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10 Last-Minute Summer Vacations You Can Afford
From theme park thrills to hiking in the Alps, procrastinators can score unexpected travel bargains.
According to the research company Ipsos Global @dvisor, only 61 percent of Americans took or will take at least one week's vacation this year. And the U.S. Travel Association's 2017 Project: Time Off study found American employees forfeited 132 million paid vacation weeks in 2016. Well, happily, if you're a workaholic, you can still book a cheap last-minute summer getaway this August. Start by searching for Caribbean vacation rentals as hurricane season approaches, tracking airfare fluctuations, studying the fine print and brushing up on undisclosed taxes and resort fees. Or, save time and read on for 10 affordable vacation options that may just inspire you to travel more.
Plan a beach break.
If you're longing for a sunny locale, escape to Hotel Maya, a DoubleTree by Hilton in Long Beach, California. With fire pits, an outdoor pool with floating cabanas and Mayan-themed decor, this DoubleTree outpost caters to groups of all ages. What's more, you can surf, try stand-up paddleboarding or tour the Aquarium of the Pacific. Hotel Maya's two-night minimum PK2 vacation package starts at $418 (plus $50 if Fido comes along) and includes bike rentals and breakfast. Or, head south to Grand Bahia Principe Coba in the Riviera Maya, where $81 per person per day covers meals, beverages, age-appropriate entertainment and access to the children's clubs and activities.
Enjoy the lap of luxury on a Swiss Alps safari.
August is an ideal time for a last-minute splurge on a European vacation. Take the kids to Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina, Switzerland, a turn-of-the-century palace outside of St. Moritz. The hotel's Capricorn Experience focuses on the Alps' largest herd of ibex, offering a family with two kids ages 6-12 three nights in connecting rooms, complimentary breakfasts and four-course dinners, one gourmet picnic, a day at the Capricorn playground atop Alp Languard and hikes with wildlife-viewing opportunities. Plus, you can enjoy unlimited use of the Kronenhof Spa, the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz golf and tennis facilities, mountain railways in the region, plus themed amenities and treats. Rates begin at $2,358 through Oct. 14.
Watch captivating performances in England's Isle of Wight.
More than a century ago, Marconi sent the letter "S" in Morse code over 2,000 miles from Britain to Newfoundland. Marconi's Day festivities are part of the free summer fun at The Needles, a historic chairlift that descends to Alum Bay, where costumed staff in Victorian finery re-enact the first transmission, hold shooting competitions and show visitors how early radio worked. Through Aug. 31, expect stilt walkers, magicians, pirates and princesses, plus weekly fireworks. Three-star hotels in nearby Shanklin are available for under $100 per night.
Brush up on Oahu's surf heritage.
Catch world-class surfing from Aug. 19-27 at Duke's OceanFest, when 30 beach and water sports contests honor Duke Kahanamoku, a legendary surfing champion and ambassador of Aloha. If you're more of a couch surfer than a pro surfer, there are free movies, a dog surfing contest, live music, beach volleyball, parties and more at Waikiki Beach. Even better, doubles at Aqua Palms Waikiki, which are equipped with sofa beds, microwaves, minifridges and coffee makers, are available for under $120 per night. The property also boasts a weekly manager's reception, free shuttle access and 10 percent discounts at the WaiTai coffee shop, a 1960s classic with amazing, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts.
Plan an end-of-summer party at Chicago's Navy Pier.
Chicago has a variety of free festivities, making it easy to visit top sights without paying a steep price tag. This summer, the Navy Pier features innovations designed for the landmark's centennial. New public spaces, parks and lake pavilions showcase concerts Wednesday through Sunday, Monday movie nights, Tuesday fitness classes, fireworks twice weekly and other free summer amusements. Downtown hotels have rock-bottom weekend rates in August, so you can take in the Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and ride the 200-foot-tall Centennial Wheel. The Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, for example, boasts an indoor pool, sofa beds, free breakfast and Wi-Fi access for nonrefundable rates around $150 per night in August.
Explore top historical attractions on a trip designed for political wonks.
The Summer of American Democracy package at The Jefferson, Washington, DC uses the historic hotel's collection of artifacts and three custom District of Columbia itineraries to enlighten guests. During your visit, explore the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, retrace the suffrage movement or meet famous pets in American history. Nightly rates start at $305 with the promo code "Summer," and include a $30 daily credit. Alternatively, head south to Americus, Georgia, where the nearby Plains Historic Inn boasts nightly rates starting at under $115, with themed rooms that reflect different decades throughout 20th-century history. It's a perfect base to explore the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site as well as the Habitat for Humanity Global Village.
Snap up a deal at Orlando's theme parks.
Orlando is always busy, making Disney Springs hotel discounts especially enticing, with early park entry, free shuttles and area discount coupons. With weeknight rates starting at under $70, Best Western Lake Buena Vista is an affordable lodging choice. Other properties offer a 20 percent military discount, waive resort fees and include kids eat free deals. Through Aug. 23, families can buy a 4-Park Magic Ticket and visit one park for $79 each day. Plus, Universal Orlando Resort has five-night stays on sale. Starting at $99 per person per night, double rooms with a 3-Park 4-Day Park-to-Park ticket cover Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, plus one hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Explore America's national parks by road or river.
It's not too late to take a summer road trip. Procrastinators can find unusual lodging at nature preserves, vineyards, farms and ranches, even near the national parks with Hipcamp, which aggregates national, state, regional and Army Corps parks among 10,505 campgrounds and 300,101 campsites, ranging in price from $20 to more than $300. Another option: Experience the parks by water. Reputable company O.A.R.S. offers three-day multisport adventures in Grand Tetons National Park that include sea kayaking, camping, hiking, fishing and river rafting along the Snake River. Take $50 off per person on their Sept. 1 departure, which includes all meals, equipment and guided activities, and is priced at $729 for adults and $619 for ages 6 and older.
Set sail on a late summer cruise.
Hankering for a cruise vacation? Consult CruiseCritic.com's "Last Minute Deals" to view comparative discounts on available cruises. To brace yourself for hurricane season conditions, budget for travel insurance. If netting the best deal is your top priority, consider Royal Caribbean's five-night Tampa to Havana itinerary aboard the Empress of the Seas from Sept. 18-23, which offers rates starting at $840 per adult in an inside cabin. Also look for sales on Norwegian Sky's new Cuba routes. Even better, if you book by Aug. 15, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Sensation will offer four-night cruises from New Orleans to Key West, Florida, and Cozumel for $389 per adult in an ocean view cabin.
Score a deal by joining popular and lesser-known loyalty clubs.
If you have fixed travel dates, explore offers from online retailers, hotel loyalty programs, frequent flyer programs and any other club you belong to. You can often find a great deal, score free upgrades and save on fees by leveraging loyalty club promotions and membership perks. For example, book through a club like Costco, and you can take advantage of a members-only, four-night package in a double room at the swanky Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta, a posh tropical getaway with a lagoon-style pool perched on the edge of Banderas Bay for $457 for a family of four. Even better, kids under 12 can enjoy free meals.
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