Where to Go This Weekend For Less

Post originally Published March 2, 2024 || Last Updated March 3, 2024

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Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Take Advantage of Shoulder Season Sales

Where to Go This Weekend For Less

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall represent some of the best times to travel if budget is a primary concern. It is during these transitional periods that savvy travelers will find great deals thanks to clever sales from tourism boards and hotels looking to fill any gaps between the busy summer season and the slower winter months.

A prime example would be weekends in October visiting Florida's theme parks. While the summer heat and hordes of vacationing families pack the magic in July and August, October brings relief on both fronts. Weather is still comfortable enough for outdoor activities yet entrance fees and hotel rates drop significantly. A traveler staying at an Orlando resort last weekend paid only $129 per night - nearly half of summer prices - and enjoyed shorter wait times with few crowds during their visit to Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios. It proved to be the perfect post-summer getaway.
Likewise, a driving trip to the beaches and national seashores of North Carolina presented excellent shoulder season finds. Coastal towns like Wilmington and outdoor havens like Cape Hatteras open longing for continued tourism dollars in September and early November. Camping and motel rooms along scenic Highway 12 averaged $59 per night during the ten day road trip. At restaurants along the Cape Fear river and piers overlooking the Atlantic, menus boasted "Fall Off-Season Specials" up to 25% less than summer costs. The mild temperatures, colorful foliage views, and bountiful seafood made it one of the most affordable and enjoyable autumn escapes.

Savvy searches on Google Flights will turn up often surprising non-peak airfare to destinations across America and further afield seeking to attract visitors outside the peak summer months as well. Resorts in the Caribbean may offer 30-50% savings on rooms in September and early October versus high season while flight deals abound. With world-class beaches and azure waters still temperatures in the balmy 80s F, an autumn getaway to Turks and Caicos presented phenomenal value at under $2,000 for two adults including flights, rental car and a week at an all-inclusive resort - an impossible price to find in July or August.

What else is in this post?

  1. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Take Advantage of Shoulder Season Sales
  2. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Look for Package Deals at Drive-To Destinations
  3. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Fly During Off-Peak Times for Big Savings
  4. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Use Points for Free Hotel Stays
  5. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Split Costs By Traveling with Friends
  6. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Camping Lets You Explore Nature on a Budget
  7. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Try a Close-to-Home Staycation
  8. Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Maximize Rewards with a Travel Credit Card

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Look for Package Deals at Drive-To Destinations

When it comes to planning a budget-friendly weekend getaway, one of the best strategies is to look for package deals at drive-to destinations. These package deals often include a combination of accommodation, transportation, and activities, allowing you to save both time and money. Plus, by choosing a drive-to destination, you can eliminate the need for expensive airfare and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of traveling at your own pace.
One of the advantages of opting for a package deal is that it takes the hassle out of planning. Instead of spending hours researching and booking each component of your trip separately, you can rely on the expertise of travel providers who have curated these packages to offer the best value for your money. Many drive-to destinations, such as national parks, beach towns, and scenic countryside areas, have partnered with local hotels, tour operators, and attractions to create enticing package deals that cater to various interests and budgets.
For example, imagine embarking on a weekend getaway to the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. By booking a package deal, you could secure a comfortable room at a charming mountain lodge, enjoy a scenic drive through the picturesque countryside, and take part in activities like hiking, fishing, or exploring nearby waterfalls. These packages often come with added perks, such as discounted rates, complimentary meals, or exclusive access to certain attractions, making your trip even more enjoyable.
Drive-to destinations offer a unique opportunity to explore lesser-known gems and hidden treasures that may not be as crowded or as expensive as popular tourist hotspots. These destinations are often within a few hours' drive from major cities, making them easily accessible for a quick weekend escape. Whether you're craving a relaxing beach getaway, a thrilling outdoor adventure, or a cultural exploration, there are drive-to destinations that cater to every interest and budget.
Many travelers have shared their positive experiences with drive-to package deals. Sarah, a frequent traveler, recently booked a package deal to a charming coastal town in Maine. The package included a cozy seaside cottage, bike rentals to explore the scenic coastal trails, and a lobster dinner at a local seafood restaurant. She was delighted by the convenience and value offered by the package, allowing her to experience the best of the region without breaking the bank.
Similarly, Mark and Lisa, a couple from California, decided to explore the stunning wineries of the Napa Valley. They opted for a package deal that included a luxury hotel stay, a private chauffeured wine tour, and a gourmet dinner at a renowned vineyard. Not only did they save money by booking the package, but they also enjoyed the convenience of having everything arranged for them, allowing them to relax and fully immerse themselves in the wine country experience.

