Want to be sprung from winter? Offers abound

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / March 18, 2007

Every year around this time it becomes my mantra: "Spring . . . spring . . . spring." I think about warmer weather, greener grass, and new travel opportunities that arrive each spring as surely as the robins. Here are a few:

Sedona, Ariz., is an increasing ly popular destination and new tours have sprung up. Canyon Dave's will offer full- and half-day tours of Sedona and environs for $139 and $89 , respectively, if purchased on line. Stops for the full-day trip include Oak Creek Canyon; a high hill to view the city's red, white, and black cliffs; the former ghost town of Jerome; the Verde Valley; and petroglyph sites .

Visit or call 877-845-3283 .

Another new tour, conducted by Healing from the Heart, certainly sounds Sedona-ish. The four-hour Ceremony in the Land of the Ancestors takes individuals and small groups to a red-rock site said to be known only to a few. Cynthia Tierra, a Universal Shaman, conducts a traditional ceremony for inner peace, calling on the four directions and using the power of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water ). After the ceremony, there is a visit to a cliff dwelling and an area with petroglyphs. The rate is $300 a person, with $50 off in March. Ah, but what price inner peace?

Visit or call 928-821-0989 .

Beginning in April, the Arabella, a 160-foot, 40-passenger yacht, is expanding its Caribbean routes to include St. Kitts, Nevis, and Turks & Caicos. The yacht's Virgin Island excursions have gained popularity because of the vessel's ability to enter secluded ports of call that larger vessels cannot maneuver. The newest six- and seven-day trips will sail through the Lesser Antilles from St. Martin, Anguilla , and St. Barthélemy, continuing on to Nevis and St. Kitts. The Arabella will also launch excursions out of Turks & Caicos with stops in Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, Caicos Cays, and Providenciales . Prices are from $1,295-$2,195 based on cabin type.

Visit or call 800-395-1343 .

The Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., has a package so new that it was not yet on the website at this writing. The Safari Sleuths family travel package, available May 1-Oct. 31, centers on the National Zoo's new Asia Trail . At check-in, children visit the concierge desk for instructions about a scavenger hunt through the trail's nearly six acres of waterfalls, rocky outcrops, and bamboo groves. The young sleuths get a Welcome Adventure Pack including a giant panda toy, zoo trading cards, safari hat, and disposable camera. Afterward, they will return to Mandarin Oriental and submit their findings. If the hunt is a success, the concierge will give them a Wild Animalopoly board game. In addition to overnight accommodations, the package also includes breakfast for two adults and two children, valet parking, and two $50 spa certificates. Rates start at $389.

Call 888-888-1778 or visit .

The 17-acre Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Hawaii's Big Island has completed a $50 million renovation, adding a spa and ballroom and making changes throughout the beachfront property. The Sand Dollars package features a free fourth night with a four-day reservation, daily breakfast for two, and 1,000 Marriott Rewards points if booked at the resort's website. Rates, valid year - round, are $425 per room per night for garden -mountain view accommodations and $460 for pool-view rooms.

Call 877-359-3696 or visit .

But, incredibly, there are those who don't want to let go of winter and cold and snow. For them there is the King of Spring celebration at Vermont's Killington Resort, which just got under way and continues with special events through much of April. Every three-day or longer lift ticket bought in a package with lodging will include a free admission to the Snowshed Adventure Center, Kids Zone Arcade, and Snow Action park, and free admission to the Wobbly Barn, The Outback, and Tabu nightclubs (for ages 21 and over), and discounts at area businesses. Packages start from $83 a person per night.

Visit or call 800-621- 6867 .

A reader's view
Continuing our discussion of using credit and debit cards in other countries, Sheila of Plymouth advises travelers to make sure their debit cards work before leaving the United States. She writes: "I wanted to use my debit card at an ATM to get local currency. . . . Much to my chagrin, the ATM would not give me money. I tried two more at different banks -- same result. After the weekend delay, I was able to reach my bank by phone (Eastern now -- they had taken over my former bank a few months before), only to discover that my debit card had been shut off -- I had not used it since the bank had taken over and sent me the card. The call trying to prove that my husband was truly himself and that I was myself was truly a difficult one."

New for the bookshelf
"Patients Beyond Borders: Everybody's Guide to Affordable, World-Class Medical Tourism" by Josef Woodman is a 336-page guidebook for those who seek quality care and lower costs overseas. Anyone contemplating such a serious step should indeed do careful research.

Visit .

One of my favorite sections of Budget Travel magazine is the tips from readers. Now 399 of those tips have been compiled into "The Smart Traveler's Passport." Where else could you learn 13 uses for Ziploc bags while traveling.

Visit .

Those miles count
Flights are getting harder to book with frequent-flier miles, at least when and where you want them. But they are worth having even if you never use them to fly anywhere. I n case of cancellations or schedule changes, your frequent-flier status can be one factor in how high up you are put on a standby list. In addition, airlines sometimes offer to trade flier miles that are lying fallow for magazine subscriptions. I have gotten at least a dozen annual subscriptions to a variety of magazines this way. Visit , or, for a wider selection, await an offer from your airline in the mail.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at

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