Susan Johnston of US News shares these six destinations where you can make your last-minute vacations before summer officially ends.
As kids head back to school in August or September, budget-conscious travelers have the chance to capitalize on the lingering warm weather, smaller crowds and lower prices on hotels and airfare. From mid-August to September, travel prices start to drop in some destinations, since they’re no longer flooded with tourists and families vacationing with kids, says Cynthia Drake, author of the forthcoming book “Budget Travel for the Genius.” “If you can wait until after Labor Day, you’re going to see better prices,” she says.
Those with flexible vacation time may be able to seize that opportunity, but for families with school-aged kids, it may mean taking a quick weekend getaway instead of a full-week vacation.
Here are six places to look for end-of-summer travel deals.
1. Las Vegas. Recently named TripAdvisor’s most affordable summer city, Vegas will still be warm and sunny in August and September, but Drake says you’ll find fewer crowds. Plus, nearly every casino, hotel and restaurant has air conditioning, so the heat shouldn’t deter travel. MegaBus runs a budget-friendly bus route between Las Vegas and Riverside or Los Angeles, California, so if you live near a MegaBus stop, you could save on gas and parking by riding the bus, Drake adds. The only potential downside of visiting Vegas? Losing your hotel and airfare savings in a casino.
2. Arizona. Some travelers might avoid desert destinations such as Phoenix and Las Vegas in the summer, but Drake says that’s a mistake. “You’re going to have so many nice amenities, beautiful sparkling pools and beautiful restaurants to eat in,” she says. Scottsdale, Arizona, for example, offers cosmopolitan accommodations with beautiful nearby hiking trails.
3. South Florida. Snowbirds flock to south Florida in the winter months, but according to Kristy Hall, a family travel agent with The Tropical Travelers, “late summer in southern Florida is a great value as long as you avoid [Labor Day] weekend.” Since downtown hotels tend to fill up quickly, Hall sometimes steers her clients toward a large, convention-style property – provided there aren’t any conventions that weekend – with pools and other amenities.
4. Asheville, North Carolina. To save on airfare, Hall suggests choosing a destination within driving distance. For many people along the East Coast, Asheville, North Carolina, offers proximity, scenic mountains and attractions like the Biltmore mansion, she says. If you’re a camper, you could also find a campsite within a few hours of home.
5. Caribbean. “Everyone wants to go to the Caribbean in the wintertime, but summertime is when you get the deals,” says John DiScala, veteran traveler and founder of travel website JohnnyJet.com. He suggests visiting one of the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire or Curaçao. September is the height of hurricane season for parts of the Caribbean, but DiScala and Drake say that shouldn’t be a big deterrent. “You can purchase trip insurance if you’re concerned about hurricanes,” says Drake, adding that she’s traveled to the Caribbean during that time without issues. “If you’re taking that route, get the kind of insurance that lets you cancel for any reason.” If you’re on a cruise, the cruise company may simply reroute you to a different port to avoid weather issues, Drake adds.
6. Europe. Summer is a popular time to visit Europe, but DiScala says there will be cheaper prices after mid-September. “If you can wait, not only will you get a better deal,” he says, “but you’ll also have a chance of having a seat next to you open on the plane and less crowded museums. It won’t be full of tourists.” Since airfare to Europe can be pricey at any time of the year, DiScala suggests being flexible about your travel dates if possible. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sometimes Saturdays are a lot cheaper to fly outgoing and return,” he says. “Price that out and see if that makes a huge difference. It might be worth taking extra vacation days.” Also look into alternate airports. Travelers in Chicago might default to O’Hare Airport, but DiScala suggests they also price out tickets from Midway. DiScala’s other website, alternateairports.com, lists driving distances from all U.S. airports so travelers can compare their options.
Get the latest on travel deals and hottest destinations by following this Pete Scamardo Twitter account.