Top five off-peak destinations for summer

This summer, hot-weather locales in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean top our list of the best off-peak destinations. If you don't mind a little (or a lot) of heat and humidity, you can easily save hundreds of dollars on accommodations, airfare, and activities. New Orleans, Phoenix, Belize, St. Maarten, and Antigua round out this summer's list.

New Orleans

Put your travel dollars to good use this summer and plan a trip to the Big Easy. With tourism still below pre-Hurricane Katrina levels, the money you spend on accommodations, activities, food, and drinks will pump life back into local businesses. Plus, summer is traditionally New Orleans' low season so you'll find bargain prices, particularly at hotels and on airfare-and-hotel vacation packages.

In fact, I found savings of up to $384 compared to late-fall package prices.

Package:Airfare from Atlanta and three nights' hotel Provider:Travelocity Off-peak rate:$349 (July 16 to 19) Peak rate:$613 (November 12 to 15)

Package:Airfare from Chicago (O'Hare), four nights' hotel Provider:Travelocity Off-peak rate:$684 (July 28 to August 1) Peak rate:$1,068 (October 27 to 31)

Package:Airfare from Newark, five nights' hotelProvider:TravelocityOff-peak rate: $527 (August 18 to 23)Peak rate: $646 (November 3 to 8)

Package:Airfare from San Diego, seven nights' hotelProvider: Travelocity Off-peak rate:$717 (August 5 to 12)Peak rate: $982 (October 21 to 28)

Prices are per person based on double occupancy and include taxes and fees.

New Orleans hosts festivals nearly every weekend year-round, and summer is no exception. June brings PrideFest, a two-day celebration of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) lifestyles, with live music, drag performers, and more on June 28 and 29. July 4 through 6 brings the Essence Music Festival, headlined by major artists including Kanye West and Rihanna, with local artists such as the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's Gospel Revival performing on a smaller stage.

Satchmo SummerFest, dedicated to New Orleans native Louis Armstrong, is celebrated July 31 to August 31 with live jazz music on the lawn of the Old U.S. Mint and food booths with local specialties like shrimp po' boys, seafood gumbo, and pecan pie.

Looking for more New Orleans trip ideas? Escapes Under $500 columnist Anne Banas recently shared tips for affordable visits to the French Quarter and information about volunteering in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. is a good source of information for trips to the Crescent City.


Named this year's number-one city for vacation value by Hotwire, Phoenix offers plenty of summertime off-peak discounts. If you don't mind dry, hot weather (think temperatures around 100), you can take advantage of slashed hotel rates.

In my comparisons of spring shoulder-season hotel rates with low-season summer rates, I found savings as high as $150.

Hotel:Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa Room type: Classic king roomOff-peak rate: $149Shoulder-season rate:$299

Hotel:FireSky Resort and SpaRoom type:Patio guest room with two queen bedsOff-peak rate: $145Shoulder-season rate:$199

Hotel:Gainey Suites Hotel, ScottsdaleRoom type: Studio suite kingOff-peak rate: $99Shoulder-season rate:$189

Hotel:Legacy Golf ResortRoom type: Studio suiteOff-peak rate: $81.75Shoulder-season rate: $105

Prices are per night based on double occupancy and were found on each hotel's website. Off-peak rates are based on stays from August 4 to 7, and shoulder-season rates are based on stays from May 19 to 22.

Lounging by the hotel pool, enjoying spa treatments, and hitting the links at one of the area's more than 200 golf courses are all good ways to spend time in Phoenix, but there are other reasons to venture outside the hotel grounds. You can beat the heat in the morning by visiting the Downtown Phoenix Public Market when it opens at 8 a.m on Saturdays. The market showcases local products, from produce and flowers to arts and crafts. You can also take advantage of inexpensive ($10 donation requested) yoga lessons and gardening lectures at the market.

If you want a little culture along with your sun time, you might look into the ShowUp NOW pass, which includes admission to 14 Phoenix-area attractions all for one price. Included are the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, the Phoenix Art Musuem, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Phoenix Zoo, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West Panorama Tour. Passes start at $24 for three attractions.

Luxury hotels in the Phoenix and nearby Scottsdale areas cut rates by as much as $300 in summer, so you can stay at a resort that might normally be out of your price range at a fraction of the usual cost. In addition, hotel packages are available at some resorts, and often include discounted rates, resort credits, discounted golf, and/or free upgrades. The Phoenix and Scottsdale CVBs both have summer package information.

You can find trip-planning information in USA TODAY's Phoenix city guide or on Phoenix's CVB website,


Bordered by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea, Belize is an ideal choice for a summer getaway. Although summer is Belize's "green" or rainy season, you needn't fear spending your vacation huddled under an umbrella—rain showers are brief and usually don't last for long. A trip to Belize can include beach time, an island getaway, and inland adventure trips, all during one vacation. Plus, accommodations and activities are deeply discounted in summer, so your trip can be significantly less expensive than it would be during other times of year.

This summer, there are loads of deals for Belize travel; so many, in fact, that the country's tourism board created the Summer In Belize website to advertise the various specials. Offers include free-night promotions at properties including Chabil Mar Villas, Grand Colony Island Villas, Jaguar Paw Jungle Resort, and Victoria House.

Plus, El Pescador has a buy-one-get-one-free for its single-occupancy packages, while Windy Hill Resort's "Green Season" special includes one free night with free meals, a complimentary upgrade to a deluxe cabin, and discounts for kids. The Inn at Robert's Grove is offering several discounted packages that include accommodations, meals, activities, domestic flights, airport transfers, and more. You can also save 10% on Mayan ruin tours, scuba diving, horseback riding, yacht charters, and many other adventures with Aubisque Catamaran Charters.

When I compared summer and winter hotel rates, I found off-peak savings of $50.

