Good news for consumers: A number of late-breaking airfare sales are hitting the market.
International travel has become an especially good buy, with a wide range of deals to Europe. Domestic travel has decreased in price as well, thanks to carriers such as Southwest and Continental. Flights from the West Coast to Australia and New Zealand also carry substantial price reductions for families.
Flights to Europe can be your best bargain. This is the first time in five years that so many destinations have been on sale for July and August travel. Featured cities include London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid.
British Airways has the best deals. Depart by June 16 for the lowest prices, but flights through Sept. 12 also are affordable. The airline offers a free stopover in London on its European destinations, so it's like visiting two cities for the price of one. For travel beginning June 1, seven-day advance purchase is required.
How attractive are the prices? Flights from Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport to Rome between June 17 and Sept. 12 were as high as $1,147 round trip. With the round-trip British Airways fare of $848, you not only save nearly $250, you also get a free stop in London.
Another British Airways bonus is the offer of a free three-night stay in London. The stay is based on twin occupancy at one of 11 three-diamond hotels in central London. This London for Free deal also is valid when London is the final destination.
Book the British Airways deals through a travel agent or the airline (800-247-9297). Tickets cannot be purchased online.
Other carriers, including Lufthansa, also are offering discounts for overseas flights.
On the home front, low-cost leader Southwest has coast-to-coast airfares on sale as low as $198 round trip. Check the company's Web-only fares, published Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Meanwhile, children's fares to Sydney, Australia, or Auckland, New Zealand, are on sale. With an adult ticket, children ages 2 through 17 can fly for as little as $99 round trip from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Adult fares start at $1,198 round trip. Book by May 31 for departures through Aug. 31 with return by Sept. 30.
Tour the Chesapeake
The Cape May Light, a new 226-passenger ship, started its inaugural "Charms of the Chesapeake Bay" voyages this month and is scheduled to make nine seven-day excursions between Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia in 2001.
The Cape May Light and a sister ship under construction are designed to resemble coastal ships of the late 1800s -- with modern amenities such as TV / VCRs and cabin climate controls. The Chesapeake itineraries, next departing Philadelphia Oct. 20 and Nov. 3, include Baltimore; Annapolis; Mount Vernon, Va.; Washington; Alexandria, Va.; St. Michaels and Cambridge; and Williamsburg and Jamestown, Va.
Fares start at $2,585 per person, based on double occupancy. A company spokesman said discounts are being offered, including two-for-one deals on some sailings. Fares include shore excursions at each port.
Another itinerary is the seven-night "Exploring the Coastal Islands of New England," departing Philadelphia June 9 and Aug. 4 for Providence, R.I., including New York; New London and Mystic, Conn.; Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and Newport, R.I. Prices also start at $2,585 per person, double occupancy.
Philadelphia departures also are scheduled Oct. 13 and Nov. 17 for 14-day trips to Charleston, S.C., dubbed the "Grand Voyage of Discovery South" tour.
The rest of the year, the Cape May Light is scheduled to tour the Great Lakes, the Canadian Maritime Provinces and elsewhere on the East Coast.
The ship is operated by Delta Queen Coastal Voyages. Its parent company is American Classic Voyages, which also owns the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., American Hawaii Cruises and United States Lines.
For details, call 800-543-7637 or visit www.coastalvoyages.com.
-- Knight Ridder-Tribune