Labor Day weekend is approaching and the end of summer is soon upon us. But there's still time to fit in a last-minute vacation before sending your kids back to school and preparing for the hectic workweeks that await you this fall. Whether you're traveling with your family or a group of friends, be sure to choose a destination that offers something for everyone in your party so you can end your summer on a high note.
There are plenty of resources available for last-minute travel deals, including Expedia, Hotels.com and, of course, JetBlue Getaways. And if you're in need of a little inspiration before you book your own trip, here are some of my favorite places to go for a last-minute getaway with my friends, children or husband.
Get Away with Girlfriends in Key West:
A trip to Key West combines a little adventure with a lot of R&R, the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.
Although there are flights available that bring you directly into Key West, I recommend flying into Ft. Lauderdale and renting a car. There's no better way to spend quality time with a group of girlfriends than taking a mini road trip to paradise.
After arriving in Key West it became easy to understand why someone would write a how-to guide on quitting your job and moving there. The atmosphere is so laid back that I can honestly say I've never been as relaxed as I was when I vacationed there. I was more than happy to surrender my heels, dresses and purse for flip-flops, bathing suits and a good book.
I pulled up the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa and was immediately greeted with a glass of champagne. Once onsite, I didn't get back into my car until it was time to head back to the airport. The hotel's property and amenities are spectacular, but its location is really what makes staying at this Hyatt so desirable. It's just a stone's throw from historic Duval Street and steps from Mallory Square, where visitors can enjoy the beautiful "Sunset Celebration" each night. Hyatt's resort in Key West is walking distance from all the island's greatest sights and sounds, but for anyone with tired feet, there are plenty of pedicabs available to transport you from one place to another.
Although it's impossible to grow bored of the gorgeous beach views on Key West, I'd suggest taking a snorkeling trip to the coral reef just off the Florida Keys. Whether you spend a few hours swimming with the fish or make a whole day of it, you will be blown away by some of nature's most beautiful creatures that swim so close to the shore.
However you spend your days in Key West, whether at the beach, walking the streets or out in the water, definitely plan to spend an evening unwinding at Conch Republic Seafood, where you can enjoy a great meal and drinks while looking out onto the Key West Marina. Head to Conch Republic in the late afternoon so that on your stroll down to the restaurant you can make a stop in the seaport to watch -- and maybe even participate in -- the daily feeding of the huge tarpon at 4 p.m. And if you and your girlfriends have something to celebrate, stop by the Southernmost Beach Café for a cocktail and take in the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Make Memories with Family in Duck, North Carolina:
If you're looking to fit in a final family vacation before the summer ends, then head to Duck, North Carolina, in the Outer Banks. It's a wonderful place for parents and children of all ages to spend time together in the great outdoors. There aren't many hotels in Duck, so most vacationers opt to rent a house, either for just one family to stay in or a multiple share.
There are seven miles of expansive, clean beaches that are easily accessible from any rental property. Relax in Duck by bringing a cooler to the beach and spending a day soaking up the sun, or renting a bike so you can ride around and explore this quaint town. I'd also suggest visiting Jockey's Ridge State Park, the tallest natural sand dune on the East Coast, in the neighboring town of Nags Head. Hang-glide, sand-board and fly kites at this Outer Banks landmark.
When your stomach starts to rumble, satisfy your hunger with local seafood fare. Perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Outer Banks is Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head, an unassuming establishment located in a local strip mall. I never expected to have such an incredible meal in this popular hole in the wall. Back in Duck, head to The Blue Point to enjoy some great food while looking out over the Currituck Sound.
And no visit to the Outer Banks is complete without a trip to Duck Donuts. The experience is as fun as it is delicious. After ordering their doughnuts, customers can watch their treats being prepped and cooked fresh. But be prepared to wait; the shop tends to draw a large crowd, and since these doughnuts aren't premade you can find yourself standing in line while others with large orders are being taken care of.
Find Romance in Newport Beach, California
Hectic work and personal schedules can make it difficult for couples to find one-on-one time. That's why I always suggest that couples travel on a romantic getaway whenever they get a chance to.
If you're in need of a vacation for just you and your significant other, then consider heading to Newport Beach, California, which is so beautiful this time of year. While making the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, share a special moment with your beloved as you take in the picturesque ocean views and stunning rock formations below.
Newport Beach is small, so you won't find many hotels to stay at within the town itself -- and there aren't any "cheap" options, either. But the environment is so special that I'd suggest you splurge and stay at The Resort at Pelican Hill, even if just for one night. Enjoy activities that celebrate just you and your loved one, whether that means relaxing with a couple's massage at the hotel's renowned spa or playing a round of golf together. Take a dip in the ocean, enjoy long walks through the sand and take in the gorgeous landscape.
Take a ferry to Balboa Island, an artsy community with many wonderful boutiques and restaurants. Or head off the beaten path without leaving town by taking a trip to Inspiration Point, where you will find one of the most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Pack a picnic basket or just watch the breathtaking sunset; either way, you can't go wrong.
Whatever you choose to do with your significant other while in Newport Beach, the experience will be truly special.
No matter where you go for an end-of-summer getaway, be sure to allow for plenty of travel time, just as you would during the holidays. A lot of vacationers will be fitting in a last-minute jaunt on and before the Labor Day weekend, so prepare to wait in long security lines at the airport and sit in traffic if you take an impromptu road trip.
Where would you suggest traveling to for a final trip before the summer ends? Share your recommendations in the comment section and follow me on Twitter (@Wingwoman_Tracy) for more travel tips.