Escapes Under $500: Unbelievable Deals to Hawaii and Bermuda

Hawaii and Bermuda for under $500? Even I can't believe it.

I've been writing Escapes Under $500 for nearly five years and have yet to mention Hawaii. It seems that perfect Aloha deal was always the one that got away. Not this time. Hawaii is more affordable than it's been in years, and you can visit for less than $500, particularly if you're from the West Coast. East Coasters won't make it to Hawaii for that cheap, but I have something as special in mind for you, too. In 2009, Bermuda will be celebrating its 400th anniversary, and the combo of great savings and special events make it one of the best island vacation opportunities for the New Year.

So whether you live on the West Coast or the East Coast, tropical paradise is still in reach. And even if you live somewhere in between, you might still be able to afford a trip to one of these islands, despite the struggling economy.

Hawaii for the West Coast

Hawaii is hurting right now, primarily due to two bankrupt airlines earlier this year, a bad economy, and a perception that the state is still really expensive even though travel providers have slashed prices. According to John Monahan, President and CEO of Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, "These discounts and other offers have continued as the global economic crisis worsened and began to suppress travel this fall. Recently, airfares have been dropping, making Hawaii an even better value especially when purchasing a package that includes air, hotel, car rental and activities together." In fact, package prices are cheaper in 2008 than they were in 2007. And believe it or not, some fit within a $500 budget.

For example, Pleasant Holidays is offering three-night, air-and-hotel vacation packages to Oahu from $389. When I checked (using the test dates of January 27 to 30), trips departing nonstop from Los Angeles and staying at the Aqua Continental in Waikiki came to $889 for two including taxes, or $444.50 per person. If you think that's impressive, couples departing from San Francisco pay only $659, or $329.50 per person, beating the list price (yes, I triple checked the math on that one!).

I expect deals like these to ebb and flow in the coming months. For the latest Hawaii vacation packages, visit GoHawaii.com. Also, check SmarterTravel.com for the most current Hawaii deals. At press time, for example, sale fares started at $306 round-trip from Seattle to Kahului, not including taxes and fees. Pair that with a room at an affordable Maui B&B such as Old Lahaina House for $89 per night, and an escape under $500 is yet again possible (just be sure to divide the rate by two people sharing a room).

While the best prices are typically from the West Coast, don't rule out a visit to Hawaii just yet if you live in cities further afield. Hawaii vacations are cheaper than they've been in a long time and the opportunity might be too good to pass up.

Bermuda for the East Coast

For East Coasters in particular, the Bermuda travel equation is just as nice as Hawaii's. Also given a bad rap for high prices, the Atlantic island is bringing out the welcome wagon for 2009 (to celebrate its 400th anniversary), and it's filled with deals.

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