Last year’s travel buzzword was “staycation,” an idea that promoted the benefits of thinking local instead of plunking down a credit card for a luxurious vacation getaway. As the economy has taken even more of a nosedive, travel-shy consumers can now benefit from the deep discounts being offered by resorts and airlines, discounts so deep that you just might be tempted to pack your bags.
We talked with Barbara Messing, the Vice President of Travel Ticker, a division of Hotwire that tracks the best insider travel deals, including special limited-time offers, small hotels you wouldn’t normally find online and exotic locations. Messing publishes her own weekly picks of the best deals in the “Barbara’s Best” section of the site-and sees this as one of the best times to book a vacation.
“The silver lining of this economic downturn is that there have never been better travel bargains. These are truly the best deals I’ve ever seen,” Messing says. “It’s a pretty amazing time to travel if you can put down your credit card now. You’ll get more value than ever.”
Here are some reasons why you should travel now:
Even luxury resorts are offering deep discounts. That’s right: You don’t have to stay in a cheap motel to get a good bargain. For the first time in recent memory, you can stay at the hottest properties in town without having to pay premium prices. “This is one of the most interesting trends we’re seeing: Luxurious, aspirational properties, like the plush new, four and a half-star Intercontinental in San Francisco, which has a fantastic spa or the Biltmore, which is a classic Phoenix resort, are offering great prices,” Messing says. “The Biltmore, for instance, is about 45% off, and we’re actually seeing this during peak season, not in the middle of the summer when you wouldn’t want to go to Arizona.”
Two favorite destinations-Hawaii and Vegas-are at all-time low prices. “All of Hawaii is basically on sale; all of the hotels are discounting heavily,” Messing notes, due to reduced flights to the always popular destination. Makes sense. They’d rather offer rock-bottom prices than have empty rooms. “In Vegas, there’s the combination of an incredible hotel building boom with reduced business travel, so it’s like a red tag sale of four- and five-star properties on the strip like the Wynn, the the Palazzo, and Palm Place.”
All-inclusives are a great deal for the budget-conscious traveler and families. By going with an all-inclusive package, you pay one price up front for everything, so there are no surprises. “There are a ton of deals at all-inclusive resorts, especially at the new hotels along the Mexican Riviera, which would rather offer deep discounts than have empty rooms,” Messing says. “Resort pricing on food and beverage can be higher than you might expect, so this way, you can just enjoy that margarita without worrying about the $15 price tag.”
The deal can do all the talking. Instead of setting your heart on one particular destination, decide what kind of vacation you’d like and then explore the deals out there. “It’s such a great time to travel that I’d recommend letting the deal be the inspiration. For instance, if you want a beach vacation, be open to the Caribbean and Mexico and just look for the best deal.”
Even local vacations can be a good getaway. “A lot of four- and five-star hotels in big cities are empty on the weekends,” Messing says. “You can save on airfare by finding a great deal and driving there.” Now might be the ideal time for the weekend in the city you’ve dreamed about. You’ll probably have enough money left over for a meal in a restaurant and a show.
The news is not all good. The larger airlines have tightened up on baggage restrictions and they’ve passed those costs on to the customer. But here’s one last tip. If at all possible, try to get everything into a carry-on. If you just can’t bear to leave certain items behind, try to avoid baggage fees altogether. “Look for flights on airlines like Virgin America, Alaska and Southwest, which don’t charge you to check a bag,” Messing explains.