Fall is off-season in many destinations, so travel providers are eager to fill plane seats, hotel beds and rental cars.
• Don’t overlook small search engines. Travel giants Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity have tons of vacation package deals — everything from simple airfare-hotel bundles to all-inclusive resorts and guided safari tours. But take a look at some of the smaller names, too. Apple Vacations offers sweet deals, and Gate 1 Travel sends a regular email newsletter with its latest vacation packages.
• Use your frequent-flier miles. You can book bundles directly through air carriers, such as American Airlines (aavacations.com) and Delta (deltavacations.com), and use frequent-flier miles to pay. Even AAA offers its own member-exclusive travel packages at AAA.com/AAAVacations. Or check out packages on daily deal sites at Groupon.com/Getaways and LivingSocial.com/Escapes. Their offerings range from weekend trips to guided tours.
• Traveling with kids? Try all-inclusive. Vacation packages that include the cost of lodging, food and entertainment can be budget-friendly, especially if you’re traveling with children. As the peak summer season cools off, beach resorts should get more generous with their perks.
• Don’t get sucked in. It’s great to get restaurant vouchers and massages at your destination. But be sure you really want pricey extras before you buy a package that includes them. If you wouldn’t pay for them on your own, the package probably isn’t a good deal.
• Price it a la carte. To see whether a package makes sense, research prices for all of the elements before you commit. For example, a cruise package typically charges per person for hotel rooms at the port of departure. See whether you would save by reserving a double-occupancy room outside of the package. If you can, consider dumping the package or opting out of the hotel portion.
• Colorado. Cash in on Colorado’s off-season. Groupon Getaways recently featured a three-night stay at the Majestic Dude Ranch in the San Juan Mountains until mid October, including meals, for $495 per person.
• Thailand. Gate1Travel.com has a nine-night trip to Thailand with departures in September, October and November starting at $1,469 per person, including food, hotels and round-trip airfare from Los Angeles.
• India. Spend nine days in the Golden Triangle from $1,849 per person. Gate 1 Travel offers a deal between September and the end of the year that includes airfare from New York City, meals and hotels.Susannah Snider is a staff writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit kiplinger.com.