Source: USA TODAY
Summer is one of the busiest travel times of the year in a lot of places—with a few exceptions. It’s low season in many tropical locales, winter-sports meccas, and destinations on the other side of the hemisphere. And low season, of course, equates to a high chance of money-saving travel deals. We compared peak and off-peak pricing in a variety of destinations to bring you the most exciting and affordable low-season options for your 2013 summer vacation. Here are SmarterTravel’s top five picks for off-peak travel this summer.
Find the “big five”—elephant, rhinoceros, lion, buffalo, and leopard—on safari in South Africa. And find the best deals when you go during the winter low season. “Winter” in this case corresponds with the North American summer: The country sees cooler, less humid weather from June through September. South Africa’s winter is a fantastic time to go on safari, as many animals are especially easy to spot during this season.
One of the best ways to put together a wildlife-watching trip is to purchase a package. And those seeking safari packages in South Africa will find much more palatable prices during low-season months. Gate 1 Travel, for example, offers a 10-night Classic South Africa package, including tours of Kruger National Park Game Reserve and Cape Town, for as little as $1,799 in July and August. The price jumps as high as $2,649 in January, February, and March.
We also spotted severely discounted rates at some of Cape Town’s most famous and luxurious hotels. Nightly prices at Mount Nelson Hotel start at 3,730 ZAR (about $400 according to XE.com). In comparison, in January, we found weekday nightly prices starting at 6,575 ZAR (about $706). That’s a jump in seasonal prices of more than 50%. 2inn1 Kensington, the number-one Cape Town hotel on TripAdvisor, also offers much lower rates during low season—roughly 20% lower. Nightly prices for a standard room jump from 1,450 ZAR (about $155) from May through August to 1,850 ZAR (about $198) from September through April.
We love Costa Rica during summer. Sure, it can get a little rainy. May through June is, after all, part of the “green season,” which means that you might experience some drizzles and humidity. But with cheaper accommodations, activities, and flights to the country, coupled with less crowds, it’s a smart time to visit. (If you’re planning to drive, keep in mind that roads can get somewhat muddy and difficult to pass during this time of year.)
Here’s a great example: You can find very affordable flights from the U.S. to Costa Rica on Frontier Airlines, but only during summer. The airline operates seasonal service to San Jose through mid-August. We spotted fares for nonstop flights from Denver to San Jose in July for as little as $470 round-trip. This is cheaper than fares from Denver in November, which, according to Kayak, jump $100 or more in early December and necessitate one or more connections.
You’ll find even more affordable flight options with new routes to Costa Rica—more routes, of course, means more competitive prices. JetBlue’s new service from Ft. Lauderdale to San Jose begins in June. Delta just added fresh year-round flights from Los Angeles to San Jose, as did United, which started service from Chicago to San Jose in April.
Dreaming of lush, tropical St. Lucia? Go this summer. Low-season deals, from cheap flights to discounted packages, are as plentiful as palm trees on the lovely island. One reason you can get to St. Lucia for less this season: tons of new airline routes. Increased service includes JetBlue flights out of New York’s JFK, new summer service on Delta out of Atlanta, and new Saturday nonstop service from Newark on United starting this July.
St. Lucia’s visitors’ bureau is also touting savings of up to 40% on summer stays. According to Nerdin St. Rose, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the St. Lucia Tourist Board, “St. Lucia’s summertime savings will attract vacationers of all ages. From family vacations to couples on their honeymoon, our romance and family-friendly offerings make St. Lucia the perfect getaway.” Noteworthy offers include a free night at a beachside resort, a 10% low-season discount on apartment-rental rates, and up to half off summer prices and free breakfast at Bay Gardens properties.
Salt Lake City
Summer is high season in some sections of Utah, especially in national parks like Bryce Canyon and Zion. So to get the best deals this summer, head to spots in Utah that, during colder seasons, are inundated with crowds of winter-sports enthusiasts—like Salt Lake City. Although the city is a top destination for ski buffs, it also offers a wealth of fun in the summer sun. Salt Lake City was recently named the Best U.S. Hiking City by National Geographic. And the city’s mayor Ralph Becker has declared 2013 the “Year of the Bike,” initiating a series of cycling-themed events and activities to celebrate the new, local bike-share program.
And then there are the deals. This summer, a host of hotels in Salt Lake City are offering limited-time summer bargains; these include nightly rates at Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek from $93, compared to rates starting at $209 in December, and prices from $199 at The Grand America Hotel, compared to rates starting at $247 in November.
Despite a sizzling restaurant scene, world-class vineyards, an abundance of wildlife, and heavenly beaches, the number of travelers visiting Baja California has declined in recent years. This may come as little surprise if you’ve heard about the high levels of crime taking place in parts of Mexico. But it’s still safe to go to many destinations south of the border. There are no U.S. travel warnings in effect for parts of Baja, including popular destinations Cabo San Lucas and La Paz.
Given the unfortunately dwindling demand for Mexico accommodations and tours, vacationers can take advantage of especially affordable low-season travel deals this summer. One terrific and (usually) affordable way to visit Baja? Set sail. This August, luxury cruise line Oceana Cruises’ Regatta is embarking on a 21-day Panama Canal sailing from San Francisco to New York, stopping in Cabo San Lucas (and other Mexico ports) on the way. This high-end cruise typically isn’t cheap: Standard rates for an inside cabin start at $12,598 per person. But travelers who book the low-season summer sailing can take advantage of cut-rate prices, plus prepaid gratuities, a free Internet package, a $500 shipboard credit, and free airfare. The discounted price comes to $4,299 per passenger, which equals about $205 per person, per night for meals, accommodations, entertainment, unlimited alcoholic beverages, and airfare—a fabulous price for a luxury vacation.
Seeking something cheaper? Go for an all-inclusive priced at low-season rates, like Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa, which slashes rates by up to 50% between April and July.
SmarterTravel.com features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.