Written by Wendy Maxey, Star City Travel
It’s hard to believe another school year is just around the corner. Maybe you’re kicking yourself because you didn’t take as many trips as you wanted this summer. Don’t beat yourself up! Technically, summer isn’t over. Besides, last-minute, spontaneous travel is often the most memorable (and sometimes less expensive).
Be Fexible with Flights
If you plan on flying, book flights on the weekdays. Weekends tend to be more expensive. Check various gateways. For example, instead of Roanoke, look into flying out of Greensboro, Charlotte or Raleigh. Even Lynchburg sometimes has lower fares than the Star City. Or, if you want to get out of town over Labor Day weekend, try flying on the holiday itself.
*Travel Tip: As of this writing, a roundtrip flight from Raleigh to Honolulu comes in just under $700 on Labor Day. If you’re interested in international travel, use this airline hack. Book a trans-Atlantic flight to a major gateway city (example: Rome), and then book a separate connecting flight to your destination of choice on a European budget airline. August and September often see price drops internationally.
Location, Location, Location
Look into destinations where it’s currently the off-season. The Caribbean, Mexico and Argentina fall into this category. Late summer is also a great time to visit Costa Rica. Don’t let the rainy season stop your adventures. If you want to keep it stateside, think about New Orleans, Austin or San Francisco. September is an ideal time to explore these cities.
Consider locations where the U.S. dollar is strong. Again, Mexico is a great choice. You can book an all-inclusive stay for two in Tulum, Mexico, for $2,000 that includes flights from Roanoke, airport transfers, a junior suite and unlimited food and drinks for four nights. Bonus: If you want to take the kids, the first child is free.
Consider a Cruise
If you’ve cruised before, you probably know last-minute deals can be found. The great thing about cruising is how easy it is. Just pack your bag and go. Taking a break from all the planning makes for a perfect vacation.
*Travel Tip: As of this writing, a six-night Western Caribbean cruise (roundtrip from Miami) is less than a $1,000 for two in an ocean view cabin from September 1-7. An inside cabin is even less expensive, if you don’t care about the view. Add to that a mere 2-hour flight from Charlotte for $118 per person and you have quite a last-minute vacation for roughly $600 per person.
Cruise ships change their itineraries at the end of the high season, and “repositioning” cruises can be a steal. For instance, ships that tour Alaska often switch to warmer waters in the fall months. These sailings tend to be longer, but often for lower prices.
Jump in the Car or Take the Train
According to a recent poll by Expedia, three out of four Americans don’t plan to leave the U.S. That’s no surprise, given the amazing destinations we have access to within a few hours drive. Just do a basic Google search for “destinations near me,” and you’ll uncover a wealth of ideas.
Roanoke’s new Amtrak station is an awesome way to travel. Roundtrip fares to New York City are $120 per person, and the train drops you right in the middle of the city at Penn Station. A major benefit to taking the train to New York (other than the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the ride) is not having to deal with the astronomical prices that come with parking your car—let alone navigating the city streets!
Often, booking last-minute means discounted rates on hotels—in some cases up to 15 percent.
*Travel Tip: A great tool for finding less expensive hotels is the Hotel Tonight app. Plug in New York City and you’ll find several recommended hotels for under $150 per night. This app includes customer ratings and useful descriptions like “colorful, eclectic rooms,” or “located among the fresh-cut blooms of the Flower District.”
At the very least, make sure you’re using your vacation days. Even if it means a long weekend trip to the beach or a simple staycation.
Wendy’s love of travel started at an early age with family beach vacations. Early on in her career she was managing editor of a hotel reservations website. Wendy is co-owner of Star City Travel, a Roanoke-based Dream Vacations franchise. Need travel advice? Call (540) 713-3068 or visit starcitytravel.com.