9 Last-Minute Vacations You Can Still Take This Summer
Summer may be winding down, but that doesn't mean there isn't time for one more trip—even if you're on a budget
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It’s not too late to book that summer trip!
Procrastinators, I have great news—it’s not too late to book an amazing end-of-summer trip that won’t break the bank. In fact, the experts at Skyscanner, the global metasearch booking tool, have discovered that waiting until the last minute could actually be the best option if you’re traveling on a budget. Yep, you read that right: You might get a better deal if you wait. (Take that, planners!)
For this list, Skyscanner hooked us up with some stellar airline deals you can take advantage of right now, for travel in August through Labor Day. We rounded out their international suggestions with ideas for affordable Labor Day weekend getaways in the U.S. from vacation rental company Vacasa, as well as a few places we’ve been keeping an eye on too.
How to score the best deal
The best piece of advice for booking a late-summer break? “Be flexible,” says Laura Lindsay, global travel trends expert at Skyscanner. “Searching by multiple dates is one of your best chances of finding a bargain on a flight. Consider traveling a day before or a day after your original departure dates [to find a deal].”
Being flexible about your destination can also uncover surprising discounts. Try expanding your parameters for a sunny beach destination to another locale or one that’s just beyond U.S. borders. Or if you’re set on a specific city, search multiple airports in the region. For example, check out JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Westchester airports if you’re planning a trip to New York City to find the best price.
With that in mind, here are our top picks for the best last-minute getaways at huge discounts. You’re welcome!
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If you’ve been wanting to hop over the pond and visit London but have been thwarted by high prices, now is the time to book: Skyscanner found round-trip flights from New York to London from just $147 each way. I’m personally going to take advantage of these super-low prices to visit London’s West End and catch up on theater, shopping and museum exhibits.
If you’re bringing the kids, stay at the Treehouse Hotel London, where the Summer Fruits offer gets you up to 30% off and a credit to visit the cozy Nest rooftop bar and terrace. Arriving in August also means you’ll be here for Kids Week in the West End, a program designed to introduce children to live theater with a “buy one adult ticket, get one free for kids under 18” deal through August 31.
And whether you’re with the kids or not, head to Covent Garden’s Annual Ice Cream Festival, The Cool Down, to sample 40 varieties of ice cream. It’s a sweet end-of-summer tradition you won’t want to miss.
Newport, Rhode Island
This quaint seaport has been my best find this summer for great deals and prime waterside fun. My secret? The Wyndham Vacation Club properties. There are three options in the small town, including my favorite: Club Wyndham Long Wharf.
I was able to plan a girlfriends getaway in a two-bedroom unit here for less than a regular hotel room elsewhere in the area. But even better, as part of Club Wyndham’s Take a Chef on Vacation summer promotion, we had a personal chef make us a gourmet dinner one night—gratis! I’m talking four courses, including appetizers, for four people, without paying one extra penny. We felt like celebrities.
And you don’t need to spend like a millionaire to visit the yacht-filled Newport Harbor. Instead, take the one-hour round-trip water taxi, which costs only $5. (The highly entertaining tour guide was a free bonus.) Also make sure to check out the Cliff Walk—a free path that follows the coast and takes you past the opulent gilded-age mansions.
I’ve visited Puerto Rico in every season, and I’m here to tell you that there’s never a bad time to explore the fabulous history, nightlife and beaches of the “Island of Enchantment.” Even better than sipping a piña colada where it was invented while relaxing on a beautiful, free, white-sand beach? Skyscanner found prices for round-trip flights from Miami to San Juan starting at just $81.
And here’s even more to love: Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, meaning you don’t need a passport to visit. You also won’t need to exchange money or even worry about your cellphone plan, since you’re still in the United States.
As for where to stay, you can’t go wrong with the Palacio Provincial, a boutique hotel right in the middle of Old San Juan, close to the colonial area’s most popular attractions. Also make sure to check out the Puerto Rico Tourism website for last-minute discounts on everything from guided tours to boating excursions to hotel stays.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Let the good times roll in the Big Easy, one of Vacasa’s top picks—and mine too—for an amazing and affordable end-of-summer getaway. You’ll find a range of houses in the heart of the city from just $110 a night. Yes, for an entire house.