Hotel: Black Orchid Resort, Burrell Boom VillageRoom type: Double roomOff-peak rate: $100 (July 1 to November 30)Peak rate:$120 (December 1 to June 30)

Hotel: Coral Bay Villas, Ambergris CayeRoom type:One bedroom beachfront condoOff-peak rate:$105 (May 1 to December 15) Peak rate:$150 (January 1 to April 30)

Hotel: Sailwinds Beach Suites, Caye CaulkerRoom type: Beachfront suiteOff-peak rate:$99 (May 1 to October 31)Peak rate:$149 (December 16 to January 6)

Hotel: Belize Jungle Dome, Cayo DistrictRoom type: Pool-side standardOff-peak rate: $95 (June 1 to October 31)Peak rate:$105 (November 1 to May 31)

Prices are per night based on double occupancy and were found on each hotel's website.

Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, two of Belize's popular islands, are great destinations for beach time and watersports such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and sport fishing. Lively nightlife and restaurants can be found on Ambergris Caye, while Caye Caulker is perfect for a relaxed, quiet visit. Inland, the Cayo District is home to many Mayan ruin sites, plus jungle lodges and resorts that can easily arrange adventure trips such as river rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

For more information on planning an off-peak sojourn to Belize, check out the Belize Tourism Board's website.

St. Maarten

Experience a taste of Europe in the Caribbean on St. Maarten/St. Martin, the small Dutch/French island in the Lower Antilles. This summer, the tourism department of St. Maarten, the Dutch side, is running specials that can make a trip to the island especially affordable during this year's off-peak season. Best of all, even if you choose to take advantage of the accommodations discounts on the Dutch side of the island, making a trip to the French side, St. Martin, is quick and easy.

St. Maarten's accommodations specials include free nights and extras. Book a five-night stay and get the fifth night free, plus 50 "St. Maarten Bucks," which can be used towards rental cars, shopping, dining, or activities. Book a seven-night stay and receive 100 St. Maarten Bucks and get the fifth and seventh nights free. The nine participating properties will appeal to a variety of budgets, most of which offer discounted summer rates anyway.

Hotel:Coral Beach ClubRoom type:Two bedroom villaOff-peak rate:$575 (April 15 to December 14)Peak rate:$825 (December 15 to April 14)

Hotel:Mary's Boon HotelRoom type:Mini studioOff-peak rate: $75 (August 1 to September 30)Peak rate: $125 (November 1 to April 30)

Hotel:Princess Heights ResortRoom type:Deluxe one bedroom suiteOff-peak rate:$225 (August 15 to October 14)Peak rate: $350 (December 15 to April 14)

Hotel:Turquoise Shell InnRoom type:One bedroom suiteOff-peak rate:$95 (July 15 to November 14)Peak rate:$145 (November 15 to April 15)

Prices are per night based on double occupancy and were found on each hotel's website.

Long days spent on St. Maarten's wide, sandy shores are why many choose to visit the island, but there is plenty of activity off the beach as well. Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, offers enough duty-free shopping, restaurants and cafes, and nightlife to keep you occupied, plus a handful of Las Vegas-style casinos. A foodie heaven, the entire island is known as the "Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean," offering varied dining options from traditional French fare to Tex-Mex.

Also, getting to St. Maarten has become cheaper in recent years due to low-fare carriers JetBlue's and Spirit's introductions to the market. Be sure to price flights on both airlines before you book to ensure you get the best price, and remember to check Spirit's website for rock-bottom fare specials as low as a few dollars.

The first place to look when planning a trip is St. Maarten's Offical Web Portal, filled with details about where to stay, what to do, and more.


Like the rest of the Caribbean islands, Antigua experiences its low season from June to September. Though visiting the Caribbean during summer inherently comes with risk of hurricanes, Antigua has largely been spared the devastation other islands have experienced in recent years. Trade winds cool the island's hot temperatures, making 80-degree days quite pleasant.

Antigua's biggest summer event, Carnival, runs from July 24 through August 5 this year. Festivities include live calypso and steel drum music, colorful costumes, food fairs, and the annual Parade of Bands and Miss Antigua beauty pageant. Though hotel prices may jump a bit during Carnival, it's worth paying more to experience the celebration.

If you'd prefer a peaceful beach escape, however, Antigua has 365 white- and pink-sand beaches —one for every day of the year, and plenty for a summer getaway. Besides playing on the beach, sailing and diving are popular pursuits, and adventurous types can even swim with stingrays at Stingray City. Barbuda, Antigua's sister island, is a mere 15-minute flight or 90 minute ferry ride away, making a day trip easy.

Travelocity is currently offering up to $300 off Antigua air-and-hotel packages when you stay at least six days at an Elite Island Resorts property. Several resorts and hotels are also offering summer specials, including free nights and kids-stay-and-eat-free packages.

Offseason hotel rates in Antigua are much cheaper than peak-season prices, and I found savings of $414 in summer.

Hotel:Blue WatersRoom type:Superior HillsideOff-peak rate:$349 (April 24 to December 18)Peak rate:$763 (December 19 to January 6)

Hotel:Carlisle BayRoom type:Ocean suiteOff-peak rate:$840 (May 31 to August 29)Peak rate: $1,050 (March 29 to May 30)

Hotel:Siboney Beach ClubRoom type:Standard room Off-peak rate:$150 (April 15 to December 19)Peak rate:$190 (December 20 to April 14)

Hotel:Trade Winds HotelRoom type:Deluxe room - ocean viewOff-peak rate:$217 (May 7 to October 11)Peak rate:$353 (December 19 to January 2)

Prices are per night based on double occupancy and were found on each hotel's website.

Delta will introduce service to Antigua from New York (JFK) on June 12.

The Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism website are good resources for planning a trip.

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