golf and staying closer to home is more your idea of a vacation, then Arizona is a good choice, great prices for four to five star hotels. Arizona, already known for its courses, offers the world class Legacy Golf Course. This 6,908-yard par 71 course designed by Gary Panks was home to the 2000 LPGA PING tournament. Stay at the Phoenix Golf Resort for as little as $82. Spanish mission-style with rich wood cabinetry and jewel-toned fabrics, each suite features a full kitchen or kitchenette, spacious living area, and either a balcony or patio overlooking lush tropical courtyards and spectacular mountain vistas. The facility has golf lessons by PGA pros, activities programs for the whole family and so much more. Perfect for a romantic getaway, a place to re-connect with the family or a golf outing.

4) Colorado: A “Buy Two Get One Free” deal is always music to the ears, regardless of the state of the economy. Gunnison Crested Butte (otherwise known as the Colorado Rockies) in Colorado is offering a bonanza of a deal; offering a free airline ticket for every 2 purchased. If you have a group of people who like to do that yearly skiing tip or a family of three or more, this is it! Gunnison-Crested Butte is a little known destination, which makes it all the more worthwhile. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are so many things to do for adults and children alike. A small plane trip from Denver, even though it seems far, it can be easy to get to. Skiing is the ticket here, and beginning at $720 you can be sure to get your fill of it. $720 includes airfare, 5 nights lodging, 4 days lift tickets and ground transportation. Sound like something you can dig your ski poles in? How about one more deal; a baggage claim up to $30 per traveler! These deals are valid on Delta, United and American and travel must be between January 6, 2009 and March 8, 2009; right in time for fine skiing weather.

5) California: For the most part, great weather all year round, different landscapes and attractions through out the state, great values all around. Moving from the South, start with your Disneyland vacation in Anaheim. This is one of those destinations that most people need a hotel for a place to sleep as there is so much to do outside of the hotel. If you want to save some so you can spend the extra cash at the family attractions, check out Americas Best Value Inn and Suites near Disneyland. This is a budget hotel starting at $75 per night, but if you see the prices of other hotels in the area, you will see this is a deal.

Driving north, you hit Los Angeles, where you might want to hit Venice Beach for a different kind of beach experience, filled with surfers, drumming circles, entertainers and great cafes and shops. Or if curiosity about the home of the “stars” gets you, visit Hollywood, walk around famous Beverly Hills, you are sure to spot someone you have seen in the movies somewhere. If you decide this is also a location where you will be out of the hotel more than in it, and want just a place to sleep, then I would recommend Americas Best Value Inn Los Angeles as it starts from $69 per night – hard to find prices like that in this city!

I couldn’t put together a list of destinations in California and not include a trip to Napa Valley. A wine lover’s paradise right here in the good ol’ USA. Known for producing some of the worlds finest Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay, Napa Valley is a world unto itself. The Vino Bello resort, the newest resort in Napa Valley captures the essence of what a wine country vacation is all about. Luxurious accommodations, fine amenities and gracious service is what you get here. What about the wine? Their partnership with the Meritage Resort gives you the green light to explore their remarkable selection of American wines and enjoy a fine wine country cuisine. The perfect spot to unwind is priced very nicely for $189. Salute to the wine gods!


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