Short-Stay Getaways for Summer Vacations
Americans got used to staycations during the recession, but as the economy begins to recover many are now ready to graduate to the short-stay getaway for relaxation and adventure without the financial drain of a longer vacation.
Here are some tips for short trips that are both fun and frugal.
Las Vegas is among many experts' top picks for a short trip because hotels and flights are plentiful and deals abound. Many Sin City establishments still offer discounted food and beverages, says Chris Russo, president of the American Society of Travel Agents. For the best prices Rick Ingersoll, author of "The Frugal Travel Guy Handbook," recommends hitting Las Vegas at midweek, as gambling destinations usually see more demand - and charge more - on weekends.
Also consider Orlando, Fla., where a lodging surplus gives travelers ample opportunity to score cheap rates, while many local attractions offer discounts and packages.
Many vacationers assume shorter flights will be cheaper, but that's not always so. For example, Bason says, fares between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco are competitive because there are many available. And short flights cost less in the West than on the East Coast because more low-cost carriers compete to serve Western travelers.
As with lodging, Ingersoll suggests checking midweek and Saturday for the lowest rates. And pack light to avoid checked-baggage fees and the time and hassle involved in retrieving your luggage after you land.
And don't feel obligated to take your own car. It could be much cheaper to drive a rental than your own vehicle because most rental companies offer unlimited mileage - so you will save the wear on your own vehicle - and because you can choose a rental that gets better mileage than your car. Ingersoll also reminds drivers to keep their tires properly inflated and use air conditioning only when necessary to help with mileage (though studies have shown open windows can also drag down mileage when you're driving fast).
Once you arrive at your destination, try to leave your car parked. Check online for parking coupons and discounts. Best would be a hotel that offers free parking. Also check for nearby garages that charge less and let you reserve a spot before you leave home. Save on airport parking the same way.
Bason also says patience can pay off in booking a cruise.
"If you have the time to watch and wait, you could save hundreds of dollars," he explained.
Just remember to check you're actually getting a deal once you add in alcoholic beverages, specialty restaurants, entertainment and other extras. (Bason also recommends calling ahead to nail down those charges and make any necessary extra reservations.)