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The key to cheap travel is knowing the best time to find cheap flights and cheap hotels. So we created the CheapTickets 2009 Value Travel Forecast, a month-by-month guide of top destinations that offer the most savings for travelers.

To help identify the best budget-friendly travel opportunities for next year, we analyzed hotels booked on CheapTickets from December 2007 to November 2008 and calculated the percentage of savings compared to peak rates.

Here are the winners (and honorable mentions) for 2009:

Italy vacationsJANUARY: 37% savings in New York
In addition to a 37 percent savings on New York hotels compared to peak rates, retailers are buzzing with post-holiday sales, and big-city attractions are easily accessible now that the holiday crowds have come and gone. Visitors can also take advantage of New York City’s Restaurant Week in January, giving them access to some of the city’s best restaurants for a fraction of the price.

Other January cheap vacation destinations: Santa Barbara, CA and Hong Kong

FEBRUARY: 42% savings in Italy
In February, Italy is just starting to come out of its winter cloak, and budget travelers will appreciate the lower airfare and savings of up to 42 percent on Italy hotels when compared to the high season. February visitors can experience one of Italy’s most famous festivals, Carnevale.

Other February cheap vacation destinations: France and Colorado Springs, CO

MARCH: 53% savings in Portland, ME

This historic, seacoast town is filled with galleries, one-of-kind boutiques and incredible restaurants serving everything from creamy clam chowder and lobster rolls to nouvelle New England cuisine.

Other March cheap vacation destinations: Reno, NV and Canada

APRIL: 58% savings in Brazil
In April, the summer surge of tourists in Brazil is complete, which means fewer crowds, but the same great tropical weather.

Other April cheap vacation destinations: Santa Fe, NM and Columbus, GA

Lake tahoe hotels MAY: 38% savings in Lake Tahoe
For those who love the outdoors, Lake Tahoe is the ideal destination in May. The lake is popular for water sports and beach activities, and with 38 percent savings on Lake Tahoe hotels compared to peak winter rates, going during the off-season means affording activities like a guided cruise or dining at the many lake front restaurants.

Other May cheap vacation destinations: Denver, CO and Atlanta, GA

JUNE: 38% savings in Egypt
With 38 percent savings compared to peak rates, June visitors can relax on the wondrous Red Sea or Sinai coasts, take in the high culture of Cairo or even leisurely float down the Egyptian Nile on a river boat.

Other June cheap vacation destinations: Columbia, SC and Dallas, TX

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Tagged: City, FREE!, Off-season, Tips & advice

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Bahamas hotels
If you’re looking for cheap flights and hotels so you can take a beach vacation this winter, here is one of the travel deals you’ve been waiting for. For a limited time, you can save $500 on Bahamas vacations when you book with CheapTickets.

Book a Bahamas vacation package of seven nights or more and stay at one of several participating hotels, you’ll get a $500 rebate. (Vacation packages of 3-6 nights are eligible for a $250 rebate.) Just book your vacation package by November 30 and travel by February 28, 2009.

Check out these participating Bahamas hotels:

More than a dozen Bahamas hotels are participating in this vacation package sale, from modest hotels to five-star resorts, so you’re sure to find a hotel that suits your needs.

Super Saver Tip: Take advantage of CheapTickets’ Fall Beach Sale for extra savings. Use the promotion code FALLBEACH100 to save an additional $100 instantly when you book your 4+ night vacation package by November 23.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: FREE!, International, Vacation packages

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New York hotels
By Samantha Chapnick

With orchestra seats going for $300 (more than the cost of some New York hotels) even half-price TKTS tickets seem outrageous. It’s time to get drastic. These are the tried-and-true tested techniques real New Yorkers use to get the goods for far less.

1. Win the lottery

Several shows, for example Wicked, offer great unsold orchestra seats at a steep discount (under $30/per person) to 20 or 30 lottery winners. Each winner is entitled to two tickets. Be there at least two or three hours before the performance. Usually no more than 100 people line up so the odds are with you. Or at least better than getting hit by lightening.

If you absolutely, positively need to see the show, have a back-up plan.

