The Best Travel Deals In 2009

Now is the time to plan your next vacation. From Disneyworld to the Four Seasons, 2009 is shaping up to be your ticket to big vacations at bargain prices, thanks to the recession forcing companies to meet reduced demand. Moreover, the dollar is gaining ground against the euro, beginning to make overseas trips affordable again. And gas prices are finally down from those historic highs last summer. If you can afford to travel, 2009 could be one heck of a year.

NBC Travel Editor Peter Greenberg says that some of the best deals he’s finding are in the polar opposite countries of Mexico and Iceland. Both of those nations have weak currencies – Iceland’s is devalued two-to-one thanks to their own financial crisis – so you can find vacation packages that are up to half as expensive as they were before the economic meltdown.

The Caribbean is full of bargains, too, Greenberg says. One hotel group, the Elite Island Resorts, is even accepting payment with stock. They take up to $5000 of your shares and value them at July 2008 prices, assuming they will make money when the market bounces back. Over 100 stocks are eligible.

Hawaii is having its own difficult time in the economy, as tourism is down 20% from its average. Many hotels are at less than 50% capacity, and the beginning of the year is a down time anyway. If Hawaii is in your travel plans, Greenberg suggests taking a cruise there. An unsold cruise ship berth is revenue that the cruise line will never recoup once the ship sales, which works in your favor when trying to negotiate a package. Some deals on cruises are as low as $80 a day all-inclusive, which can work out to be cheaper than a flight.

2009 will also bring a pair of travel trends that could take off, Greenberg says. Taking the train is back in fashion, for one. Amtrak has some great unpublicized deals on 15, 30 and 45 day passes for reasonable prices that inclide on-off privileges and deals for families with kids as well.

Also watch for WiFi coming to a plane near you. If you thought flying was the one place you could get away from your email, think again. For about $12 a day many transcontinental flights on airlines like Delta, American and Virgin will let you connect to the web. Cost-effective to some, surely annoying to others.