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Top 10 Value Travel Destinations in 2012

by

Christopher HeaneyThe soon-to-open Titanic Belfast visitor center makes Belfast one of our places to watch

What’s on your travel agenda in the new year? If you’re like us, you want to experience a destination lineup that delivers excitement and adventure, relaxation and escape, grandeur and indulgence – all without sacrificing accessibility and affordability. Attuned to the latest rumblings in the travel industry, our value-conscious editors debated for days before settling on these 10 value travel destinations in 2012. Instead of confining you to an armchair with a typical end-of-year roundup of emerging dream destinations (Hovsgol, Mongolia sounds amazing, but it’s also expensive and hard to reach), we’re providing the news and tools to make your dream trip a reality, pointing out hot spots with special event promotions, new discount transportation options, sexy new hotels with low introductory rates, and places where exchange rates are lower than ever. The places on our list that require the longest journeys are the ones where the dollar travels even further once you touch down (see Athens, Cairo, and Tokyo). Need more inspiration? Take a peek at our Value Travel Destinations in 2012 slideshow. It’s never too early to start filling next year’s calendar with red-letter travel days.

Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals

Athens

Athens is worth visiting for many reasons – ancient monuments, rich cultural heritage, Mediterranean cuisine, and tireless nightlife – and thanks to abundant deals, there’s no excuse to miss any of it. With Greece enacting severe austerity measures and taking out enormous loans to pay its bills, tourists can take advantage of the deep discounts being offered by many hotels and tour companies.

What’s New in 2012
In December 2011, the Cycladic Art Museum of Athens opened a new archaeological exhibition to highlight the most remote, inaccessible, small and medium-sized islands of the Aegean archipelago. In addition, Greece’s culture ministry announced it would be improving services and amenities at about 200 archaeological sites and museums to encourage more visitors. The Acropolis is one of the top 20 sites it aims to improve in 2012, with electronic ticket machines and portable audio guides.

Getting There
Delta and Hellenic Imperial Airways fly nonstop between New York City and Athens. In addition, many European carriers serve Athens.

Where to Stay
Radisson Blu Park Hotel Athens, located within easy access to the Acropolis, Syntagma Square, and Lycabettus Hill, opened its 152 rooms in December 2011 (expect discounted promotional rates). Two converted Mini Coopers comprise the reception desk at the quirky Baby Grand Hotel, where graffiti artists have painted guest room walls and pre-booking rates for double rooms start at $132 (including breakfast).

Money-Saving Tips
If you walk instead of taking the funicular (which costs around $8), visiting Mount Lycabettus is free. It’s also free to visit the Municipal Gallery of Athens, home to more than 2,500 works from leading 19th- and 20th-century Greek artists.

For general trip-planning information, see our Athens Travel Guide,  then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Athens.

Belfast

Northern Ireland aims to attract 150,000 additional visitors in 2012, and Belfast in particular has a big role to play. The small but lively city is gearing up for a year that hopes to put Northern Ireland on the tourist destination map: 2012 marks the centennial of the fateful maiden voyage of RMS Titanic (built in a Belfast shipyard) and the opening of Titanic Belfast, a multimillion-dollar visitor center. Since the end of the Troubles, a period of political and religious conflict that faded away in the early 2000s, Belfast has blossomed into one of Europe’s coolest towns. And come summer, you can bet your bottom pound that prices will be cheaper there than in London, host of the 2012 Olympics.

What’s New in 2012
To commemorate the Titanic’s centennial, the city is opening the doors of its Titanic Belfast visitor center, a 150,700-square-foot building that will welcome visitors for a new interactive experience including nine galleries of exhibition space, a ride taking visitors through shipbuilding in the 1900s, an underwater exploration theater, and recreations of the ship’s decks and cabins. A series of plays, tours, talks, films, and concerts will coincide with the opening of the center, making April a particularly eventful time to visit. In September, a new visitor center will open at Giant’s Causeway (about 60 miles and a 90-minute drive outside of Belfast), an otherworldly series of basalt rock columns that has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In October and November, the 50th Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s will be held at about 30 venues across the city. The lineup will include 16 days of music, drama, theater, talks, film, dance, and comedy events.

