The final long weekend of summer is scarily close—Labor Day is September 5—but that doesn't mean it's too late to plan a getaway. (By the time the long weekend arrives, Irene will have come and gone.)
With last-minute deals flooding the web, your weekend away can be had on a budget—with these smarter-travel strategies.
Flights On Sale
Think last-minute fares are always outrageous? The deal-trackers at Travelzoo say that's not so, as long as you're willing to fly out on Saturday and extend the weekend by flying home on Tuesday. Fares this week are coming in under a hundred bucks each way as long as you're staying relatively close to home. Among other deals, Travelzoo has Los Angeles to Las Vegas for as low as $29 each way, Kansas City to New Orleans for $59 or Washington, D.C. to Fort Lauderdale for $72.
Package deals have two advantages: You'll get negotiated-in-advance savings as well as the convenience of one-stop travel planning. No need to sift through airfares, car rentals and accommodations while keeping track of multiple bookings. It's all included with a deal from a supplier like Travel-Ticker, which has a three-night special on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands that should be called "Instant Vacation." The $649 price tag includes air from Miami, with other gateways for a bit more, all meals, drinks, tips—even free scuba lessons.
Discount Hotel Rooms
The travel experts at Orbitz say Boston, Denver, Los Angeles and Orlando are some of the most popular destinations this Labor Day. The reason could be the discount hotels, with the average rate across all four markets at just $123 a night. That's considerably less than you'd pay in the number one Labor Day destination of New York, where the average nightly rate tops $200.
Or Skip The Hotel
Just because you're going away doesn't mean you'll need a hotel room. Vacation rentals are booming—and can often be an inexpensive but high-quality alternative to a cookie cutter chain. Rental site Wimdu has everything from studio apartments in Paris to a house boat in Boston to a garden cottage in San Francisco's Mission district, all for very reasonable rates.
Discount Car Rentals
Negotiating car rental rates can be a byzantine nightmare, but AutoSlash offers a clever way to cut down on the cost. By scouring the web for discounts—and applying them on your behalf—the site digs up some of the cheapest rates anywhere. Still, if you're very flexible, you may do even better with a last-minute blind booking on a site like Priceline.com or Hotwire, The New York Times reported earlier this summer.