The calendar just turned to April, and begins a travel period with some of the most competitive offers in the spring season.
The weeks between Easter (April 8) and Memorial Day (May 28) is a time called “shoulder season” in many popular destinations. Pretty logically, shoulder season falls in between “peak season,” a time when costs are as big as the crowds, and “off season,” when the weather may not cooperate, driving prices lower.
Here are seven sweet spots to save this spring:
Coasts: Come Memorial Day, rates at popular summer destinations from the Monterey Peninsula to the Jersey Shore skyrocket. But before that, as kids are still in school and families haven’t embarked on their summer vacations, rates can be very competitive. Not to be overlooked are Myrtle Beach, S.C., South Padre, Monterey and Atlantic City -- where savings can reach 50%.
Europe: In the summer months, roundtrip tickets across the pond cost often run over $1000. But flying a few months before in April and May could result in booking a good European fare sale for as low as $600-$700. Another option: keep an eye on last-minute European vacation deals that could pop up in the weekly Top 20 newsletter; sometimes savings with these package deals can be 30% or more.
Cruises: As the seasons change, so do itineraries for cruise ships. In the spring, cruise lines often move their ships from one popular area to another. With these moves come unique itineraries, often at discounted rates. We’ve found that popular repositioning itineraries include the Caribbean to Europe and Southern California to Alaska.
Hawaii: With perpetually perfect weather, Hawaii’s seasonality depends on when visitors can travel and less on the forecast. Prime times to visit are spring break and summer along with the winter holidays, but for people looking to visit during the spring months of April, May and June – rates at top Hawaiian resorts drop by $100 or more. The most moderately price hotels are near Waikiki in Honolulu, but don’t pass over Maui, where we’ve seen many noteworthy deals from highly rated resorts.
Warm-weather destinations: As the rest of the country thaws out from winter, so do high rates in Florida and Arizona. May and April provide a chance to experience some upscale, top-rated properties at destinations from South Beach to Scottsdale for hundreds of dollars off what they would cost in January and February. Before you pack your bags, look for discounts on golf -- oftentimes courses will offer re-play specials with a second round free or twilight discounts on tee times after lunch. Looking to relax? Most properties have highly rated spas, which also offer discounts or credits.
Rockies: In the mountain regions, “shoulder season” takes another name: “mud season.” Resorts in Colorado, Utah and British Columbia can charge sky high rates in winter, but spring months can bring savings of as much as 70% compared with ski season.
Caribbean and Mexico: As spring breakers get back on planes to go home, beaches at resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico empty, bringing down vacation as well as hotel rates. Popular spots including Cancun, Riviera Maya, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic go on sale, but so do more exclusive spots including Barbados, St. Lucia, Aruba or Curacao.