Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thrifty Thinking: 10 International Vacations To Book with Your Tax Refund

Many American taxpayers wish to spend a tax refund on a vacation, according to a Nielsen Poll commissioned by H&R Block. As a result, Travel Leaders – America’s top retail travel agency brand –  announced some of its top suggestions for where those refunds could get the most bang for the buck, along with travel tips for those consumers seeking vacation travel ideas based on spending this year’s tax refund.

“While financial experts say not overpaying your taxes is best, many American still look forward to receiving a healthy tax refund. For those individuals receiving a refund, it’s no surprise that many wish to spend that money on a relaxing vacation – after paying Uncle Sam all year, they’ve earned it,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Franchise Group (TLFG), home to Travel Leaders Associates. “With the strong exchange rate for the U.S. dollar against many other currencies in the world, the average amount of a refund check can cover the costs of a rather spectacular vacation compared to five years ago.”

Since the average 2016 tax refund issued so far this year is $3,053, according to the Internal Revenue Service, Travel Leaders’ expert travel agents across the country are sharing their top vacation ideas within this budget. Here are 11international travel packages for approximately $3,000*, as recommended by Travel Leaders travel agents:

1.  6-Days in Ireland, including airfare, for less than $2,200 per couple: 
For early bird filers who have already received their tax refund, Ireland is a perfect vacation option. Americans ranked Ireland third among “dream destinations” according to last year’s Travel Leaders Group “Consumer Travel Survey.” Traveling from Florida, a vacation package would be less than $1,100 per person, if departing in April.
“Some roundtrip flights to Ireland right now are under $700 per person. And you can book one of CIE Tours for six nights in Ireland with a rental car at $392 per person,” said Lindsay Hardy, co-owner of the Travel Leaders location in Palm Coast, Florida. “Ireland has been rated as one of the friendliest destinations in the world. Make sure to enjoy your free pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar, with 360 degree views of Dublin.”

2.  13-Day Tour of the Best of Spain and Portugal for $3,000:
“For about $3,000, you can discover the best of two wonderful countries for nearly two weeks. What makes this package especially nice is it includes air and hotel,” said Rey Alton of Travel Leaders in Houston, Texas, who recently booked this trip for a client. “Since this is a fully escorted tour, it would normally cost a lot more for a single traveler, but our client opted to share the experience with another solo traveler.” The trip departs on July 18, 2016.
Among the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Sites tour is a visit to the walled city of Toledo, Spain, with its St. Tome Church, made famous by El Greco’s paintings.  “It has so much history and it is so picturesque, it takes you back in time,” said Alton. Other stops include Granada’s royal Alhambra complex; Malaga and its surrounding resort villages; historic Ronda, spectacular Seville; delightful Lisbon, and the famed Fátima sanctuary. There’s also a stop in Oporto, rich in culture and history and known for its Port wine production. The last two nights are spent in Madrid.

3.  7-Day Caribbean Cruise for a Family of Four is only $3,014 or Less:
“A cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Escape would be an amazing vacation, with stops in Nassau, Bahamas, and St. Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands,” said travel agent Karen Malone, of the Travel Leaders location in Woodbury, Minnesota. “You could book a Spa Balcony for $2,800 for two passengers or you can book your family of four in an ocean view cabin, which would be $3,014, using the kids-sail-free promotion. The savings for a family of four would be even greater in an inside cabin for $2,374.”
Certain promotions offer the option of free amenities, which could include free unlimited beverages, free specialty dining, free shore excursions, or free Wi-Fi. “This ship has it all, including a three-story ropes course, water slides, miniature golf course, and a quiet sunbathing area for adults only with hidden grottos and cooling waterfalls,” Malone added.

4.  Fly Roundtrip to Bangkok, Thailand, from Los Angeles for approximately $600:
If you’re looking to get the travel bug out of your system sooner rather than later, Phoenix-based Travel Leaders travel agent Wally Jones said, “You can score roundtrip tickets to Bangkok out of LAX for about $600.” He also suggested booking a 5-star hotel in April, just in time for the Songkran Festival – Thailand’s New Year celebration, complete with countrywide water gun fights. Hotel prices are in the $150 per night range.  At these prices, take your significant other and still stay under budget.
“If you go to Bangkok, I’d also recommend getting on a regional airline and hitting a beach in Phuket, Krabi or Koh Samui,” added Jones. “Also, if you have the time, head to Chiang Mai and/or Chiang Rai and enjoy the somewhat cooler temps of the northern mountain area.  There are equally great hotel deals and some excellent rated hotels in these areas, as well.”