2. Get rush tickets

Some shows will sell the remaining seats to either students or the general public at deep discounts ( about $20) an hour or so before the performance. Get to the box office VERY EARLY (at least 2 hours in advance) and expect lines. Most of the seats will be in the less desirable areas, but occasionally you get lucky and hit a nice orchestra seat. DO NOT EXPECT TO SIT TOGETHER in a good section. Most of these seats will be singles unless they are in the upper tiers or with a blocked view.

3. Become a member

Even if you only plan a New York vacation once a year, becoming a member of free or steeply discounted ticket brokers is well worth the price — if you are flexible. TDF.org, AudienceExtras.com,  BroadwayBox.com, and Goldstar all offer members free last-minute tickets to both major and minor shows, and discounted tickets to future shows.

For example, a membership to Audience Extras is $99/year and entitles you to two tickets per performance free ($4 service charge per ticket). In the past, I have gotten tickets to both excellent, popular shows and really terrible one-person shows. This week they are offering "To Be or Not To Be" (Broadway), Dolly Parton in concert, Branford Marsalis, and "The Tempest" with Broadway actor Mandy Patinkin.

Advice:

The good tickets go fast. Sign up to get the e-mail notification when a show is available and pounce on it. If you can’t go to a show, don’t get the tickets. They are doing these freebies to fill up the audience. If you don’t show up, you may lose your privileges and hurt others: if the theater gets too many no-shows it pulls the offer from these sites.

4. Bring a minor.

One of the main reasons New York vacations are so popular with families is because of the unprecedented affordable cultural opportunities the city offers young people. If you have a teenager or college student, especially one who attends a local NYC college, or a friend whose child you could borrow for a few hours, there are some remarkable discounts to be had out there.

First, try High Five Tickets. Anyone accompanied by a teen (13-18) from anywhere in the world can get two tickets for $5 a piece — one for the teen, one for the adult. Currently there are over 80 shows available including the Broadway show "39 Steps." Oh and as a nice bonus, High Five also gives museum entry for $5 for two to most of the major NY museums. (Again, the person picking up the tickets must have a valid student ID but can be accompanied by one adult.) Extra Bonus: There are no booking fees or service fees. Who-ho!

Next, do the student rush if the regular rush is not available.

Visit School Tix to see most family-friendly Broadway shows for about half price. Go to the "Shows Available" page and click on the icon for the show you want to find the coupon code offering the discount and book the tickets.

Finally, if your young friend goes to Columbia University, NYU or one of the other major schools in New York, get them to use their university Internet connection to get tickets. Many have sites accessible only to people with school IDs and logins that provide tremendous discounts to theater — and free entry to local museums as an added bonus.

5. Go Off-Broadway

For every one big Broadway blockbuster, there are a hundred theater companies providing a more intimate and unique experience — a much better value for your dollar in this current economic climate. Going to see a show at places like the Public Theater, Cherry Lane, Playwrights Horizons and Manhattan Theater Club rewards with brand-name bankable stars, a more intimate experience and extensive set design, without the high ticket price.

If you still want more tips, visit the ne plus ultra ultimate guide to cheap theater tickets and up-to-the-minute info: The Frugal Theater Goer’s Guide to Discount Tickets.

Oh, and next year, book one of your favorite New York hotels for mid-October when Free Night of Theater Day is held. This organization gives away 8,000 tickets to performances across the city. For more information about discounted theater tickets, visit Playbill.

CheapTickets resources:

Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.

Tagged: City, FREE!, Tips & advice

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Labordayblog
You can still travel this Labor Day weekend with last-minute flight deals and vacations from CheapTickets.

Cheap flights are still available for Labor Day weekend. Just look at these sample last-minute airfares:

  • Boston to Orlando: $265
  • Houston to Denver: $257
  • Newark to Las Vegas: $374
  • New York City to Fort Lauderdale: $245

Or, let CheapTickets help you find one of our many last-minute trips that works for you. Check out flight + hotel vacation packages to big cities and sunny spots, or search for deals to the travel destination of your choice. available on our last-minute trips page.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: Flights, Last minute travel, Vacation packages