Last-Chance Summer Deals
As the days of summer tick by, you may find yourself hoping to squeeze in one more family vacation before the kids go back to school. There’s still time to head to a fun destination not too far from home -- for a good price. Here are a few destinations where you can still score travel deals, and have some fun in the sun.
Bargain Trips to Montreal
With much of the US enduring record heat this summer, visiting our neighbor to the north might be a great plan (just make sure you bring your passport!). In August, Montreal has a pleasant average daily temperature of 69 degrees. So if you have airline miles, it may be a good time to use them. Sometimes flights to Montreal can be pricy, but for many of the US-based frequent flyer programs such as United, Delta and American Airlines, flights to Canada don’t require any more miles than flights within the US. Just 25,000 miles round-trip per person will get you to Canada. You can use British Airways Avios to fly American Airlines to Montreal for as few as 9,000 Avios roundtrip from New York City and just 15,000 Avios roundtrip from Chicago.
On my family’s most recent trip to Montreal we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Montreal for just 12,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. The room was selling for about $250 Canadian dollars per night -- a very good value for our points. Pack a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, such as the Chase Hyatt Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum card. Also be aware that using your cell phone in Canada will likely cost extra -- so purchase an international calling plan ahead of time, get a local phone or SIM card or just pack your phone away during your trip.
Off-Season Travel Deals to Colorado
Another budget-friendly way to beat the summer heat is to head to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Demand for hotels in Colorado resort towns is much lower in the summer months, which means there are some fantastic bargains to be had at beautiful hotels. The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain outside of Vail, CO, often has rooms that go for close to $500 per night during ski season -- those same rooms are as low as around $200 per night during the summer.
Flights into Denver are frequently very competitively priced, so depending on where you are headed it often makes sense to fly into Denver and rent your vehicle through one of the major car rental companies at Denver International Airport. Don’t forget to sign-up for the rewards program with the rental car company of your choice. If you prefer, you can also often find codes on airline websites -- here's one example -- to use when you rent your car that will award airline miles instead of rental car points on your rentals.
Late-Summer Travel Deals: The Outer Banks
If the beach is more your idea of late-summer fun, then consider the Outer Banks. While there are some hotels in the Outer Banks, families can often find the best overall value renting a house for the week through sites such as VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). Prices for rental houses drop as it gets later in the summer. You can sometimes rent a house for the week for less than it would cost to stay at a hotel. With a whole house, you have more room for the whole family, and you can save money by cooking some meals in the kitchen.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask if any late-summer specials are available. This summer we rented a house for a week in late August in the Outer Banks and got several hundred dollars knocked off the weekly rate due to an unadvertised deal. As always, pay with a credit card that earns you good rewards on expenses like this.
But If You Can’t Get Away …
If you just can’t get away before summer ends, you can find bargain travel deals once school is back in session. Late September and early October are fantastic times to visit theme parks such as Disneyland and Disney World. Not only are the parks less crowded, and the weather not quite as hot, but you can score better deals on hotels since it is no longer peak season. In fact, the fall is one of the least expensive times of year to stay at a Disney resort hotel.
If you prefer to use points to visit Disney World, the Swan and Dolphin are on Disney property but are Starwood Preferred Guest hotels. That means you can use your Starwood Preferred Guest points to stay at these family-friendly hotels with no out-of-pocket costs!
Whether you sneak in one more family trip before the summer ends or right after school starts back up, remember to use a little bit of money-saving strategy to help keep a little cash in your pockets. That includes comparing airfare, of course. Currently, my favorite website for doing so is Hipmunk. If you prefer to use miles or points for your flight, you can check out a new website called MileWise for basic reward options.