It’s hard not to love the beignets, jambalaya, shrimp creole and crawfish étouffée that fill the city’s delicious menus. Late summer is also a great time to get out on the water to spot gators on a swamp tour. And don’t skip a visit to the newly reopened Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium, where you can see sharks, rays and, yes, more alligators.
You’ll also get a fantastic deal in NOLA at this time of year. “August is generally when you can get the most value for your money in terms of lodging, as well as dining and cultural activities,” according to the New Orleans & Company tourism board. “August also brings us COOLinary and Museum Month, where visitors can take advantage of dining deals and all-access passes to many NOLA museums.”
Looking for more beach options? Step right this way! Skyscanner spotted Orlando to Cancún flights on Frontier starting at $175 round-trip. One of the things I enjoy about Cancún is that it’s easy to get around the area. You can taste-test the best tacos ever while exploring the town, and then be back at your resort’s white-sand beach in just a few minutes.
Club Med Cancún Yucatán not only has three private white-sand beachfront spaces—it also offers an array of fantastic land and water activities, including sailing, scuba diving and even trapeze lessons. And the all-inclusive prices start at just $135 per person right now.
If you’re thinking of jetting off to Florida, Vacasa identified the “theme park capital of the world” as a spot to book a shockingly affordable vacation. We’re talking nightly rates for a condo from $90 a night! Plus, Disney has $99 “four day, four park” tickets available for late-summer stays (a savings of about 20%).
Even if you don’t want to explore the ins and outs of Disney World, Orlando is still a prime pick for a late-summer vacation, since the city offers plenty of other activities for grown-up travelers. You can check out the best foodie spots, spoil yourself with some retail therapy and visit the city’s parks, gardens and museums.
If you’re looking for a dreamy beach resort, you’ll find it in this Dominican Republic paradise. Skyscanner found flights from Chicago to Punta Cana on Frontier starting at $241 round-trip. Punta Cana excels at one-and-done all-inclusive resort options, which lets you enjoy beachy fun, food, nightlife and more without ever leaving the property.
One to try: Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort, Spa & Casino, which is currently running an end-of-summer offer with up to 25% off room rates. Travelers can book through Aug. 31 with rates starting at just $143 per person, per night (with a two-night minimum stay). Highlights include seven freshwater pools—including one of the Dominican Republic’s largest infinity pools—and a large water park, plus a spa, casino, nightclub and even a bowling alley, if you need a break from the sun. Plus, Bávaro is one of the best beaches to visit in the Caribbean.
Labor Day weekend marks Arizona’s transition into shoulder season, when summer temperatures decrease but the best values for travelers increase. Skyscanner spotted airfare from San Diego to Phoenix for just $36(!), and Vacasa recommends this big city to send off summer—and explore the Sonoran Desert.
For a hotel-based stay, Adero Scottsdale Resort is located in a certified Dark Sky Zone, so you can watch the stars shine over the Sonoran Desert without any light distractions. And best of all, late-summer and Labor Day travelers can take a whopping 45% off their stay with the resort’s Dog Days of Summer offer in celebration of the Dog Star (Canis Major Sirius), which can be spotted easily from the property.
Not in the mood for a flight? For a drivable destination and a fun road trip, check out the Horse Capital of the World—aka Lexington, Kentucky. Centrally located for more than two thirds of the United States to get to by car in less than half a day, the city is well-known for its fast-growing culinary scene, 400 horse farms, equine culture, outdoor adventure and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. (Lexington is home to 14 of the state’s biggest distilleries.)
Learn about horse racing at Keeneland Racecourse, popular for Kentucky Derby–qualifying races. Then explore the great (and free) outdoors at the Kentucky River Palisades, a 450-million-year-old ecosystem.
For a convenient place to stay, try the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. It will put you right in the heart of the area, and its rates start at an affordable $123 per night.