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Fly During Off-Peak Times for Big Savings

One of the best ways to save money when planning weekend getaways or dream vacations is to fly during off-peak times. This strategy allows travelers to take advantage of lower airfare that can translate into hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in savings. For the flexible traveler, flying in the off-season provides an opportunity to visit popular destinations around the world while avoiding the crowds and inflated prices of peak travel periods.

The off-peak calendar varies across destinations, but generally centers on avoiding major holidays, school vacations and the busy summer season. For tropical locales like Hawaii and the Caribbean, late spring and fall offer warm weather with far fewer tourists. Airfare to Hawaii in October can be hundreds less than primetime rates in July or August. A couple flying from the West Coast to Maui paid only $380 roundtrip in mid-October 2022 versus nearly $1000 for the same flights during summer peak.
Europe's off-peak runs October to March excluding the Christmas holidays. Savvy travelers willing to brave cooler temperatures are rewarded with savings of 40% or more on flights and accommodation versus peak summer. A flight from New York to Paris in early November can be had for as little as $400 roundtrip compared to $1200+ in August. With smaller crowds, off-peak visitors gain access to major sites and enjoy a less hectic experience overall.

For domestic travel, it pays to avoid major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break when demand drives up airfares. Weekdays are generally less expensive than weekends year-round. Flexible travelers can save hundreds by flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays compared to peak days like Fridays and Sundays. Departing early and returning later in the day often yields additional savings.

No matter the destination, maintaining flexibility on dates opens the door to huge savings - as much as 50% less than peak travel. Services like Google Flights make it easy to quickly compare fares across an entire month to pinpoint the lowest rates. The savings from flying off-peak allows travelers to splurge on upgrades or extend their trips.
Mark, a high school teacher, relies on the summer off-peak season for his big annual vacation. In 2022, he flew from New York to Copenhagen in late August, enjoying comfortable 70 degree days exploring the Danish capital and countryside. His $480 roundtrip ticket on Delta was less than half the peak season cost, allowing him to indulge in stays at luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Likewise, Jennifer and Brad, a Virginia couple, saved over $600 each flying to Mexico for a 10-day September escape to the Riviera Maya. With the savings, they upgraded from a modest hotel to an all-inclusive luxury resort. Off-peak travel made this a trip of a lifetime rather than just an ordinary getaway.

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Use Points for Free Hotel Stays

Leveraging rewards points for free hotel stays is a strategic way for budget travelers to maximize their points and experience luxurious accommodation without breaking the bank. For savvy points-and-miles enthusiasts, hotel loyalty programs such as Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and World of Hyatt offer rewarding perks in exchange for nightly stays.
Dedicated points collectors diligently accumulate tens of thousands of points each year through everyday spending on their credit cards and occasional welcome bonuses. Juggling multiple cards to earn lucrative sign-up bonuses and categorizing all purchases has become second nature for some, allowing astronomical balances to accrue. Thomas from San Francisco shares how his rigorous strategy resulted in enough Marriott Bonvoy points for seven consecutive nights at a Category 8 property in London valued near $4,000 without dipping into his own wallet. "It was like being paid to travel!" he beams.

