Friday, December 22, 2006

Last-minute gifts

You've failed to find that perfect gift, and now it's ... really, really late.

Solution: Give your loved one the promise of a great trip. (You can make up a nifty gift certificate on your computer, cut pictures out of a magazine, even download low-res images from online.)

A few suggestions:

Dreams on a dime: Europe, China, Africa … you can see them all on budget trips from Adventurecenter, Gap Adventures, or Intrepid Travel. If you've got as much as a quarter, try or SmarTours. One SmarTours option: 18 days in China including a Yangtze River cruise and air from New York for $2,399 per person.

Splurge: Check out offerings from Luxury Link, where you can bid or buy set packages. One choice: A three-night package for two in a junior suite at the Chàteau Andrew Ziltener in the Burgundy region of France for $790, includes breakfast daily.

Just for women: The Women's Travel Club offers well-priced trips that span the globe. The trips are designed by former Miamian Phyllis Stoller just for women, and are a great travel option for women alone, traveling with girlfriends or whose husbands are sofa-bound. One appealing choice: A Provence river cruise April 13-21. The price of $2,694 per person, double, includes air from New York and transfers from Paris.

Local retreats: Recently opened is the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure in Weston. Looking for five stars? How about this year's winners of the Mobil ratings: The Ritz-Carlton Palm
Beach,Four Seasons Palm Beach and Ritz-Carlton Naples.

Beach hangouts: Some faves: The laid-back Dolphin Beach Resort in the Abacos) and Tranquility Bay, delightful beachfront apartment resort in the Florida Keys.

Weekends at sea: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Imperial Majesty offer weekend cruises from South Florida. Or catch a one-day Discovery Cruise to Grand Bahama and overnight on the island.

Hang 10: Florida, Costa Rica and Hawaii are prime territories for surfing camps. See a list of camps.

On the range: Play cowboy at a Dude Ranchers Association spread. Many offer family programs, rafting and even cattle drives.

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