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Flowers and France, hotter spots and savings

Duxbury-based French Country Waterways wants to introduce travelers to canal barge cruises. Duxbury-based French Country Waterways wants to introduce travelers to canal barge cruises. (French Country Waterways)
By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / March 9, 2008
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You don't need a robin on your lawn to know spring is coming, not with offers that herald the season like these:

Hotels.com is having a spring sale, with a 30 percent discount on many hotels and resorts. Two examples: The Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, a three-star property on Nob Hill, costs $83.30 from March 24-28. The four-star Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vt., is $188.30 per night from March 18-22. Other offers are good through April 21 but must be booked by April 7.

Visit hotels.com or call 800-246-8357.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs March 19-June 1 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. A look at elaborate gardens and clever topiaries as well as seminars and nightly musical entertainment from the '60s and '70s are part of the event, which is included in regular park admission. One-day tickets are $71 for adults, $60 for children ages 3-9, and free for 2 and under. Most vacationers, however, buy ticket packages with lower per-day costs.

Visit disneyworld.com or call 407-824-4321.

Speaking of flowers, the 17th annual Sacred Heart Garden Festival takes place April 25-27 in Augusta, Ga., known as the Garden City of the South. The historic Partridge Inn offers special overnight packages that weekend, which include festival tickets and a $20 dining credit. Prices start at $154.

Visit partridgeinn.com or call 800-476-6888. For event information, go to sacredheartgardenfestival.com.

Duxbury-based French Country Waterways is offering an introduction to canal barge travel in France by reducing the cost of six-night cruises aboard the 18-passenger luxury barge Esprit to $3,200 per person, a 40 percent savings off the regular rate of $5,295. The discount applies to several selected departures through June. The route through Burgundy's Côte d'Or wine-growing region follows the narrow, 18th-century Canal du Centre overlooking vineyards of the Côte de Beaune, the River Saône and the Canal de Bourgogne between St. Léger-sur-Dheune and Dijon. Meals, sightseeing, and a variety of amenities are included.

Visit fcwl.com or call 800-222-1236 or 781-934-2454.

National Arbor Day, which falls on April 25, may not be as widely celebrated as it once was, but on that weekend it's a big family event at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha's Vineyard. Young guests will receive their own saplings, following a lesson on planting and properly preparing soil. They will then plant their tree on the Winnetu grounds, with the hope that they will return often to mark its growth. Participants will also build birdhouses to take home. On Saturday, April 26, an afternoon Green Tea Party will feature drinks and organic homemade baked goods. As always, the neighboring Katama FARM Institute will be open to Winnetu's guests to check out any recently born animals. Rates start at $169 per night for three-night stays for two people in studio accommodations. Breakfast is included.

Visit winnetu.com/families.htm or call 866-335-1133.

Yes, there are good offers in March, but Expedia.com is noting that airfares to the 10 most popular spring break destinations this month are running about 11 percent higher than last year. The online agency advises considering travel in April when fares to the same cities are just 2 percent higher than last year and actually show lower fares to some favorites like Maui and Cancún. Those top destinations are currently Orlando, Las Vegas, Cancún, Fort Myers, Phoenix, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Denver, and Honolulu. Expedia's rival Orbitz.com suggests these alternative destinations to avoid crowds and possibly save: San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, San Diego, San Juan, San Antonio, Tampa, Seattle, Reno, Austin, and Tucson.

In San Francisco, the newly renovated Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf has extended dates for its Spring Fever package to May 31. The package includes a room for two (with add-on rates available for families) and a packet of California poppy seeds, so that guests can plant their getaway memories. Rates start at $169 per night.

Visit fishermanswharf.hyatt.com or call 800-233-1234.

In New Zealand in April and May, the weather remains fine but prices drop. Goway's 16-day RV package, for instance, starts at $1,799 a person, with routes near coastal beaches, farmland, forests, and geothermal valleys, and evening stays at the country's network of camper van sites with cooking, laundry, and washing facilities. Goway offers an extra week of RV rental free for April and May travel.

Visit goway.com or call 800-387-8850.

And then there are those who just don't want to let winter go. For them, Vermont's Killington resort has five-day Ski Week packages that start at $80 per person per night, or $60 after March 30. Arrive on Sunday and leave on Friday and ski for free after 12:30 p.m. on the Sunday of your arrival. Children 12 and younger ski and ride free Monday through Friday, when parents purchase prior to arrival a five-day or more lift ticket by booking through eTickets (one child per parent).

Visit killington.com or call 800-621-6867.

Savings at Couples

Couples Resorts has announced its fourth annual "Fall" in Love Again promotion, with up to half off published rates. Travelers who book their fall vacation before April 30 can bring their loved one for free. The maximum savings are for selected room categories and travel dates July 9 through Dec. 25. Prices vary depending upon dates and resort category selected.

Visit couples.com or call 800-268-7537.

Vroom!

Want to get the adrenaline flowing? Try a spin around the Mario Andretti Road Course in Las Vegas. After training with an instructor and suiting up, participants drive a race-equipped BMW Z3 for the fastest 15 minutes they may ever spend on land. The instructor rides in the car, giving feedback by radio communication. The Mario Andretti Road Course Qualifier is $424 per person.

Visit andrettigordon.com or call 877-722-3527, or visit the Tours page of vegas.com.

Baby love

The Chanler, which boasts that it is the only hotel along the Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I., has a weekend getaway for couples awaiting the arrival of a baby. In addition to a night's accommodations, they get a diaper cake with the baby's last name on the tush; a car and driver to take you on a shopping tour of upscale infant clothing and accessory shops; a movie of your choice such as "She's Having a Baby" or "Look Who's Talking"; dinner at the Spiced Pear Restaurant; a late breakfast; and dill pickles and a pint of your favorite house-made ice cream at turndown. The cost of the Baby Love package is $900 - but then it does celebrate nine months of waiting.

Visit thechanler.com and click on Special Packages or call 866-793-5664.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at carpenter@globe.com.

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