Summer is just about over, the kids are back from camp and the first day of school is just around the corner.
But there's still time to squeeze in an end of summer or Labor Day weekend vacation out of town that won't break the bank.
The data crunchers at Expedia.com report some end-of-summer hotel deals for travelers booking "last minute," defined as one to three days out, instead of over seven days ahead.
Last-minute daily rates in Phoenix, Austin, and New Orleans have been running 25 to 30 percent lower, said Expedia, while daily last-minute rates in Detroit and Dallas are running 20 percent lower than rates booked at least seven days ahead.
In this political season, a trip to Washington, D.C. can be educational as well as affordable. Admission is free to just about every museum, monument, and memorial on the National Mall, (America's most visited national park) and there are many meal deals to be found during the city's summer edition of Restaurant Week, running August 15 to 21. On August 28, admission is free to the DC State Fair, which features music, art, entertainment, and dancing as well as Sloppy Joe eating and hula hooping contests.
Three hours outside of Washington, D.C. is the Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, part of the Great Wolf Lodge chain of resorts that offer indoor water parks, rides, attractions, and lodging near more than a dozen major cities, including Boston, Atlanta, and Kansas City. Water park passes and many other activities are included in each stay and many properties in the chain are offering end-of-summer deals on stays of two nights or more.
Cooperstown, New York, is about a 3½-hour drive from both New York City and Boston and is home to not only the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but the Fenimore Art Museum, which is celebrating the National Park Service centennial with an exhibition of early works by Ansel Adams, who took a series of well-known photographs in Yosemite National Park. Cooperstown's popular lakefront Otsega Resort Hotel is offering an end of summer special that includes 30 percent off rates, complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking.
Asbury Park, New Jersey, is just an hour an half from Manhattan by train, bus, or car and offers a beach, a revitalized boardwalk, live music, and plenty of rock-n-roll history as well as a hands-on pinball museum. For lodging, consider one of the restored grand hotels or the offbeat brand new one, The Asbury, which features a rooftop lounge, movie nights, and bunk rooms that can sleep up to eight.
An end-of-summer camping trip can provide low-cost, end-of-summer fun, whether in a national or state park or one of many independently run campgrounds across the country.
There are 83 Jellystone Parks across the U.S. and Canada and most are within one to two hours of major cities. Many have water play parks and splash grounds and offer cabins and other rental accommodations as an alternative for those who don't want to sleep in a recreational vehicle or a tent.
Many campgrounds offer both themed weekends and a variety of regular activities. For example, Jellystone Park in Larkspur, Colorado, one hour south of Denver, offers classes in archery, geocaching, and disc golf.
Lake Monroe Jellystone Park in Bloomington, Indiana, about an hour and 15 minutes southwest of Indianapolis, has a Chocolate Lovers Weekend (August 19-21) with a chocolate Slip-n-Slide, candy bar bingo, a chocolate pudding eating contest, chocolate finger painting, chocolate pretzel-making activity and a glow stick dance party.
And Wichita Falls Jellystone Park in Wichita Falls, Texas, 2.5 hours northwest of Dallas/Fort Worth, will host a Grandparents Weekend (August 19-21) with golf buggy races, an old fashioned root beer float social and a fishing contest.