Getting There
Continental flies nonstop between New York City and Belfast. Budget airline easyJet serves nearby cities such as London, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Where to Stay
The Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau lists bargains and special offers, including hotel promotions. Rooms at Ibis Hotel City Centre start at $76, rooms at Dukes at Queens start at $97, and rooms at Jurys Inn Belfast start at $85. While the Olympics flame on in London, snag a hotel at Hilton Hotel Belfast for as little as $130 a night, Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast from $130 a night, and Park Inn Belfast starting at $97 a night. (London is just a 90-minute flight away.)

Money-Saving Tips
Download the Belfast on a Budget Guide from the Belfast City Council for tips on value accommodations, sightseeing, cultural events, shopping, eating, and drinking. Reopened after renovations in 2009, the Ulster Museum in Belfast’s Botanic Garden is free, as is the museum’s one-hour tour (Tues-Fri; Sun). Admission to the Belfast Castle, located within Cave Hill Country Park, is also free. Its surrounding trails are popular for hikers and lead to spectacular views of the city from the summit of Cave Hill.

For general trip-planning information, see our Northern Ireland Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Belfast. 

Boston

As one of the nation’s oldest cities, the largest city in Massachusetts, and the home of several colleges and universities, Boston is a blend of history and emerging urban culture. Walk the Freedom Trail or cobblestone streets and historic red brick buildings of Beacon Hill and Charles Street, or take advantage of Boston’s new bike sharing program and ride to the fourth largest Chinatown in the nation. Boston’s many museums, attractions, and events have already made it one of the country’s most popular tourist cities, but 2012 should be a particularly interesting year to visit, with commemorative events surrounding Fenway Park and the War of 1812. Plus, it’s becoming even easier to reach Boston by train and bus.

What’s New in 2012
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is scheduled to reopen in June 2012 after a multimillion-dollar renovation. Boston is among seven port cities participating in Operation Sail 2012, which will commemorate the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner with sailing events, tall ships, and an air show (in Boston from June 30 to July 5). And good news for sports fans: The Red Sox ownership will not be raising prices for the 2012 centennial season in Fenway Park, the first major league baseball park in the U.S. to reach its 100th birthday. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will open its beautifully restored Tapestry Room and new Renzo Piano-designed wing in January, with three new exhibitions slated.

Where to Stay
Best Western hotels in the area (including Best Western Plus Hotel Tria and Best Western Terrace Inn) offer promotions tailored to various itineraries. At Best Western Plus Hotel Tria, for example, show your ticket from any sports event to take advantage of their Boston Fanatic Package and receive a rate of $109 a night for four people, including breakfast. This promotion is only valid if you stay the same night as the game. In May 2012 Hostelling International Boston (HI-Boston) will relocate to its new $42 million location at the Dill Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The country’s first LEED-certified hostel will be within walking distance of many of Boston’s major sites. Private rooms start at around $100 a night.

Getting There
Megabus now connects Boston to other New England cities – as well as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. – for as little as $1 each way when booked far in advance. More travelers are riding cross-country to Boston via the Amtrak Downeaster line, whose $38 million expansion to Freeport, NY and Brunswick, Maine is on track to be completed in Fall 2012. Spirit, American, United, JetBlue, and Southwest all fly nonstop to the city.

Money-Saving Tips
Check out the City of Boston’s Free (and almost free) Things to Do list, which includes walking the Freedom and JFK Trails, touring the USS Constitution, visiting many museums, and exploring the city’s vibrant public art scene. The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau also sells a Family-Friendly ValuePASS, which offers discounts on restaurants, shops, museums, and attractions.

For general trip-planning information, see our Boston Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Boston. 

Cairo

Tourism in Egypt dropped 35 percent overall in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. The demonstrations and political unrest that pushed President Hosni Mubarak out of office also kept millions of tourists from visiting the country. As the capital city and center of Egypt’s commerce, Cairo was hit particularly hard. Though violence is rarely directed towards tourists, even the deep discounts have not yet encouraged many travelers back to visit the Giza pyramids and Cairo’s mosques, palaces, and museums. After the presidential election in March or April, Cairo may once again be appealing to tourists. Stay in the know about any planned demonstrations in Cairo by checking the U.S. Embassy’s Travel & Public Announcements page.

