Joining the weekend jet set Getaways: Low airfares and package deals make it financially possible to fly off on two- to four-day vacations overseas.

April 06, 1997|By Sandy Coleman | Sandy Coleman,BOSTON GLOBE

Pat Lahue and her husband, Martin, used to sit around the house and joke about taking off to Paris for the weekend. But never in their wildest dreams would they have thought of seriously doing something so frivolous. Not until the reality of doing it -- inexpensively -- showed up in a newspaper ad.

Paris. Round trip, $269 per person. And, voila!, they were there, laughing their way up the Eiffel Tower and down the Seine river on an extended weekend trip.

"It was wonderful," said Pat Lahue, who had never been to Paris until February, when she took her husband. "We did a lot -- quickly."

Quick is the operative word now that the friendly skies to foreign destinations have become so inexpensive. Many consumers are joining the Lahues in becoming a new breed of traveler -- one who has no problem jetting off to places like Paris, London and even Iceland for two, three or four days because the prices are right.

But there are some distinct peculiarities to this kind of quickie overseas travel that are worth keeping in mind: The trip will likely be intense, your adrenalin will help you keep going, and you'll crash big-time when you return home.

"You're trying to squeeze in as much as possible. So, kiss goodbye sleeping," said experienced whirlwinder Charlotte Barkley. "And you come home dragging just a wee bit." She recently returned from three days in Paris with a friend. Airfare was $289 round trip. In October, she went to London for two days for $340 round trip.

On American Airlines and Icelandair, two carriers recently offering restricted two- to four-day getaway deals, travelers could go to France, Iceland and England from about $269 to around $400 round trip. Icelandair has offered Midweek Madness packages for $299, a four-day trip that includes hotel accommodations, transportation and breakfast -- plus all the sightseeing you can squeeze in.

One important word from those who have done these quickie vacations: nap.

Barkley needed a nap in Paris and in London -- but not right away. In Paris, "We got there, went out for breakfast for cafe au lait and croissants," she said. "We ambled around a bit, and then I said 'I must go to bed. I must.' That was around noon." They had arrived around 7 on a Saturday morning. Their noon nap lasted for only an hour and half, and they were up and out again until 11 p.m.

James Ligouri and Leah Rossman were on the go from the moment their feet touched Parisian pavement. Never having been to Paris, they arrived at 7 a.m., checked into their hotel, showered and were out the door by 9 a.m.

Jet lag didn't catch up to them until they stopped walking and sat down for a boat ride up the Seine. "That's when I felt it," Rossman said. So they napped for two hours that afternoon and were up and out again. They were back at the hotel and sleeping by midnight.

"You're a little hyper, so lack of sleep doesn't bother you," said Barkley, commenting on the adrenalin high of being in a foreign city for only a few days. "You're thinking of making the most of it. And you don't do that by crashing for six hours."

Kathleen DeVine, who in November indulged in a spa getaway package to Iceland with her mother, recently returned from four days in Paris with several of her relatives -- her mother, daughter, future son-in-law and his relatives. She describes the experience as intense.

"It's hard. Everyone had worked all day Friday. You land hours later, and it's a new day there, and you sort of hit the street running," she said.

Barkley also said she walked more in Paris than she usually does because she and her friend could see more that way.

"I'm very much a desk jockey. We walked a lot. One day when we were looking at the map we figured out that we walked 7 1/2 miles. Considering that my longest walk here is to the fax machine or the coffeepot, that's a lot."

Strategy is everything, DeVine said. "We literally sat down with a calendar and said here are the things we want to do."

The flights to foreign destinations may be cheap, but there is payback. Rossman, who had to work two weeks straight to be able to earn time off on such short notice, had to go from the airport to her evening shift the Tuesday she returned from Paris.

"I was exhausted," she said, "but couldn't sleep. By Friday night I was having little hallucinations." But, she added, "the trip was well worth it."

Pub Date: 4/06/97

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