Despite its much-anticipated arrival, summer vacation is usually associated with large crowds and high prices. It may be for these reasons that an estimated 63 percent of Americans surveyed by Skift said they won't be taking a vacation this summer. While it's true that the price of a vacation and volume of domestic travelers have increased since 2013 (according to a recent survey conducted by Orbitz.com), a summer getaway isn't out of the question for budget-minded travelers.
According to Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor of Orbitz.com, 70 percent of Orbitz users are expected to vacation in June or July this year. So if you can stand to put off your escape until early August, you can take advantage of late-season deals while also avoiding one of the top 10 busiest travel days of the summer -- July 3.
Now that you know when to go, where are you headed? Tornatore helped U.S. News answer that question, offering advice on which destinations will be the most affordable and the least crowded this summer.
In Pictures: 5 Affordable Places to Hide from Summer Crowds
Yes, this is the Big Easy's steamiest season, with frequent rainfall and average temperatures climbing into the 90s. It's because of these somewhat unpleasant conditions that NOLA empties out, ushering in better hotel deals. According to Tornatore, top-rated properties like the Le Pavillion Hotel and The Roosevelt New Orleans are offering rates on Orbitz for less than $200 a night for an early August weekend stay. Prices for these same hotels are up $50 to $200 more during peak season (between February and May). Along with the wallet-friendly hotel deals, August also offers an opportune time to tour some indoor attractions you may have skipped in the cooler months. Instead of sweating through a cemetery or ghost tour, enjoy the air conditioning and exhibits offered at the National D-Day Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art or Mardi Gras World. If you visit in August, make some time to experience COOLinary New Orleans, a monthlong foodie feast with more than 50 participating restaurants. And if you're an audiophile, you should plan to visit toward the beginning of the month to catch Satchmo SummerFest, a free jazz festival dedicated to Louis Armstrong.
Trade in your skis for your hiking boots with a summer visit to Vail, Colorado. Though it's usually teeming with powder hounds during the ski season, Vail clears out every summer, prompting hotels to lure adventure-seekers with affordable rooms. Nightly rates at some of Vail's best hotels, such as Beaver Creek Lodge and The Lodge at Vail run around $200. Compare these prices with a January visit -- when these same rooms cost between $300 to $400 per night -- and it's easy to see why a summer trip to Vail is more economical. On top of saving money on lodging, you'll also avoid lift ticket costs. Several of Vail's best outdoor spaces (like the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Holy Cross Wilderness Area) are free to explore. Take advantage of the pleasant summer temps by attending one of the valley's outdoor events, like the Vail International Dance Festival in June or the Vail Jazz Festival, which runs from June to September. Tornatore also suggests heading 38 miles southeast to Breckenridge for equally agreeable lodging deals.
Like New Orleans, late summer temperatures in Phoenix are pretty toasty (think triple digits). But the dry heat you'll encounter in the Valley of Sun is a little more bearable thanks to the lack of humidity. If the high temps get in the way of your golf game, retreat to one of the city's spas. Some of Phoenix's best wellness retreats can be found in top hotels like The Boulders and the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, both of which offer nightly rates for less than $150 in August. If you look at peak season pricing (between November and April), you'll find rooms at both properties are more than $400 a night. When you're not getting pampered, take advantage of the end-of-summer deals offered by Phoenix's top attractions. Every Tuesday from May through August, the Phoenix Zoo offers $10 admission (entrance for adults usually costs $20). Or, head to the Desert Botanical Garden for flashlight tours (included with admission), offered every Thursday and Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. from June through the end of August. Tornatore also recommends looking into a Sedona, Arizona getaway to take advantage of similar hotel deals.
Travelers are usually deterred from scheduling an end-of-summer Caribbean getaway due to the threat of Atlantic hurricane season (which peaks between August and October). However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's predictions indicate a near-normal or below-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2014. If you can deal with a little bit of soggy weather, you'll enjoy some unbeatable deals and a spectacularly lush landscape, especially in St. Lucia. Nightly rates for early August stays at some of the island's most luxurious hotels, like Ladera and Anse Chastanet, are a little more than $300 (peak season prices can be more than double that figure). Make the most of the verdant surroundings by exploring the island with a rainforest hike through The Pitons or, for a less strenuous challenge, a walk through the Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall. August also marks the hatching period for leatherback turtles on Grand Anse Beach; catch this rare wildlife show with a nighttime Heritage Tour.
Palm Springs, California
If your ideal summer vacation includes lounging by a pool under the shade of a palm tree, then a getaway to Palm Springs, California, is your best bet. Fair warning: The desert temperatures in August are sweltering, but luckily the city is full of posh pools perfect for taking a cool dip. Several hotels, like The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, The Saguaro and the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, host weekend pool parties complete with DJs and cocktails. Speaking of hotels, you'll find affordable rates in top properties across the city, especially at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa and the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, which both offer early August stays for a little more than $100 per night. When you need a break from the pool scene, tour some of the city's best indoor (read: air-conditioned) attractions, like the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway. For more summer deals -- including spa credits and restaurant discounts -- consult the Visit Greater Palm Springs website.
-- Ann Rivall