Doing the homework on fall foliage vacations

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InsightWith pumpkin and apple season in full swing, more than a few clients are likely to seek out an autumn break that focuses on colorful foliage, tranquil villages and mountain air.

TravelWeekly.com scoured the offerings from a few dozen tour operators, looking for packages that provide a particularly good bang for the buck. We came upon a handful that are worthy of review:

• For a classic New England tour, upscale operator Tauck has an escorted package that, with seven nights' lodging and 16 meals included, is priced at $2,590, land only. It provides accommodations at high-end hotels such as the Omni Parker House in Boston and the White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, N.H.

Roundtrip from Boston, the tour includes a healthy mix of Revolutionary War sites in Concord and Lexington, Mass., before heading east to the Maine coast and then north to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Lectures by area naturalists, local wine and cheese tastings and a visit to the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences round out the itinerary before the return to Boston. Departures are in mid-October, and agents can see the full program at www.tauck.com.  

• Clients who have more time to spare and a wish to explore a wider region should consider a 15-night tour offered by Cosmos. It's the company's Eastern U.S. and Canada Grand Vacation with a New York extension.

Roundtrip from New York, the escorted itinerary visits Boston, then heads north through the New Hampshire mountains to Quebec. From there it's on to Montreal and Ottawa, the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Toronto and Ontario.

Returning south, the trip continues to Niagara Falls, where travelers will board the Maid of the Mist for up-close views of the thundering falls. Next it's the Appalachian Mountains and Pennsylvania Dutch country, home to the Amish and Mennonites in Lancaster County.

The final two nights of the tour are in Washington, before a stop in Philadelphia and the return to New York. The geographic scope of this tour might appeal to budget-conscious clients; even without meals included, the rate of $2,079 per person, double, is going to be hard to beat. Departures are through Oct. 28, and details are at www.cosmos.com.  

• With the trend toward independent vacations on the rise, we also went in search of a good value for a fly-drive foliage package. We found it at New England Vacation Tours, which is offering free airfare on Southwest Airlines from all cities served by that carrier to Manchester (N.H.) Airport. Clients traveling from areas where Southwest does not serve Manchester will pay between $75 and $150 for the routing to New Hampshire.

This Northern New England self-drive tour includes seven nights' accommodation: three in New Hampshire, two in Vermont and two in Maine. Also, a car rental with unlimited mileage, a tour book and route map and all taxes are covered in the base rate.

Trip highlights are the mountain regions of New Hampshire and Vermont, plus Woodstock, Vt., and East Boothbay Harbor, Freeport, York and Kennebunkport, Maine. This tour costs $,1759 per person, double, with departures through October. Agents can learn more at www.newenglandvacationtours.com.

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