'Easy' plan can reign in Spain Touring: With Air Europa coupons, American travelers can fly inexpensively from city to city and reap other benefits.

December 07, 1997|By Robert Levine | Robert Levine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Americans like European countries we can "do" easily. Because we, on average, have fewer paid vacation days per year than any other civilized nation, we have to cram a lot of great travel into a relatively small time period.

But Spain is the size of Texas, and its major sights are very far apart: Seville is in the southwest, 634 miles from Barcelona in the northeast; Madrid is near the center, about 350 miles from either Seville or Barcelona; and Santiago de Compostela in the northwest is 600 miles from Barcelona. And then there are Granada and Cordoba, two absolutely necessary stops, along with the exquisite San Sebastian, exciting Valencia with its festival known as Las Fallas, Pamplona's Running of the Bulls, the always sunny Costa del Sol and cosmopolitan Bilbao, home to the new Frank Gehry Guggenheim Museum.

In two vacation weeks, we can see many of these sights -- if we have an unlimited budget with which to fly from location to location. But who is that lucky nowadays, especially with an average decent hotel running $150 a night? What's a regular traveler to do?

Well, Travelplan Inc. (Air Europa's in-house tour operator) in conjunction with the Tourist Office of Spain, has come up with something called Easy Spain.

In order to participate, travelers must fly from either New York or Miami to Madrid or Barcelona on Air Europa (Spain's leading private airline), currently offering scheduled flights daily for the lowest published fares in all three classes of service. For instance, through March 31, excluding Christmas week, coach from New York is $360 round trip and from Miami $469.

Once booked with Air Europa, aficionados of affordable travel can buy Easy Spain coupons from Air Europa or Travelplan for $60 each. Each coupon is good for a myriad of services, including:

* A one-way, domestic flight on Air Europa to any of 22 destinations within Spain, including Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, Granada, Seville, Pamplona, the islands of Mallorca, Menorca or Ibiza from any other city.

* One night's accommodation at more than 250 three- and four-star hotels in 57 Spanish cities (that's a per room, not a per person rate), including taxes and, in some cases, breakfast.

* One-day car rental.

* Any of several sightseeing tour options in Madrid, Barcelona and the Costa del Sol (or a Flamenco show with complimentary tapas).

* Transportation by private car to and from the airport.

Travelers can buy as many or as few coupons as are needed. They're good for a year and are refundable (less 10 percent each). Furthermore, Travelplan has an office in Madrid, where extra coupons can be bought.

Besides the price, this program offers something else relatively remarkable: flexibility. It allows us to change our plans within Spain without brutalizing our budget. Planned a week in Barcelona and Catalonia but found yourself in the mood for Valencia? It's $60 away, and so is a good hotel. And more: Say you plan a two-week stay in Spain, but you suddenly get the urge to see Paris, Rome, Lisbon or London -- two Easy Spain coupons will get you there on Air Europa's scheduled flights, with no restrictions. If there's a seat on the plane, it's yours.

You could fly to Barcelona from New York, stay a couple of nights, fly to Seville for two nights, then over to Majorca for a night and then go back to Barcelona for an overnight before returning home. Round trip U.S.-Spain fare, seven days and six nights in Spain, and all internal flights will cost $900. And you planned it all, without being told when to go where, and always knowing you could change plans in mid-trlp.

When you go

For more information about Easy Spain, call Air Europa at 888-2EUROPA or Travelplan at 888-SPAIN99. For general information about Spain, call the National Tourist Office of Spain at 888-OKSPAIN. All numbers are toll free.

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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