Other frequent travelers dedicate points to specific aspirational hotel dreams whether tropical beach resorts or pulsating urban hotspots. For Brian and Sarah's tenth anniversary getaway, they opted to "pay" with 200,000 World of Hyatt points for four luxury nights at the Andaz Maui Resort with its private beach, on-site restaurant, and rejuvenating spa - a priceless experience courtesy of their points stockpile. Countless others share stories of discovering new destinations thanks to fortuitous points redemptions at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, boutique hotels in Paris, and more.

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Split Costs By Traveling with Friends

One tried and true way for the budget-conscious to keep weekend getaway costs in check is by teaming up with friends. Splitting accommodation, rental cars, activities, and sometimes even airfare and gas makes every travel dollar stretchExponentially further. Plus, hitting the road or skies together enhances the whole experience, creating lasting memories built on camaraderie and shared adventures.
Jenn, a Denver nurse, and three college friends have kept their annual beach trip tradition alive for over a decade. Each fall they scout flight deals using Google Flights to hone in on the lowest fares from Denver to spots like Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City Beach. Booking together nets them not only the security of sitting together but also savings of up to 25% with group rates. Once on the ground, costs stay low by splitting one large vacation rental equipped with a full kitchen. Dinners in and potluck group meals offset pricey beach bar tabs. By sharing the trip costs, they each keep to a $500 budget for an unforgettable sunny escape.

Mark and his two brothers have bonded over yearly summer road trips to America's national parks ever since their college days. While life's responsibilities make it harder to coordinate schedules, they still prioritize these quality guy getaways. Renting one SUV at $50 per day and camping rather than staying in park lodges significantly cuts costs. They divvy up bringing equipment and food items too. At night around the campfire beneath the stars, they reminisce about past adventures and plan future trips together.
Leslie and a group of nine friends orchestrate an annual yoga retreat weekend, rotating homes in bucolic locales like New York's Hudson Valley and Vermont's Green Mountains. Each participant chips in $50 to cover food, activities, even bringing their own yoga mats and props. Bonding through shared interests and wellness activities enables lasting connections. As Leslie describes it, “the memories and spiritual renewal far outweigh the minimal costs.”

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Camping Lets You Explore Nature on a Budget

For outdoor enthusiasts seeking to reconnect with nature without draining their wallets, camping offers an ideal solution. Sleeping under the stars, cooking over a campfire, and disconnecting from daily routines come at a fraction of the cost of other accommodation options. From road tripping to national parks to weekend glamping getaways, camping makes experiencing the great outdoors accessible.
Jessica of Kansas City relishes weekend camping trips as a chance to unwind in nature with her partner Chris. Using their own gear keeps costs minimal, and state park rates average just $15-$30 per night for a campsite. "Rather than forking over hundreds for a hotel, we can spend less than $100 for a 2-night camping trip and still have an amazing time," Jessica said. They especially enjoy camping during the fall when the crowds thin out. Waking up to fall foliage, hiking scenic trails and stargazing offer an affordable escape from city life.

Mark, a teacher from Missouri, spends his summers camping across the western national parks with his wife and two daughters. "We invested in a used popup camper which made all the difference in making these trips doable for our family," he said. While lodge stays are pricey, securing campsites at parks like Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Glacier range from $15-$45 per night. Cooking breakfast and dinner themselves further reduces costs for a typical two week adventure. For Mark, camping brings the Rockies within reach and delivers lifelong memories with his kids.
Those seeking added convenience can book through platforms like hipcamp.com which provide options like pre-pitched glamping tents with beds and linens included. Users can browse everything from remote mountain sites to luxurious "glampgrounds" like Collective Retreats where many details are handled. Prices remain budget-friendly compared to equivalently appointed hotels.
Emily, a frequent Hipcamp user, enjoys the flexibility it provides. "I can find amazing sites suiting my budget and interests whether it's hilltop glamping or rustic riverfront camping," she said. A weekend recharging in a thoughtfully designed safari tent with A/C and a real bed met her comfort needs. For longer rafting trips along the Rogue River, simple riverside tent sites proved the perfect fit at just $15 per night.