What’s New in 2012
With Egypt’s tourism industry struggling to rebound, don’t expect to see many new attractions opening anytime soon. What is new in 2012, however, is never-before-seen prices – up to 50 percent off – on tour packages and luxury hotels. For example, Sunny Land’s 10-day Eternal Egypt Cruise & Tour that includes round-trip airfare from JFK, all Egypt domestic flights, 15 meals, and 8 nights’ accommodation, is currently discounted by $1,000.

Getting There

EgyptAir flies nonstop between New York City and Cairo. Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa also fly into Cairo, but it’s likely you’ll have a layover.

Where to Stay
Through June 6, use code “ADV” to save 25 percent – with rates as low as $79/night – at any of the Marriott, JW Marriott, or Renaissance hotels in Egypt if you book and pay for your stay seven days ahead. Cairo’s two Four Seasons properties are offering a free third night with two paid consecutive nights in a suite (rates from $267/night with the discount factored in). At Kempinski Nile Hotel, stay three nights or more and save 30 percent (rates from $167/night); the hotel is also offering 10 percent off rates for stays of any length, with prices starting at $197/night.

Money-Saving Tips

Skip taxis, avoiding the smog and traffic jams, and take the Cairo Metro – a ticket is less than a quarter, regardless of the distance (note: some cars are reserved for women only). Visit the Khan el-Khalili bazaar for clothing, jewelry, crafts, and other souvenirs, and haggle for the best prices (but keep in mind that the livelihood of the vendors and their families depends on their sales).

For general trip-planning information, see our Cairo Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Cairo. 

Chicago

Though Chicago boasts free outdoor events, concerts, and festivals all summer long, the warmer months also bring more tourists and higher hotel rates. Consider visiting in spring, fall, and even in winter to get better value on accommodations and still enjoy free attractions such as Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, and the Cloud Gate sculpture designed by Anish Kapoor. With the money you save by visiting during the off months, you can afford to splurge at new Michigan Avenue stores such as Zara, Top Shop, or Uniqlo (expected to open in 2012). Or, use your savings to dine at one of Chicago’s recently opened restaurants, such as Grant Achatz’s ever-evolving Next (the cuisine changes every three months) or any of Paul Kahan’s concept restaurants such as Blackbird, avec, The Violet Hour, or The Publican.

What’s New in 2012
From May to September 2012, the Art Institute Chicago will feature an exhibition of work from pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. From January to July, visit “Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection” at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibition showcases 1,000 pieces of art that explore artistic, spiritual, and cultural practices surrounding death from 2000 B.C. to the present. Broadway’s The Book of Mormon is coming to Bank of America Theatre in Winter 2012. For foodies, Top Chef winner and Chicago native Stephanie Izard will be opening a new casual diner called Little Goat sometime in 2012.

Getting There
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport serves as a hub for United and American, and Southwest flies out of the smaller but just-as-accessible Midway Airport. In 2011, Spirit became a go-to airline for affordable nonstop fares to Chicago, and Virgin America began daily nonstop flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Where to Stay
Ian Schrager’s boutique hotel PUBLIC and its restaurant Pump Room opened in Fall 2011 with a $135 a night promotional rate (standard queen room), available through mid-March 2012. The 285-room design hotel boasts free Wi-Fi and complimentary bikes. The visually striking Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, which opened in late 2011 with an open-ended $191 a night promotional rate, features partial views of the lakefront and close proximity to many popular attractions.

Money-Saving Tips
The food truck movement is gaining momentum in Chicago, offering a wide range of budget-friendly, on-the-go options, from mac ‘n cheese to naan-wiches to sliders. Visit foodtruckfreak.com for a full list of Chicago food trucks. Also check out the free Chicago Greeter program service offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture that pairs visitors with locals for tours. The Chicago Cultural Center, Lincoln Park Conservatory, Garfield Park Conservatory, Oriental Institute, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Hull-House Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, and Smart Museum are always free. Stay in the loop about free and cheap drinks, food, and events in the city on Broke Hipster.

