Torn because you need a vacation but are worried about the economy? Sales on airfare, hotel discounts, and other ways to save distinguish this spring's crop of top bargain destinations, and give budget travelers more getaway options.
I've monitored trends, industry news, and sale patterns to point you in the direction of places that offer the best bargain value for the coming season. Below you'll find examples of deals presently available for spring trips. Like all deals, these are sure to expire; however, a little research on your part can yield similar results when you're ready to book.
Las Vegas thrives in times when visitors embrace a burning-through-money mentality. So it's no surprise that fewer people are making Sin City pilgrimages these days. In fact, in 2008, Las Vegas McCarran Airport saw the biggest drop in passenger numbers since 1981. Travel providers are reacting with sales meant to entice wary travelers into a Vegas vacation.
Vegas.com was advertising packages with round-trip airfare and two nights' accommodations starting at $111 from San Francisco or $247 from Chicago. Alaska has a sale through February 19 (for travel through May 20) with fares such as $198 round-trip from Portland, Oregon. Southwest, United, and Virgin America all recently ended sales that included Vegas, and are likely to offer similar deals for spring travel. US Airways Vacations is promoting four-night, air-and-hotel packages to Las Vegas starting at $118.
Hotels are cutting prices and adding perks as well. Circus Circus is offering up to 35% off room rates, the Golden Nugget has a $59 weeknight special, and SpaWeek.com has a package available through April 30 that offers two nights' accommodations at the Las Vegas Hilton, six buffets, two spa passes, and two cocktails for $135.
SmarterTravel readers reported on their recent experiences in Vegas. Some noted particularly good deals such as $71 round-trip from Phoenix on Southwest, $39 per weeknight at the Flamingo Hotel, and deep discounts at upscale clothing stores on the Strip. And one reader mentioned that it didn't seem as busy as usual, citing fewer lines for cabs and easier table access at casinos.
The sun may be shining and the sea clear, but in the Bahamas, resorts are feeling the clouds of the economic downturn. Fewer visitors this winter—traditionally the busiest season—means travel providers are scrambling to convince undecided travelers with flashy (and steep) discounts.
You can't swing a beach towel without hitting some kind of discounted vacation deal for the Bahamas this spring. For bookings made by March 1, the mega-resort Atlantis has a package offering four nights for the price of three, free stays for kids 11 and under, and a swim with dolphins from $499. Visitors to Nassau Paradise Island can receive a $200 rebate on three-night air-inclusive vacation packages booked by March 9. Plus, JetBlue just started daily nonstop service from Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando with introductory fares from $49 each way.