Affordable getaways after Labor Day
The sluggish economy has September travel deals looking better than usual.
This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.
When it comes to summer getaways, travelers can often find the best deals after Labor Day, when kids head back to school and travel season abruptly ends. But with the iffy economy keeping more families closer to home this year, experts say last-minute vacationers may find even cheaper airfare and hotel rates than usual.
For example, post-Labor Day rates are 10% cheaper than they were last year in Orange County, Calif., and in the Lake Tahoe area, according to Hotwire.com. Thanks to dwindling Olympic crowds, London is 60% cheaper, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor for Travelzoo.com.
Of course, post-Labor Day trips have their downsides. September is one of the riskiest months for hurricanes, which is why prices drop so dramatically for the Caribbean islands and Mexico, Saglie says. Indeed, travelers might find they need to curtail or cancel their vacation, or shell out extra for peace of mind with a travel insurance policy. And in beach resort towns on U.S. coasts, fall visitors may also find that local restaurants and attractions have moved to more restricted, off-season hours, says Amy Chen, online editor for Frommers.com.
Still, there are plenty of destinations where travelers can find summer weather and autumn prices -- without a significant risk of bad weather or the need for travel insurance. Here are six the travel pros recommend:
Post-Labor Day prices are roughly 40% lower, even at luxury hotels and resorts, says Courtney Scott, senior editor for booking site Travelocity. The Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui is 40% off, with rates starting at $299 per night, while Castle Kiahuna Plantation on Kauai has rooms for as little as $188, a 50% discount.
"It's typically beautiful weather, too," Scott says. "Most of the discount is (due to) lower traffic because kids are in school." Airfare could negate some savings, however. Round-trip flights from Los Angeles add an average of $400; from New York, prices are closer to $650. (Post continues below video.)
Cape Cod, Mass.
Expect 20% savings or better in the Cape area, says Chen. Nightly rates for a king room at The Bradford Inn of Chatham, for example, fall from $330 during the last week of August to $260 in early September, a 21% drop. After Sept. 1, one four-bedroom oceanfront property on rental site VRBO.com lowers its price from $8,000 to $6,000 a week (25% off), while another oceanfront three-bedroom cuts its rates from $9,900 to $5,900 starting Sept. 4 (40% off).
Post-Labor Day travelers also benefit from less traffic, literally. "On Saturdays, changeover day, you just sit in traffic" during peak summer season, she says. Some businesses may reduce hours in the autumn, though, so Chen advises checking details of attractions on your itinerary and asking hotels whether the pool will still be open.
San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs all tend to see more preferential pricing after Labor Day, Saglie says. In San Diego, for example, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina has rates starting at $99 a night, a 50% discount. Clem Bason, the president of Hotwire.com, says he has seeing rate drops of 10% compared with last year at properties in Orange County, near Disneyland.
But travelers may find that more expensive park tickets offset the hotel savings. "Disney will get you, but at least you can save on the hotel," he says. (Earlier this year, the park raised its ticket and pass prices by as much as 30%.)
This time of year, cruise lines offer low rates and plenty of sweeteners like onboard credits and cabin upgrades to lure in travelers, Scott says. She suggests looking to European and Alaska cruises for a good combination of deals and weather. MSC Cruises' seven-night Mediterranean cruises out of Ancona, Italy, start at $1,149 for August departures, and $799 -- 30% less -- for those Sept. 1 and later. In both months, cruisers get as much as $200 in onboard credit and 15% off shore excursions.
There are also plenty of Caribbean cruise deals, too, but again, those require further scrutiny due to hurricane season. Consider booking at the last minute if that's your destination of choice, she says.
Hilton Head, S.C.
In September, temperatures are still in the 70s, and there are miles of beaches and great golf, says Chen. "It's maybe even more pleasant than going when it's really hot in the summer." Rates at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa drop 17% from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5, from $229 to $189 per night.
One six-bedroom oceanfront property on HomeAway.com drops prices from $9,000 to $6,750 a week, effective Sept. 8 (25% off). Another two-bedroom oceanfront has rates of $1,080 after that date, versus $1,725 before (37% off), and also offers the option of single-night rentals for as little as $155 to fill occupancy. The area is at lower risk for impact from a hurricane, but travelers should still check the cancellation policies of rentals and hotels, she says.
The Summer Games in London may benefit even travelers looking to go to other areas in Europe. "London will have pulled in so many visitors for the Olympics that Europe is bound to be a little soft in the fall," says Bason. The U.S. dollar also buys more these days, with $1 worth 0.81 euro, versus 0.74 euro in March.
Travelocity has a package with airfare and a seven-night hotel stay in Rome for $1,218 -- just $18 more than airfare would cost alone, says Scott. Novotel Paris Charenton (near Disneyland) offers 30%-off weekend prices, with rates starting at $155. But fall airfare for many cities can still top $1,000, and won't see substantial drops until October -- when the weather is decidedly cooler, he says.
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