Last-Minute Summer Getaways
Think it's too late to plan a trip this summer? Think again. Travel expert Pauline Frommer has the scoop on destinations that will go easy on your wallet.
A trip to Colorado is a best bet for late-summer travel.
The days are getting shorter. Stores are already throwing back-to-school sales. As an anonymous wit once wrote, "Summer should get a speeding ticket." But if you haven't gotten away from the daily grind yet, don't despair. It is still possible to plan a full-blown summer vacation, even at this late date. Some suggestions:
Plan your timing carefully
Not all August weeks are equally popular, especially for domestic travel. Head out later in the month and the crowds dissipate, as do marked-up rates.
"That week or two before school starts, the drop in our visitors is noticeable," says Kathy Kupper, a National Park Service spokeswoman. Mona Mesereau, a spokeswoman for Xanterra, one of the major concessionaires in the park system, concurs. "There is often last-minute availability at places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone during the last two weeks of August and first two weeks of September," she says. "That's when many families stop traveling and kids go back to school."
Bing: Plan a trip to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park
Airfares also start to drop. "As kids start to go back to school, bookings start to drop down and airlines are forced to discount," says Rick Seaney, CEO of the airfare search engine FareCompare.com. "This year, it looks like the airlines are treating Aug. 21 as that magical day when airfares start to drop. For departures on Aug. 21 and after, we're seeing prices drop 10-20 percent.
"We see the same thing with international travel. Starting in the last week in August, we go into what's called fall pricing and the prices tend to drop anywhere from 15-20 percent all the way into late October, when we get even less expensive winter pricing."
Bing:Find cheap airfares to wherever you want to go
Consider non-hotel lodging
With summer hotel occupancy numbers up almost everywhere, many travelers are turning to vacation rentals for last-minute deals. It's a sound strategy: Owners of apartments and villas that still have openings may be willing to negotiate prices. Such websites as OwnerDirect.com and LicketyTrip.com are posting discounts of up to 60 percent on August pricing, for properties across the globe -- New Hampshire, Maui, Spain, eastern Thailand, you name it. "We have many chic properties that are offering reduced rates for last-minute bookings in August," said Mariana McConnell of the website boutique-homes.com. Surf the Web and work your email account to find the best pricing.
Bing:Search hotels around the world
Destinations that are particularly affordable and uncrowded this year
The June wildfires that destroyed some of Colorado's forests were also a public-relations disaster for the state, affecting even those areas that were not in the path of the blaze. "Because of the wildfires, airfares have dropped to Denver and Colorado Springs, so you can get some good deals to those locations for the next three or four weeks," Seany says. Bob Diener, president of the bookings website GetaRoom.com, says prices in the Denver area are down 10 to 15 percent from last year.
Anne Klein, who handles PR and marketing for Durango, Colo., says the "wildfires barely affected Durango ... there are plenty of great deals for August." These include lodging packages at the Durango Mountain Resort that start at as little as $51 per person, per night, including a number of activities.
For August deals in other parts of the state, the Colorado Tourism Board has compiled a list of special offers at its new website, colorado.com/share-the-love, created to help the recovering state by spurring visitation. Along with offers for lodging, the site lists specials on whitewater rafting, horseback riding and even cooking classes in conjunction with a "foodie" stay at a Boulder hotel.
And why not head to Colorado this summer? You aren't likely to be vacationing in a charred wasteland; as the website states, the fires affected just 1 percent of Colorado's 23 million acres of public lands.
Bing:Your ultimate travel guide to Colorado
Another western U.S. destination that's on the chopping block this month is Las Vegas.
"Hotel rates in Las Vegas are even better this year than last," Diener says. "Yes, summer prices are always good there, partially because the city is just so overbuilt with hotels. But this year, because of the heat ... the deals are truly outstanding. Best prices are midweek and include such luxury properties as the Signature at MGM Grand, where 600-square-foot suites with kitchens are going for $79 per weeknight now, which is pretty remarkable for that quality of property. Budget hotel rooms are selling for as little as $39 midweek." (Please note that the prices quoted here do not include resort fees, an ugly Sin City surprise at checkout.)
Bing:Plan a trip to Las Vegas
On the East Coast, Florida has proved an especially sweet bargain this summer.
"The best value in later August are Orlando hotel rooms," Diener says. "Starting the third week in August, the rates are plummeting. We're seeing prices as low as $80 a night in Downtown Disney; those same rooms would have sold for $150 a night earlier in the summer. Even the famous Dolphin Hotel, right in Disney World, can be as little as $120 per night then."
Getting there will also be affordable. "Florida is much cheaper than other parts of the country to fly into, because people have hurricane jitters, even though we've had a very light hurricane season this year," Seaney says.
Bing:Find Florida flights and hotels
Fear of hurricanes also affects travel to the Caribbean. But take the risk and you could be lazing on a white sand beach in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico's Mayan Riviera, Puerto Rico or Barbados for as little as $125 per person per day including airfare, taxes, lodging and -- at the all-inclusive resorts -- all meals and activities. This type of package can be found at Expedia.com, VacMart.com, BookIt.com and CheapCaribbean.com. Prices will vary by gateway and by how many weekend days are included. Move quickly if you see a particularly good Caribbean offer: Many of the best deals this year are sales with booking windows of as little as 48 hours.
Bing:Book a trip to the Caribbean
Good luck, and get moving - your vacation awaits.
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