Hotels around the globe are slashing rates and throwing in lavish packages to lure travelers to their resorts. Even posh hotel chains such as Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton are making deals. They won't slash rates -- it would undermine their product -- but they are throwing in free nights, essentially a massive price cut.
Airlines responded to the global drop-off in travel by taking planes out of the sky, cutting capacity and trying to raise prices. There are some good flight deals still to be found, but not as many. The real bargains these days are coming from hotels. Unlike airlines, they can't reduce their capacity and are eager to fill otherwise empty rooms, restaurants and spas.
The best example of this is Las Vegas, where thousands of extra hotel rooms are expected to saturate an already-flooded market in coming months. A lack of travelers, and still high airfare, has led hotels in Hawaii to also slash rates.
This is a great time for deals said Jeanenne Diefendorf, a spokeswoman at travel site Orbitz.
"As we get into late summer … kids are going to back to school, a lot of people have taken their vacation," she said. "This is when we start to see the really great promotions."
Diefendorf said hotels are getting creative in trying to get people to their specific properties. And that's why you are seeing things like fourth night free or free breakfast or a $50 spa credit.
"You can travel for really cheap this summer and get a great vacation," she added. "Last summer, the big term we heard was staycation -- people who were just going in their backyard. With the prices as cheap as they are now … you can actually take a vacation for a reasonable price."
Out top picks for specials include a Florida resort where the perks grow along with the guest's age, Vegas specials that will make you think you are seeing a mirage or just ate too much at the all-you-can-eat buffet, a desert resort where your room bill could be zero, a $29 Disney-area hotel, cheap flights to Mexico, cruise specials that make you wonder how they make a profit and finally, a hotel that offers you the chance to save by eliminating the bed.
The Free Desert Resort
The Millennium Resort Scottsdale McCormick Ranch offers a deal that discount site Travelzoo has called "essentially staying for free."
It works like this: book a room any day of the week through Sept. 12 for $99 per night and receive a daily $99 food and beverage credit. Looking for an upgrade? Splurge on a superior room with a courtyard view for $129 per night and receive a $129 daily food and beverage credit through this "Dollar for a Dollar" promotion.
Posh Resort on the Cheap
To take advantage of the deal from Sept. 13 to Oct. 12, just add another $10 to the room rate.
The southwest style resort includes two PGA golf courses, tennis, swimming and lakeside dining. The credit can be used at its restaurant, lakefront lounge, a bar or for room service. Unfortunately, you can't use it to pay for golf.
The package must be booked by Aug. 19.
"We recognize that our potential customers may not have the discretionary vacation dollars that were perhaps available previously; during our traditional 'off and shoulder' seasons we've created value-added packages that allow them to take a vacation that might not have been available otherwise," said Max Roth, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. "This 'Dollar for Dollar' offer, for example, allows a family to extend their available funds by incorporating a credit for their meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner and their choice of beverages."
Roth added that it also helps to keep the hotel's staff employed during this downturn.
Save More With Age
Florida might be a place for the elderly to retire, but now those not quite ready to retire but still with a few years behind them can find a great deal at The Atlantic Hotel, a landmark luxury property on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.
The hotel's Cheers for Years package provides a food and beverage or spa credit equal to the age of the oldest guest in the room. For example, a guest age 54 will receive a credit for $54 for each night during their stay.
"Most hotels and resorts offer promotions targeted at children," Jon McGaunn, general manager of hotel, said in a statement. "The Cheers for Years package is a way for us to reward the person that, in many cases, is paying the bill."
Package rates start at $199 per room, per night, based on availability. Guests must present the driver's license of the oldest member in the party to verify the credit amount per day. The package is valid through Sept. 30.
$19 a Night, Bed Extra
The most mind-boggling offer comes from the luxurious Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego. The hotel is pitching its "Survivor Package," in which guests can remove amenities to lower their rate. Through Aug. 31, guest can get the package, which starts at $219 a night, including breakfast for two.
Eliminate breakfast and the rate drops to $199 a night. Cut the bar and it falls to $179. No air conditioning or heat, pay $159. Cut the pillows and the rate is just $139. For further price cuts guest can eliminate sheets, lights, linens, toiletries and finally the bed.
That's right, for $19 a night you get, well, a room. Staff will remove the mattress and headboard and leave a small tent instead.
