Six Ideas for Cheap Summer Vacations

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If you can afford a summer vacation without going into debt, you should certainly take one. Chances are your working harder than ever at work, and are feeling the stress of the economy and everything else. I posted six affordable ideas for summer vacations last year, but this year provides rare opportunities to take dream trips, or at least luxury trips, without breaking the bank.

Timeshare Promotions

If you’re a homeowner, then you can take advantage of a timeshare promotion. Most of them offer weekend or three night summer vacations at a screamingly low price, usually less than $300. You can’t get a decent hotel room anywhere for less than that. Of course you’ll still have to pay for food and entertainment, but most timeshares also include fridges, microwaves, and maybe even cooktop so you can make your lunches and eat breakfast in your room. Of course, you’re trading your time for this offer. They’ll give you hard sell for about 90 minutes and pressure you to sign up right then. Don’t do it. No matter how good it sounds, there is always a catch.

Europe on Sale

Although the dollar is still weaker than the Euro, Europe is seriously suffering from a drop in tourist traffic, from both Europeans and overseas travelers. You can score five-star hotel rooms for four-star prices (or less). You can get into most restaurants without a long wait. Airfares offer great deals, especially if you use national airlines that make stopovers in major cities on their way to other places. Money Magazine also recommends looking at second-tier cities. For example, instead of Tuscany, go to Umbria. Obviously, there’s no substitute for Paris and London, but rather than a week in the big cities, schedule a few days there and then head to a less-popular but still fabulous location for the balance of the week.

Local Summer Vacations

Last year I recommend “staycations.” Just don’t tell anyone that’s what you’re doing. This year, you might even be able to wangle a couple nights at a swanky hotel for 50% off. Museums, amusement parks, and other popular locations are offering specials to lure more people in. Investigate carefully to take advantage of the best deals. If you have an Entertainment Book, look for coupons to sweeten the deals further.

South and Central America Deals

The dollar still goes very far in South and Central American countries. If you want to visit them and aren’t familiar, consider using a site like LuxuryLink for amazing deals. Most of the offers are for off-season or shoulder-season, but summer is actually their off-season. Try to avoid the really wet season, but you should be able to find something affordable with decent weather and reasonable humidity. Before you bid, email the resort to confirm that there are rooms available during your vacation dates, then bid the minimum. It’s very rare to be bid against. Since most flights must travel through the US to reach these destinations, you can usually find decent airfares, too.

Last-Minute Vacation Packages

If you have the flexibility to get away with a few days’ notice, then sign up for last-minute deal alerts from the major travel sites, like Priceline and Travelocity. You can usually find an offer for less than 50% of the full price, often less than you’d pay for booking six months in advance. You can find cruises, hotel/air packages, or whatever else you’re looking for.

Home Swap

You can use a formal home swapping service, but there are alternatives if you want to get away without breaking the bank. If you live in or near a city with tourist attractions or great outdoor activities, call or email a friend in a location you’d like to visit and offer to trade houses. If you only know local people, see if your friends or relatives know people who might want to swap.

If you plan right and use all your resources, you can score some really great travel deals this summer. Just make sure you’re not creating debt when you travel, but if you’ve got the money, this is the year for that dream trip to Paris.

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