For general trip-planning information, see our Chicago Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Chicago. 

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

San Jose, located smack-dab in the middle of Costa Rica, has long been the main point of entry for travelers, but the country’s most celebrated beaches, national parks, and resorts are a two-hour drive away. With a brand-new terminal at the newly renovated Liberia-Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, travelers now have better access to Costa Rica’s gorgeous Pacific Northwest Coast, which is less humid than most regions in Central America. Hotels are scrambling to build in the Guanacaste region to meet the boost in tourism they expect to see with the increased number of flights. So the time to visit is now, before most hotels finish construction and before prices rise to meet the increased demand.

What’s New in 2012
Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rincón de la Vieja National Park, and Santa Rosa National Park are not new – their natural hot mud and sulfur springs, volcanoes, bubbling clay pools, waterfalls, and rivers have existed for thousands of years – but with more flights into Liberia thanks to the airport renovation, it’ll be easier than ever to visit these natural sites. The $125 million CIMA Guanacaste Hospital opened at the end of 2011, which may be of interest to medical tourists.

Getting There
The $41-million airport renovation is expected to double the number of flights to Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region. Expect new flights in 2012 from Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, and New York; JetBlue, Continental, American, and Delta are among the airlines that will fly nonstop to Liberia.

Where to Stay
Beachfront hotel RIU Palace is expected to open in 2012 alongside Hotel Riu Guanacaste, an all-inclusive resort on the banks of the Mata Palo Beach. More hotels in Guanacaste – Hyatt Andaz Hotel, Playa Panama, Marriott, and Hotel Bulgari – are slated to open in 2013 or shortly thereafter. Average prices for standard Guanacaste hotels run approximately $150 per night, but less expensive rooms can be found. Laura’s House Bed and Breakfast in Playas Del Coco, for example, offers simple but clean double rooms for $60 a night including breakfast.

Money-Saving Tips
Visit between May and November, considered the rainy season, when crowds are fewer and hotel prices are low. Visiting national parks in Guanacaste is inexpensive; pay $6 for entrance to Guanacaste National Park, $7 to visit limestone caverns at Barra Honda National Park, and $10 to see nesting sites for leatherback turtles at Tamarindo Wildlife Refuge. Entrance to Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve is donation-based.

For general trip-planning information, see our Costa Rica Travel Guide then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Guanacaste. 

Hawaii

Flights to Hawaii tend to be pricey, as does the cost of living, but the islands are not immune to a rough economy. Hawaii’s tourism industry is also dependent on Japanese tourists, and last year’s earthquake had a serious impact on state revenues. In 2011, deals on round-trip flights and discounts on hotels were abundant. We expect 2012 to offer similar value as the Hawaii Tourism Authority tries to help the state balance its budget and make up for lost revenue.

What’s New in 2012
In early 2012, James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong will open his third Hawaii restaurant at Maui’s Grand Wailea. Wong will highlight local products and blend Hawaii Regional Cuisine with other ethnic cuisines. Native Guide Hawaii is now also offering adventure tours to explore sea cliffs, tropical valleys, and waterfalls along the Hamakua coast on the Big Island. The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu just reopened Gateway restaurant and introduced new activities such as tree climbing, canoe racing, spear throwing, and Samoan cooking. Spring 2012 sees the premiere of an interactive Hawaiian Journey IMAX film at the Hukilau Theater.

Getting There
Hawaiian Airlines launches nonstop service between New York City and Honolulu in June 2012. The airline also flies nonstop from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. SpeediShuttle and Roberts Hawaii recently launched shuttle services to transport visitors from Honolulu International Airport.

