As you're looking to planning island travels for 2009, consider these three destinations. ISLANDS research editor Ashley Knaus went to her database of contacts to find recommendations that require action soon so you can enjoy the trip in the coming months. (To find more travel deals, click here.)
Why Here - Real seasons Down Under. Located off the south coast of Australia, Tasmania has a maritime climate that offers a distinct spring, summer, fall and winter -- unlike mainland Australia. Yet no season is too extreme: Summer days reach a comfortable 70-degree average, and winter brings frosty days with snow-capped peaks.
When to Go - March. This is the start of Tasmania's mellow autumn. Beautifully calm, sunny days illuminate 200-year- old oaks, birches and native beech trees changing colors for the winter. Festivals like A Taste of the Huon (March 8-9) take advantage of the season by showcasing the "Apple Isle" and its fresh produce, including cherries, berries and, appropriately, apples. March is also nearing the end of high season, which runs October to April.
What to Budget - $7,000 to $9,000 (five nights, two people). Flights from the U.S. make up a large portion of the expense, though there's a variety of places to stay on Tasmania for most budgets. Once in Australia, there are daily flights from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane to Tasmania's Launceston Airport (LST) aboard Qantas or Virgin Blue airlines. discovertasmania.com
Why Here - Fresh adventures. Down in the southeastern most corner of the Caribbean (almost holding Venezuela's hand), Trinidad's little sister is less visited, cozier at only 116 square miles, and great for eco-excursions.
When to Go - May. You can skip the crowds of Carnival and the Plymouth Jazz Festival and opt to connect with nature. May comes at the height of the nesting season for endangered leatherback turtles. Head to the northern beaches to watch as turtles weighing up to 1,000 pounds come ashore and lay hundreds of eggs. For bird watchers, places like the Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary and Little Tobago Island, a small offshore islet, allow visitors to see some of Tobago's 200 bird species. Factor in hiking along the Argyle Waterfall and the Main Forest Ridge as well as kayak trips (think deserted beaches along the island's west coast accessible only by water), and Tobago is a nature lover's delight.
What to Budget - $2,500 to $3,500 (five nights, two people). Like most places in the Caribbean, Tobago has many authentic roadside stands with tasty eats for budget-friendly prices. There's also a wide range of accommodations. Fly on Caribbean Airlines from Miami (MIA) to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad (POS), then on to Tobago (TAB). Or take a ferry from Trinidad to Tobago. gotrinidadandtobago.com
Why Here - Peace. With no cars, this Italian island is one of the quietest in the world. Open your hotel windows to hear gondoliers serenading lovers on the Grand Canal. Grab a cannoli and get lost in the European streets.
When to Go - April. Travel in between the island's cold winter and high-season summer in 2009, when exchange rates and travel costs promise to be more enticing. Or if you don't want to wait that long and are ready to embrace the full vibrancy of Venice, visit this February for the Carnival of Venice. (Find more info at carnivalofvenice.com.)
What to Budget - $5,000 to $7,000 (five nights, two people). Delta flies direct from New York (JFK) with surpris- ingly low roundtrip fares during low season. Once there, stay near St. Mark's Square, amid authentic Venetian style. For food, dinners under a blue Adriatic sky can be as inexpensive ($5) or as indulgent as you like. italiantourism.com