Don’t Let That Summer Getaway Get Away

Is summer is passing you by this year, turning your stay-cation into blah-cation? With Labor Day right around the corner, it’s not too late to put some adventure into your summer by taking a last minute trip or vacation.

Last-minute getaways may sound expensive, but cheap deals are there for the taking if you are willing to be flexible. Here are some tips.

Go with the flow. Whether you are flying, taking the train, or shipping out on a cruise, the more flexible you are with your travel plans, the better. Leave late at night or on a different day to get the cheapest flight. And if you are willing to go standby, or fly into a less popular city or airport, you can score big time. The same is true of cruises – if you cruise the web to find ads for last-minute vacancies, or travel “shoulder” times, before or after traditional summer and Christmastime rushes, you may find a vacation deal that costs less than staying home.

Embrace the web. Check your favorite internet travel sites, and check them often. Prices fluctuate from day to day and from city to city. But do your research and watch out for pitfalls. Sites like PriceLine.com and SkyAuction.com let you name your own price, but know the range available elsewhere so you don’t end up overpaying. On AirBnB.com, find a place to rent for just one night from a real person, for less.

Tweet for a sweet deal. Use Twitter’s search box to look for special discounts and coupons. Just enter a hashtag (#) followed by your destination and the word discount (for example “#Miamidiscounts”. Or enter “@” followed by your airline hub’s three letter code (for example, “@LAX”) to locate deals near you. Also, follow travel deals sites like @TravelZoo on Twitter for up-to-the-minute deals.

Travel solo. If you are looking for a single ticket on an airline or to an event, you’ll find it easier to nab a deal. You can make arrangements to meet your friends at the destination, even though you won’t be sitting together.

Call ahead. You’ll find some good hotel deals by calling ahead and calling around. Don’t just arrive with your baggage in the hotel lobby, since clerks will quote you higher prices since they know you don’t want to schlep those bags all over town.

Go off-season and off-beat. Visiting a summer attraction in the winter or a ski resort in the summer will save big bucks in lodging and meals. Or stay nearby your destination, not right in town. Camping out will trim your costs, and you can save on meals by packing a lunch and enjoying a picnic. If you splurge on a meal at a well-known restaurant, go for lunch instead of dinner or enjoy the early bird special to cut the tab by up to 40%.

Free works for me. There are many free attractions wherever you go, and many inexpensive ones as well. A hootenanny or a free concert in the park, a walking tour or nature walk, all can make for a pleasant afternoon. At historic destinations such as Washington DC, Philadelphia and Boston you’ll find that many of the great attractions are free.

Above all, enjoy the hunt. Traveling cheap is a game, so take pleasure in the experience. If you miss one deal, don’t fret, there’s another one around the corner.

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