The hope is that guests will later return and pay full price.
Sin City has suffered more than most tourist destinations and is deeply discounting rooms to lure travelers. This has been going on for nearly a year but as more and more hotel rooms enter the market, the deals are getting even better.
Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, says that room rates today are 40 percent lower than their peak. In July -- typically one of the slowest seasons at the desert city -- he surveyed 84 casinos and found that 60 of them had rates of $49 a night or less. That's up from 42 that had the low rates last year. Similar deals remain throughout the summer.
"If you are a real shopper and you go on the net," Curtis said, "you can get lots of ad-ons. You will get a cheap room but they will also give you 50 percent off at the spa and two-for-one on buffets and maybe show tickets. There's a lot of bundling available."
Hotels are lowering the rates, hoping that tourists will come, gamble, shop and eat.
"The best thing Vegas can do is get people here," Curtis said. "After that, nature can take its course."
The best deals, he said are on the high end, where luxury hotels are offering once unheard of rates.
For instance, the Wynn Las Vegas is currently throwing in $75 in resort credits with any two-night minimum stay through Sept. 30. Book a suite and the deal gets, well, sweeter. Then the hotel will throw in private car service to and from the airport, daily spa passes for two and free Internet access and phone calls.
Las Vegas on Sale
The Venetian, where summer rates start at $159 a night, is offering a package that includes coupons that the hotel values at more than $150. They include upgraded show tickets, $25 off a $50 bill at one restaurant, 20 percent off the bill at another, two-for-one wax museum admission and $25 in free slot machine play.
More mainstream hotels are also offering some great deals. New York-New York, for instance, is offering a package starting at $59.99 a night that includes two welcome cocktails, a $25 retail credit, two-for-one breakfast, two-for-one spa passes and finally two-for-one passes on the hotel's roller coaster.
The MGM Grand buffet is offering an All Day Meal pass for only $29.99 Monday through Thursday and $39.99 Friday through Sunday. Each pass purchase allows for one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner meal at the buffet. One thing is certain with that package: you won't go home hungry.
"Room rates have been our number-one value every month in 2009," Curtis said, "and there's no sign that the downward pressure on pricing is letting up."
Cruises have always offered great deals for people who want lots of food, one hotel room and the ability to see lots of destinations. But a boom in shipbuilding and the steep drop in leisure travel has left the cruise industry with more rooms than it can fill. That means great deals abound.
Take Princess Cruises for example. The company is offering an eight-day cruise from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico, starting on Oct. 24. This itinerary features six ports of call, including Bermuda and St. Kitts. Meals and entertainment are included. Interior cabins can be had for as little as $499 plus another $108.30 in taxes and fees. That's down from the normal $599.
Yes, it is hurricane season, but at these prices it is probably worth the risk.
Or consider this 14-day "Classic Southern Caribbean" cruise from Princess that starts Nov. 1 from San Juan. It includes 11 ports of call including St. Lucia and Aruba. An inside cabin normally costs $1,198 but is now on sale for $899. Want something more lavish? A mini-suite that normally goes for $2,198 is now reduced to $1,799. Add in $73.39 for government fees and taxes and you have yourself a recession bargain.
Disney World Hotel Sale
OK, so you aren't staying inside the actual park, but at this price who can argue? The Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista in Orlando is offering rooms at $29 a night through Dec. 23. That's half off the normal rate, according to TravelZoo which is helping to promote the deal.
At that price you will be able to buy all the mouse ears and tacky T-shirts you want. Book by Aug. 16 and the hotel will throw in shuttle service to Disney, Universal, Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld and in-room wireless Internet access. For an extra $10 a night the hotel will add a full breakfast buffet for two.
Flights to Mexico for $87
American Airlines is offering flights from New York to Cancun for $87 each way, according to discount travel site Travelzoo. Test booking showed that this sale price was available for select dates between Aug. 18 and Dec. 15.
Yes, like the cruises, you also do run the risk of hurricanes, but pair this cheap flight with hotel deals and it is sure to be an offer too good to pass up. Hotels in the resort town are still suffering a loss of business from the swine flu and are slashing rates to lure visitors.
To sweeten this offer, American is offering members of its frequent flier program, AAdvantage, who live in the greater New York area double miles if they register in advance.