Q What are the best sources for finding last-minute bargains?
A Many Web sites bill themselves as last-minute deal specialists, but few deliver the goods. Most are bargain-oriented agencies that use "last minute" as a gimmick to generate interest. Many do offer good deals, but they are not contingent on traveling tomorrow. Also, the best last-minute packages often don't include airfare, which is difficult to secure without prior notice.
Here are some sites worth looking at:
* Travelzoo.com, which acts as a clearinghouse for travel agency deals. A recent last-minute seven-night package to La Cabana in Aruba, including airfare from BWI, was listed at $699, plus about $100 in taxes per person through Crown Travel. Priced separately, airfare alone was $819 per person.
* Skyauction.com, especially good for last-minute cruises. A seven-day cruise on Carnival Victory to the western Caribbean leaving in four days recently went for $730 for two without airfare; the ship was sold out through Carnival.
* Site59.com has the most choices, but bargains are usually best if planned a week in advance. Two nights at the Millennium Broadway in Manhattan plus round-trip air from Reagan National were recently offered at $535, including taxes, about $100 cheaper than the package priced separately.
Other sites include www.lastminutetravel.com, www.gotoday.com, www.smarterliving.com and www.lowestravel.com. For all-inclusive vacations, try www.applevacations.com, www.funjet.com, www.libertytravel.com, www.clubmed.com and www.vacationexpress.com. Also, many individual hotel, cruise and tourist office sites offer last-minute deals, so check your favorites.
I will be taking my two daughters, ages 12 and 13, to a conference I'll be attending in Anaheim, Calif., this spring. Are there attractions beyond traditional theme parks? I'm also looking for the best hotel in the area and more reasonably priced accommodations.
Anaheim, home to Disneyland, is about 25 miles south of Los Angeles and 95 miles north of San Diego. Since you're going to be there for 10 days, you could do an overnight trip to San Diego to visit the zoo or SeaWorld, but there's also plenty to do in the immediate area.
After you've visited Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure theme park, you'll probably also hit Knott's Theme Park in nearby Buena Park. You can purchase a ticket that's good for all three Anaheim Parks, plus the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld for $166 per person. Info: 714-781-7290, www.disney.com.
Other nearby attractions that would appeal to young teens include the Aquarium of the Pacific (562-590-3100, www.aquariumofthepacific.org) in Long Beach, which displays 12,000 ocean animals in 50 exhibits; the Discovery Science Center (714-542-CUBE, www.discoverycube.org) in Santa Ana; the "Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary" exhibit (562-435-3511, www.ghostsandlegends.com); the Movieland Wax Museum and Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum (714-522-1155, www.movielandwaxmuseum.com), both in Buena Park; and the Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay (714-973-6820, www.ocparks.com/unbic), a nature center in Newport Beach.
As for hotels, Disney's Grand California and Hilton Anaheim, just outside the park, are luxury resorts; reasonably priced properties near Disneyland include Ramada Inn Maingate, Quality Hotel Maingate and Best Western Pavilions.
My wife and I are planning a trip to London and would like to stay in a hotel in a truly quiet location. Is there such a thing?
"The balance is getting a quiet place that's central," said Stuart Kirby, a London resident and British Tourist Authority spokesman. Kirby recomends Dukes Hotel, tucked in a courtyard near St. James Park. The five-star, 89-room hotel, which is also known for its excellent martinis, has a health club, restaurant and bar, and is near the theater district. Rates start at about $238 a night. Info: 011-44-20-7491-4840, www.dukeshotel.co.uk.
If that's a bit rich, the Fielding Hotel (011-44-207-836-8305, www.the-fielding-hotel.co.uk) in Covent Garden opposite the Royal Opera House is located in a traffic-free, gas-lit court; rates start at about $165 a night. Another choice is the Harcourt House Hotel (011-44-20-7730-2722, www.harcourthousehotel.co.uk), a bed-and-breakfast in the Belgravia residential area; rates start at about $107 a night.
Megan B. Sipes, owner of Italian Concierge in Alexandria, wants to add her agency to the list of those that specialize in planning travel to Italy (Travel Q&A, Jan. 26). "My focus is on individually planned trips based on the client's interests and time frame," Sipes said. "I work with individuals as well as groups. I travel to Italy frequently to review properties, visit new areas and meet with the guides I work with." Info: 703-739-0949, www.theitalianconcierge.com.
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