Where to Stay
Castle Resorts & Hotels’ Waistdeep Winter Savings promotions offer rates up to 50 percent off their five Hawaiian properties on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and Hawaii’s Big Island. Castle Kiahuna Plantation & The Beach Bungalows start at $189 a night and Waikiki Shore at $185 a night. With Marriott’s Stay Here, Fly There promotion, spend at least two nights at a participating resort and receive a companion airline ticket voucher for a future flight, plus a $100 resort credit. Participating resorts include Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, and Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Disney’s Aulani Resort, opened in Fall 2011, offers a protected snorkeling lagoon, an 18,000-square foot spa, and a Hawaiian culture beach house and massive water play area for kids (rates start at around $450 a night).

Money-Saving Tips
Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is free, with no entrance or activity fees. Tickets for a 75-minute program that includes a 23-minute film and a Navy-operated shuttle boat ride to the memorial, are issued on a first come, first-served basis at the front desk in the visitor center, so arrive as early as possible. Hike the Diamond Head crater for $5 per carload, or take the bus and pay just $1 to walk in. If you’re visiting Honolulu Zoo, pack a lunch because coolers and outside food are welcome on zoo grounds.

For general trip-planning information, see our Hawaii Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Hawaii.

Montreal

No matter how the strength of the American dollar compares to the euro, domestic travelers can usually expect to pay more for a trans-Atlantic flight than one to Canada. For a third of the price and travel time, visit Montreal and experience some of the same European charm. Even throughout the winter, you’ll find a full schedule of culinary and cultural offerings and outdoor activities. In between eating poutine and cross-country skiing, find time to visit any number of Montreal’s cultural or music festivals.

What’s New in 2012
This year’s Snow Village Canada in Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau runs through March 2012 and showcases snow and ice replicas of some of Montreal’s best-known buildings. New family-friendly museum exhibitions include “We Are the Insects,” a permanent installation that opened in 2011 at the Montreal Insectarium, and “Star Wars Identities,” which runs at the Montreal Science Center from April 19 to September 16. Also in 2012, catch the first season of Canada’s newest professional soccer team, Montreal Impact, which will play in Saputo Stadium once a $23-million renovation is complete. Locavores will rejoice when the Ritz-Carlton reopens in 2012 with Maison Boulud, a restaurant featuring locally produced food and seasonal menus from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud.

Getting There
Air Canada, American, and United fly nonstop from New York and Chicago, and Air Canada and United fly from Washington D.C. WestJet, Canada’s low-cost airline, won several spots at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in late 2011, which will likely mean daily round-trip flights to Montreal as well. Amtrak’s affordable Adirondack route travels daily from New York City to Montreal.

Where to Stay
Zero 1 was once a student dormitory, but its 12 floors have been transformed into a chic boutique hotel, which opened last spring. Reserve a LOFT Suite at $179 for one night and get 50 percent off the second night as well as free bus passes. For a more unique hotel experience, try sleeping in an igloo at Montreal’s new Snow Village Hotel, which is open January through March. Although the bed frames are made entirely of ice, they also include (non-ice) mattresses and thermal sleeping bags warm enough for temperatures below -22 degrees F. The $195 per person a night rate includes admission to Snow Village, access to the spa, and breakfast. Still too pricey? Budget lodging options abound in Montreal, where the average hotel rate is only $86 a night.

Money-Saving Tips
The Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28 to July 7, 2012) offers more than 350 free outdoor concerts. Other free Montreal attractions include watching the International Fireworks competition from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in the summer and ogling street performers at the Quays of the Old Port. Starting at 5pm on Wednesdays, get free admission to the Musée d’art contemporain and half-price admission to temporary exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. And if you’re taking the metro, keep your eyes open! Stations feature public artwork created by well-known artists from around Quebec.

For general trip-planning information, see our Montreal Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Montreal.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, located about 42 miles south of Cancún, may no longer be the trendiest Mexican beach destination, but it’s still one of the country’s most exciting (and affordable) destinations, combining culture, history, and commercial tourism to create a memorable vacation experience within a small geographic area. Situated on the Caribbean Sea, it also offers plenty of outdoor activities, including kayaking, sailing, and snorkeling. Despite periodic reports of violence that have kept many travelers away, most destinations in Mexico remain safe. Violence is more common in border towns where Mexican drug cartels are vying for control over access to the U.S., and most victims are members of criminal organizations.

