Aroud the World: Super Strategies for Pre-Holiday Season Getaways
If you think you need a little break before going full steam into the holiday season, there are plenty of getaways to be enjoyed between trick or treat and the day you serve up your annual turkey feast and put up your festive holiday lights.
Actually, this in between season offers affordable and enticing travel deals on destinations that promise satisfying sun and surf, glorious leaf peeping, swinging night life and invigorating big city shopping or cultural safaris.
Once you’ve made a decision about the kind of getaway you’re seeking, consider putting these value-maximizing strategies into play when you begin to plan your travel:
First of all, look for a lower profile destination that has all the qualities you crave, but may not sport a hotspot name. Exploring lesser known destinations has several advantages, the most important of which is that they usually offer better value for money. Of course, you can find cheap accommodations almost anywhere, but sometimes they’re not very accommodating. But before booking, compare seasonal per night prices in four-star properties in glitzy South Beach (Florida) to those on elegantly exotic Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) and, surprise, surprise, you’ll find fine accommodations in Hilton Head for as little as half the price of those in South Beach.
The beaches on Hilton Head are gorgeous and the weather is still warm enough for basking on the beach and swimming.
Another benefit of selecting a lower profile sand and surf destination is that there are usually fewer tourists on the beach and in the restaurants and shops. That means more space and personal attention for you.
As for leaf peeping getaways, don’t assume that the only direction in which to head is north. Yes, New England has great Fall foliage, but Mother Nature doesn’t shun Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or the southern states when it comes to beautiful color, and neither should you. Chances are, too, that the further south you go, the colors will peak a bit later in the year, giving you more options for dates that fit into your schedule.
For nightlife, nothing beats that offered by gaming cities such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where the casino hotels feature big name entertainment and all sorts of shows. You can book a less expensive hotel and enjoy the entertainments of resorts. But before you book, check alternative gaming destinations such Reno or Lake Charles (Louisiana) where hotel rates and show tickets can cost a good deal less,
If you’re in need of a cultural fix, check downtown hotels -- in your hometown or the city nearest you -- for deals that include tickets to theater, concerts, opera and art exhibits. Without the cost of travel, you may find these packages so inexpensive you can’t afford to stay home.
If you want your culture with a change of latitude, however, look for deals in cities that have excellent cultural complexes with performing arts centers and collections of museums attached to or near hotels that offer affordable package deals designed for quick and easy getaways. Both Irvine (California) and Houston (Texas) are good examples for comparison, and because it’s not as well-known as a tourist destination, Irvine is likely to price better.
After selecting your destination, turn your attention to the cost of getting there. Be prepared to do some research to get the best deal. Go online to find out which airlines serve your desired route, and with how many changes of plane, and at what fare.
When you’re searching for the best, cheapest flights, remember that flexibility goes a long way in keeping costs down. Look for flights out of and into alternative airports. Ticket prices cheaper, and smaller airports are usually less crowded, so getting through them is faster and easier. For example, if you’re heading for Irvine, check out flights to John Wayne Airport, and compare them to those landing at Los Angeles Airport.
Remember, too, that timing can make a big difference. Flights mid-week are usually cheaper than those on the weekends, so shoot for a Tuesday or Wednesday departure. And, if you’re really flexible, check ticket prices for the Tuesdays and Wednesdays of the weeks before and after your ideal travel dates. There may be a big difference in price from one week to the next, depending on how the airline is managing its fare inventory.
Time of day is an important factor, too. For your outbound flight, try to book for the first flight of the day, not only because it’s less likely to be oversold, but also because it’s the least likely flight of the day to be delayed.
When you’re returning, try to avoid taking the last flight of the day because a delay or cancellation -- for whatever reason -- can cost you an overnight. And can stress you so much that the benefits of your getaway are suddenly gone.
And, lastly, take time to make sure you’ve done your research well before you make a reservation. When you’re online, try to find sites that have comparison charts, so you can easily calculate the differences in two offerings. And, before booking always read the fine print to make sure there are no hidden costs or unacceptable conditions (your
hotel room should be guaranteed, for example, and not just on hold) attached to the deal.