Notably, camping also represents a smart lodging strategy when exploring expensive destinations, allowing you to devote funds elsewhere. Camping for free on government land let Laura's family splurge on Alaskan whale watching tours and glacier treks. "We saved at least $2,000 on lodging by camping which made the trip possible," Laura explained. Their kids gained priceless outdoor memories between hiking and fishing too.

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Try a Close-to-Home Staycation

Whether it's due to budget, time constraints or current events, sometimes the best weekend escape is no further than your own backyard. Staycations present the perfect opportunity for residents to rediscover the charm in their own communities and take advantage of hometurf deals for delightful savings.

Exploring one's own city as a tourist uncovers hidden gems and local favorites. Pauline of Chicago challenges herself to visit a new-to-her museum, restaurant or neighborhood every staycation - and is blown away by how much her own Windy City still has yet to offer. She and her husband Steve keep costs minimal by taking public transit or walking when possible. Budget-friendly Airbnbs in fresh districts deliver on novelty while eliminating travel costs.

"I'm consistently amazed how staycations let us rediscover Chicago and make memories without even leaving the city limits," Pauline said. "It feels like mini vacations scattered throughout the year that we look forward to."

Similarly, the Hartwells of Phoenix take periodic staycations with their young daughters to expose them to attractions around town. They've explored the Desert Botanical Garden, hiked Camelback Mountain, and visited the Children's Museum - all conveniently close to home. Staying at their city's Residence Inn lets the girls swim at night and enjoy the breakfast buffet each morning.

"With little ones, being able to head home quickly if needed is a major plus," mom Melanie Hartwell said. "The girls get so excited for our Phoenix adventures - it's opened their eyes to how cool our hometown is."

Friends Tiffany and Allison of Seattle also swear by staycations as a way to reset without losing productivity. For a recent getaway, they treated themselves to a waterfront hotel on Lake Union complete with a spa, happy hour deals, and views of the Space Needle. Mornings kayaking the tranquil waterways delivered serenity before afternoons spent lounging by the pool.
Staycations also present the perfect opportunity for giving back to one's community.Neighborhood volunteering can be especially rewarding. New Orleans residents Barbara and Frank spent one meaningful weekend rebuilding a community garden damaged by recent storms. Other weekends they've helped construct homes with Habitat for Humanity and cleaned up litter along Lake Ponchartrain's shores.

Where to Go This Weekend For Less - Maximize Rewards with a Travel Credit Card

For dedicated points collectors, travel credit cards represent one of the most powerful tools for optimizing rewards. Not only do many top-tier cards offer sizeable sign-up bonuses, but they also allow users to earn increased rewards in popular travel categories such as flights, hotels, rental cars and even streaming services or commuting expenses.

Consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred, currently offering 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Sign-up bonuses alone can fund aspirational trips to Europe, Asia or beyond. But by categorizing daily purchases under bonus earning categories, points balances replenish continuously. Brian from New York shares how using his Sapphire Preferred for recurring MetroCards and groceries nets 8-10,000 points monthly for aspirational trips to places like Iceland's northern lights or California's Napa Valley without noticeable lifestyle changes. "It really lets me seek out deals without concern for budget."

Others dedicate entire wallets to travel rewards cards, juggling multiple cards by keeping track using spreadsheets. Diego from Texas owns a dozen cards geared for maximum flexibility when planning trips. His strategy involves intensive triple-dip opportunities, such as the American Express Platinum card for 5x points earned on flights then booked through the Amex Travel portal. Points combined from the Citi Prestige and Wells Fargo Propel provide luxury hotels and experiences throughout Europe. Card strategies require work but yield outsized rewards.

Emily from Colorado offers caution to beginners however, emphasizing "these cards aren’t free, they require discipline to avoid interest." Putting all expenses on a card demands keeping meticulous tabs to avoid fees. Instead of stressing, Emily eases into new cards starting with one simple reward categories card used exclusively, pairing intention with rewards. With responsible usage, cards greatly multiply travel funds while strengthening credit reports.

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