Every year, a few of my travel agency’s clients are shocked — shocked! — when I tell them the holidays are a busy time for travel. They assume everyone wants to be home with their families.
“Well,” I explain, “some people want to get away from their families.”
That’s half true. Many people like to travel with their families at the end of the year. As it’s usually a slow time for most businesses, the kids are out of school, and in many states in the U.S., it’s cold. Sometimes really cold.
Here are a few tips for a last-minute getaway.
1. If money is no object, or if your budget is substantial, call a good travel agent and ask what might be available.
Many agents have connections through hotels and tour operators. We also sometimes get emails from places with unfilled space, often due to cancellations. Or we can go through a tour operator and ask them quite simply, “What do you have left in a warm place?”
The problem with last-minute bookings in most warm places at this time of year: It’s generally really expensive. Airfares from the West Coast to Hawaii were over $2,000 roundtrip in coach last week; in some cases well over. And airlines know they don’t need to discount to fill their planes.
2. Consider somewhere that might be warm but not tropical.
Southern Arizona and Southern California, for example, may not be warm enough to sit on the beach or by the pool, but they usually are comfortable in December and almost never have snow. And you might get lucky with really warm weather. They also tend to have space at reasonable prices.
3. Look into a cruise.
One of the problems with going places like Hawaii or the Caribbean is that not only do the hotels raise their prices to crazy levels, airfares are at their highest as well.
Cruises also have higher holiday prices, but, in my experience, they are more reasonable than resorts on their last-minute bookings. And if they leave from the U.S., you might also be able to get a decent airfare.
4. Consider a staycation. Or a city break. Many 4- and 5-star hotels that cater to business travelers during much of the year have lots of empty space in late December (with the major exceptions of New Year’s Eve, especially in New York and Las Vegas). So you might be able to get seriously pampered on a reasonable budget.
5. If you can adjust your holiday travel to a little earlier or a little later than the peak weeks (somewhere about Dec. 22 to Jan. 3), you may be able to get real savings.
For example, many Mexican resorts don’t really raise their prices until Dec. 23, and anyone arriving earlier might be able to get at least part of their stay for a lower price. Ditto if you can take off some time in January; prices often fall the weekend after New Year’s Day.
And if none of these options appeal, there is always the idea of punting on holiday travel this year, and starting really early for December 2016!