Ready or not, the holidays are quickly approaching. That means travel, but it can also mean higher rates, even in a bad economy. "Holidays and 'deal' in the travel world are oxymorons," says Julie Sturgeon, owner of Curing Cold Feet travel agency in Indianapolis. But if you're looking for a place to celebrate - or just escape until you can put this stressful year behind you - without spending a fortune, we have a few suggestions. (Vacationers are faced with a major financial risk: spending too much money. Find out how to avoid it. See All-Inclusive Vacation Keeps Travelers On Budget.)
IN PICTURES: 8 Easy Ways To Slash Your Holiday Budget
Thanks to travelers' fears of the oil spill this summer, the usual traffic has been down in the Gulf Shores, Alabama area, says Sturgeon. "Once people get out of the habit of going to a location, it takes a variety of marketing tricks to remind them you still exist - including deals on accommodations."
Don't limit yourself to hotels - Sturgeon says she's been looking at condos on the beach starting at $679 for a week starting December 24. Bonus: the beaches are clean and open to the public.
Starting around mid-December, politicians and government employees start fleeing the Beltway to return to their hometowns (or just escape), and the city is low on its usual lobbyist, convention and tourist traffic. Sturgeon has spotted luxury rooms going for $89 a night the week before Christmas. This might be a great chance to check out the museums and historical attractions with fewer crowds. (With a few simple policy additions you can protect your holiday plans from being ruined. To learn more, read Ensure Your Vacation Is Insured.)
Yes, it is cold up there in December. But it would be tough to get a more authentic winter wonderland atmosphere, short of heading to the North Pole. And it's a great way to escape from big city crowds. So if you don't mind brisk temperatures, you can get some good rates. Sturgeon says rates vary from $143 a night for the four-star Captain Hook Hotel to $179 for the Hilton.
Cold European Regions
Likewise, snow bunnies who head overseas will enjoy some good deals, says Candyce H. Stapen, PhD, of Great Family Vacations, LLC. If you head to Europe at year's end, you'll find major cities and airlines offering prices lower than summer rates. "Bundle up and visit Stockholm, Prague or Krakow in winter when there are fewer crowds and lower prices," Stapen suggests.
Certain Parts of Florida
Stay far away from the theme parks - Christmas is generally their busiest time of year, meaning you will encounter both crowds and peak rates. But you might be pleasantly surprised at rates in other, quieter parts of the state. Stapen recommends looking into northern Florida around Amelia Island and the Jacksonville, plus Panama Beach - where temperatures hover around 60 degrees during the day, great for walking on the beach.
IN PICTURES: 9 Ways To Trim The Fat From Your Spending
Other People's Homes
The holiday season is primetime for "home trading" services. (Hey, it turned out well for Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in "The Holiday"!) Sites like HomeExchange.com, LuxeHomeSwap.com and other home swap services have plenty of great options still available for the holidays. Also check out RRBO.com, where you can rent villas and resort timeshares directly from their owners, usually for less than hotel rates. (This popular real estate product has its advantages, but don't expect to make a profit. Check out Timeshares: Dream Vacation Or Money Pit?)
The Bottom Line
If you stay away from tourist areas and are open to off the beaten path destinations, you just may be rewarded with some really great savings this holiday season. A last tip: If you like being spontaneous and are flexible about your plans and destination, keep checking sites like Priceline and PackLate.com. Good deals often pop up at the least minute right before the holidays, especially if airlines and hotels have empty rooms or seats they need to fill quickly.
Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: G20 Leader Spats And China Fakes It.
EconomicsLearn how tourism, agriculture, international trade, aerospace and aviation, and the life sciences industries drive Florida's economy.
InvestingHow to leverage the online community and technology to create a one of a kind travel experience that's economical.
SavingsBudgets are some of the best financial tools around – when planned properly and followed faithfully.
SavingsCheck out these seven ways to cut the fat from your spending.
SavingsHere are seven millionaire myths and realities that reveal they don’t quite have it all.
BudgetingMoving doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. Here are some great ways to save money on moving costs.
BudgetingConvenience is a luxury. However, any cost-conscious individual should be aware of these ridiculous ways we pay for convenience and how to avoid them.
BudgetingPlanning a trip to Tokyo? Here are a few ways that you can make the trip more affordable.
BudgetingDon't let your baby's wardrobe derail your budget. These top tips help you to save money and spend wisely on baby clothes.
Personal FinanceFinancial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial literacy.
Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
Generally speaking, the retail sector is highly seasonal. Almost invariably, sales in the retail sector are highest in the ... Read Full Answer >>
A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>
The rule of 72 is best used to estimate compounding periods that are factors of two (2, 4, 12, 200 and so on). This is because ... Read Full Answer >>