Top 5 Vacation Picks from a Seasoned Travel ConnoisseurMany of us have had to dip into our vacation budget this year and do not plan on taking one in a while…but that was then. Most people do not know how inexpensive vacations are both for the holidays and next year.The cost of picture perfect get-aways are at an all time low, and being a travel writer hundreds of “deals” cross my desk. Many, I know, are not really deals, as many times they will tell you it is a deal, but it is really their price. However, at this time, I am seeing some amazing deals this year culminating into some 2009 travel opportunities that really need mentioning. As I sift through loads of great travel deals to some of the world’s most amazing places, I chose only a few, so I came up with the top 5 spots to visit during the holidays, winter, Spring & Summer! The criteria I used in making my choices, included price vs. value, added values, destination and lodging.

Let’s move on to the countdown:

5.) Gunnison Crested Butte – We are officially in ski season! If you want the powder of West Coast skiing, but not the prices of Vail and Aspen, a place the whole family can enjoy, something different, something economical – discover Gunnison, Crested Butte. This hide away in Colorado was an old home to Club Med. The scenery is what you would imagine the perfect Colorado town without tons of tourists, but just enough to make it fun. Why isn’t Gunnison as popular as it should be? Because up until this year, there were not enough flights to get there. However, American Airlines and some others have added Gunnison to the list and it can be accessed from Denver and some other major hubs. The Gunnison tourist board is working hard with its hotels to get more people out there. Right now, it is a secret gem – get there while it still is. There are so many promotions, I could not name them all. They still have Christmas and New year’s packages available; there are a few ski in/ski out condos in middle range- deluxe resorts; there are plenty of “ski free” and “children stay free” promotions. Check out their site and all they have to offer: http://www.dunhillvacations.com/tracking.php?vid=9579. Let me know if you have questions, I have a nice relationship with the folks at the tourist board.4.) Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples – pick these, or any spot in this country for that matter, and you will no doubt come back home wanting more…much more. If you want pleasant weather to take advantage of their beautiful beaches, then travel May – July. However, in August, you won’t see too many Italians, as like yourself, they are off on vacation. If crowds aren’t your thing and you are interested in local culture, then try to avoid August, this is the time when most tourist decide to travel there and most Italians leave. Of course, the winter months are definitely not beach weather, however, can be nice for sight seeing and taking in the culture. Rome receives the same temperate climate as Chicago. Spring or Fall is by far my favorite time to go, nice weather and a taste of everything that Italy has to offer, without so many tourists lurking around. Thinking about Europe and travel, the Eurofly crossed my desk. I have found some amazing airfares flying directly to Rome, Naples and Palermo. If you’re planning on going during the high season, that is Spring and Summer, Eurofly is offering an Early Bird Sale, with prices usually around $1500, they are not offering high season flights for $859. If you are more interested in low cost and sightseeing, wear a jacket and go during the winter. Flights to Italy in the winter months start at just $599. So, you can either enjoy that gelato in the summer, or cozy up with a nice warm cup of “Chocolate” (The Italian version of hot chocolate, that is not to be compared to anything else) all while enjoying the ancient structures, pieces of history, cobble stone streets and incredible food!3.) Jamaica – Yes another Caribbean spot, but because of the winter months moving in, I find myself thinking some people are like me…escape the cold and get to the beach. Jamaica has everything that a true ‘summer escape’ should be. I notice many people seem to be “afraid” of this destination. Unless you plan to wonder alone in unfamiliar areas, you are not in any more danger than you would be anywhere else.The culture is different and there are poor areas, which is why the resorts are completely self sufficient. There are great day trips, but for the most part – your vacation is the resort…they are small paradises within a bigger paradise. When traveling on a budget, look at what it is you are receiving for the money spent. All-inclusives make it easy to judge the “value”.Jamaica, with the reggae sounds everywhere, tastes of jerk-whatever is on the menu and tons of palm trees and long white beaches as far as the eye can wander, is a paradise of relaxation and activities rolled into one vacation spot. Throw in free golf, 6 restaurants, 4 pools, kids activity club and label it all free and you got yourself a vacation that even the most frugal person might applaud. With savings of up to 60%, now is the time to book for your 2009 travel. A three night vacation package at all inclusive resorts like I mentioned above including air start at $539, and if you match that up with all you receive – Airfare, food, activities, room, all drinks, most sports, kid’s programs – its well worth the trip.When speaking about all-inclusive resorts, you should adhere to the fact that you are really committed to spending most if not all of your time in the resort, so pick one that will have everything that you will want in your vacation.2.) Australia – I was torn between picking this as the #1 spot simply because, well, it’s Australia! Everything that you have read, heard, and saw on TV or on the big screen (they do have a movie with the same name out right now) is true. The land ‘Down Under’ is every bit the adventure’s utopia. The only drawback to visiting Australia for many is the plane ride. It is a long flight and too many that might be a deterrent from visiting this wonderful land, but sleep on the plane and you’ll wake up in the land of diversity, nature, ancient peoples and multi-cultured cities. The #2 best trip goes to Qantas for offering $1199 roundtrip airfare from the States PLUS 3 internal flights within the country so you can hop around and see much of this diverse land. The internal flights go to Sydney, Ayers Rock, The Outback and more. On top of airfare, there are so many different packages to buy; Qantas Vacations can help you with that as well. With Australia, the movie starring Nicole Kidman, coming out, there is a huge interest in visiting this wide and diverse country.1.) Dublin, Ireland – This place speaks for itself and really, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it comes in at the number one spot. The history and culture of Dublin makes this city a favorite destination in Ireland. From the museums to the pubs to the shopping, this electric city has something to offer for everyone. For the animal lover there is the Dublin Zoo. With 235 species of wild animals, you will get your animal-like enjoyment here. Of course, if you’re looking for something a little less ‘wild’, you can stroll into “Ireland’s No. 1 international visitor attraction”, the Guinness Storehouse, where you can learn how to make your very own Guinness…sort of. With some extensive research, I located a company that is an expert of all things Ireland. Sceptre Travels mak
es your itinerary to Ireland one that will take you to these two sites and more. At $399 for a four night package with air, this is a complete steal! Yes, it is winter prices, and yes the temperature does dip a bit, but with the mere thought of what you will do should warm you up significantly. Full Irish Breakfast, airport transfers are also included.Take full advantage of these deals and have yourself a happy holidays!