What’s New in 2012
Despite its proximity to Mayan ruins, Playa del Carmen seems invested in its future, undeterred by the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar on December 21, 2012 (aka the over-hyped "end of the world"). Just two years after opening, Xplor adventure park debuted Hamacuatizaje, a hammock-style zipline that glides for almost 500 feet. Xcaret, an eco-tourism park close to Playa del Carmen, has two new excursions: the Coba Xel-Ha Tour, which brings visitors to the ancient Mayan city of Coba, and Xel-Ha, the world’s largest natural aquarium. Visit the park’s special promotions page for pre-booking discounts.

Getting There
The most convenient airport to Playa del Carmen is Cancún International Airport, about a 45-minute drive or bus ride away. Southwest announced nonstop flights via AirTran to Cancún starting in summer 2012.

Where to Stay
Late in 2011, family-friendly luxury resort Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda and adult-only resort Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla opened in Playa del Carmen. Through June 28 at both resorts, save 30 percent and receive a $350 resort credit on stays of four nights or longer and a $700 resort credit on stays of seven nights or longer, and a complimentary stay certificate toward a future stay with a three-night minimum reservation.

Money-Saving Tips

If your hotel does not provide Internet access, don’t bother paying for it. All of the public parks in Playa del Carmen offer free Wi-Fi. Additionally, while Playa del Carmen has many different types of restaurants with a wide range of prices, the street food on Fifth Avenue is the least expensive. Stands selling tacos, churros, and fresh juice set up around lunchtime, and some stay open until early morning when the bars close.

For general trip-planning information, see our Playa del Carmen Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Playa del Carmen. 

Tokyo

Last year’s earthquake and tsunami, compounded by the subsequent nuclear crisis at Fukushima, had a disastrous effect on Japan’s tourism industry. In the month after the disaster, the number of visitors to the country dropped by about 60 percent. Despite concern, government officials and U.S. nuclear experts have deemed Tokyo safe from radiation (the city is about 200 miles south of Fukushima), and tourists are slowly tiptoeing back to visit the hyperkinetic megalopolis. As Japan’s tourism economy recovers, expect deep discounts on hotels and tours. It’s an ideal time to visit one of the most expensive cities in the world.

What’s New in 2012
The Tokyo Sky Tree will open to the public in Spring 2012. At 2,080 feet, the freestanding tower is just a few hundred feet shorter than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. The tower will have two observatories, one with a restaurant at 1,148 feet and the second at 1,476 feet. In March, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics open their 2012 MLB season with two exhibition games at the Tokyo Dome.

Getting There
Japan Airlines, United, and Delta fly nonstop to Tokyo from major U.S. cities. Starting in April 2012, Japan Airlines is launching a nonstop route from Boston on its brand-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Planes will be departing daily from Boston Logan International Airport by June, further bridging the divide between New England and Asia. Although fares to Tokyo are going down – the least expensive flights from Boston to Tokyo in Spring 2012 are around $1,300 – airlines can’t avoid fuel surcharges. Flying within the country, on the other hand, can be a bargain: Starting in February 2012, Skymark Airlines will offer seats on its two daily round-trip flights between Narita International Airport (Tokyo) and Fukuoka Airport for as little as $120.

Where to Stay
Palace Hotel Tokyo, located in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district, will reopen in spring 2012 with 290 luxury guest rooms and suites. The brick, Gothic-style Tokyo Station Hotel, originally built in 1914, is scheduled to reopen in October 2012. Promotional rates for these hotels are not yet available. Many Tokyo hotels are offering promotions and discounts to attract visitors after last year’s crisis. Kadoya Hotel, located in the Shinjuku business district, offers free Wi-Fi, and rooms starting at $97 a night.

Money-Saving Tips

Visit the Japan Big Welcome Campaign, which runs through March 2012, for coupons, discounts, and information on what to do and where to go. Save money on travel with the Tokyo Transport Pass, which permits travel on several subway and bus lines for one price and also includes discounts at Tokyo retailers (about $32 for two days and about $38 for three days).

For general trip-planning information, see our Tokyo Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find flight, hotel, cruise, and more travel deals to Tokyo. 

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