5.  Enjoy six nights at a 5-star all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico, for under $3,000: 
“At less than $1,500 per person, the Riviera Maya is a great destination to get the best bang for your buck for couples, especially with all-inclusive options. I love the Riviera Maya for its beautiful stretches of white sand beaches, sprawling jungles, and the feeling of seclusion,” said travel agent Brian Sanchez in the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, location of Travel Leaders. “The resorts are grand complexes with unlimited activities and entertainment, plus they pay careful attention to details and offer personalized service.  Besides the resorts themselves, the Riviera Maya is home to vast options for tours and excursions.  You can visit Ancient Mayan ruins like Tulum and Chichen Itza, zip line, snorkel and scuba dive in some of the most beautiful reef systems in the world.”

6. Fly Down Under and Stay a Week for about $3,000
Thanks to a really great sale with Delta and Virgin Australia, travelers in Phoenix can fly to Australia for as low as $921 roundtrip, for outbound travel from now until November 30.  “Of course, booking class is subject to availability as fares can change at any time,” said Wally Jones of Travel Leaders in Phoenix, Arizona. “The interesting thing is, this fare is lower than flying out of Los Angeles-LAX.  So, a couple could conceivably stay in a good 3-star hotel, which will hover in the lower to mid-$100’s per night, along with the airfare. A couple can do a week or so for around $3,000 depending on what’s happening in the city at the time they want to travel.”

7. Escape to the beautiful island of Jamaica with your family of four, for under $3,000. 
“Four of you can spend five days and four nights in Jamaica exploring the lush mountains, waterfalls, rainforests and reef-lined beaches,” said Kelly Westin of the Travel Leaders location in Maple Grove, Minnesota. In Jamaica, you can meet friendly people and try authentic cuisine. Put on some sunscreen and insect repellant, and watch the sunset over the Caribbean Sea. This price includes flight and hotel accommodations for a family of four.

8. Costa Rica is a Beautiful Destination for Two, for 5 Days
“A really popular, low-cost trip for two is the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica or southern pacific coast of Nicaragua,” said Alex Trettin, president of Travel Leaders in Tacoma, Washington. “They can do this for less than $3,000. A couple could stay in moderate accommodations for around $150 per night, or a Spartan place for $75 per night. If they stay five days, a couple could have a 4-star experience.”

9. Two Can Stay Several Nights at an All-inclusive Resort in Puerto Vallarta for $3,000.
“I’ve booked many couples recently to Puerto Vallarta, which is a popular Mexico beach resort destination,” said Brian Sanchez in the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, location of Travel Leaders. “Located on the Pacific coast, it boasts some of the finest beaches and resorts in the country.  Not to mention, some old world charm with its cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and loads of restaurants and clubs/bars that are great options for going off resort and really experiencing authentic Mexican culture that can be lost in other destinations in Mexico.” 

10. Cancun for 6 Days at $2,800, for Two
“You can get to Cancun, Mexico, for $600 roundtrip airfare from the Southeast U.S.” says Bruce Horner of Travel Leaders in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “It is a fun and sun destination and the advantage is you will have access to the Mayan ruins, for those interested in seeing archaeological digs.  Some people go to sit and eat and drink, but some get bored after a couple of days and the tours are great. The shopping is pretty good, too.”

* All pricing subject to availability: Prices listed may vary and may not be available at time of booking.
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Travel Leaders is transforming travel with a new name that boldly embodies our commitment to our vacation and business travel clients via a progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. As one of America’s top ten-ranked travel companies, Travel Leaders has assisted millions of travelers through our strong roots – the former Carlson Wagonlit Travel Associates, TraveLeaders and Tzell Travel Group joined together in 2008 to form one of the industry’s fastest-growing and robust networks of travel agents. Travel Leaders Franchise Group can trace its beginnings to 1984 as the Carlson franchise system “Ask Mr. Foster Travel,” which itself was North America’s first travel agency chain established in 1888.

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