Summer is coming. With apologies to the Stark clan's winter preoccupation in HBO's "Game of Thrones", most of us much rather prefer this motto.
Our thoughts turn to beaches, grilling savory meats, knocking back a frozen drink or two and summer vacation.
With that in mind, here's a few tips to get the best deals on a summer vacation.
1. Look at the weeks surrounding the holiday for the best deals. For example, while deals can be elusive for Memorial Day weekend in many popular destinations, the week after Memorial Day and the following weekend (May 29 - June 2) are soft spots for many hotels, cruise lines and vacation packagers -- even airlines. Prices are often $100 or more cheaper if you travel the week before or after a holiday.
2. We expect a similar scenario to occur around July 4th this year. With the holiday falling on a Friday, the natural long weekend will be more expensive. As a result, travel before July 4th for the best deals -- even in major vacation spots.
3. While prices do start to climb after Memorial Day in popular summer destinations such as Myrtle Beach, Mackinac Island and Monterey, you can still find the best prices if you stay over midweek dates instead of weekends. Leave the weekend warriors to battle traffic and crowds and spend a random Wednesday relaxing. (Just keep your mobile phone ready for your Top 20.)
4. There's no way around it -- it's expensive to fly in July. Most domestic carriers have been posting airfare sales that offer discounts through June and then start again in mid-August. Consider taking a road trip instead of flying cross-country, or snag a getaway or Local Deal for a fun experience closer to home.
5. If you need to fly, check our Today's Best Fares section for the best dates to fly on hundreds of routes. Changing your travel dates by a few days either way could save you significant coin.
6. Some like it hot. The summer heat turns off a lot of travelers to Arizona, Las Vegas and Florida. That means that resorts offer up phenomenal deals to lure travelers back. You can stay at 4- and 5-star resorts for 75% less than you would during the peak winter months. Get your golf in early and spend the day's hottest hours in the spa. Keep an eye out for Local Deals in these locations, as restaurants, spas and activities are also looking for business. And if you're in Vegas, remember that it's always 65 degrees in the casino.
7. For trips to popular family destinations such as Orlando or Hawaii, the best summer months for deals are early June or late August. School lets out at different times in different parts of the United States, while you're hanging with Mickey in late August, some poor kids have started the next school year already.
8. Summer is the beginning of hurricane season in the Caribbean, and prices tend to get very aggressive on vacations and beach resorts as a result. Pack some travel insurance with your swimsuit, sunscreen and trashy beach novel, and you'll get a sweet deal. Not a gambler? Aruba is outside the hurricane belt and offers up great deals (and great weather) year-round.
9. Finally, don't forget about fall for bucket-list vacations -- Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. September and October offer up great weather across much of the globe -- and travel prices that can save as much as 50% on summer travel.
So break out the watermelon and bocce balls -- and enjoy the summer, with a little savings to go with your potato salad.
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