Image: Florida's Gulf Coast
Associated Press
The Florida side of the Gulf is bustling with economical, family-friendly resorts. Pristine beaches abound, along with golf courses and tennis courts galore.
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updated 7/17/2009 3:03:13 PM ET 2009-07-17T19:03:13

For a summer vacation in Hawaii, you can now find nightly hotel rates lower than the average daily temperature. Some travel Web sites are offering deals as slow as $69 per night, right in Waikiki. Thanks to the current state of the economy, it's a vacationer's market.

"These places are hurting so much for tourism," says Anna Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel, an online travel resource. "There are packages and specials to be found everywhere. You just have to look."

From the beaches of San Diego to the skyscrapers of New York, there's a bargain to be found in just about every corner of the country—even for those wishing to steer clear of the coasts. Nature-loving and adventure-seeking families and couples alike can find great deals everywhere from the Grand Canyon to Aspen, Colo.

Expert opinion
To find America's Best Bargain vacations of the moment, we compiled a list of 10 locations throughout the country, chosen by a panel of experts. Each destination on our list was suggested by at least two of our panelists, who were, along with Banas: Steve Born, vice president of marketing for GLOBUS, an escorted travel service based in Colorado; Blake Fleetwood, a representative for Cook American Express travel agency, with offices in New York and Connecticut; and Barbara Messing, VP of Travel-Ticker, a Hotwire partner that provides customers with insider travel deals.

Even though most people probably view a vacation as an escape from busy, everyday, urban life, Born believes that larger cities tend to offer the best packages to visitors. It's easy to find deals that include passes for popular tourist sites along with flight and hotel reservations.

San Diego, for example, offers something for everyone, Born says. The beach is near the city center, and cultural sites, including the San Diego Museum of Art and Birch Aquarium, are plentiful. Monograms, the independent travel service of GLOBUS, provides a four-day city package for a family of four ($64 per day per person) that comes with the Go San Diego Card, which provides free admission to 55 events and attractions in the city, including the San Diego Zoo, Lego Land and whale-watching tours.

Dollar-friendly destinationsSimilarly, New York, offers an all-access CityPass, as well as some of the best Manhattan hotel rates travelers have seen in years.

"For big-city getaways, rooms used to be upward of $300," Messing says. "Now you could find a room for $100 to $150."

Looking to the outer boroughs, one can stay at Le Refuge Inn bed and breakfast on City Island in the Bronx for $125 per night. There are four yacht clubs in the area, and essentially, City Island is a lesser-known beach getaway that "looks like Nantucket," says Fleetwood.

Getting out of town
Looking for out-of-the-way places can be key in finding a bargain, but some of the best deals to be had are in destinations currently in their off-seasons. Aspen, Colo., a winter-getaway mecca, cuts summertime prices to one-third their peak winter rates. Hotel Jerome in downtown Aspen is currently running a special starting at $169 per person per night, which includes a round of golf.

Image: Aspen, Colo.
Associated Press
A skiing hot spot in colder months, Aspen slashes hotel rates in the summer off-season. While spas, golf courses and boutiques are readily available to the traveler looking to relax, Aspen in the summertime is ideal for the outdoor adventure-seeker.
Other bargains abound in the South, where the general cost of living is low. Charleston, S.C., not only offers award-winning cuisine and historic plantations, it is also right on the coast, providing sandy beaches with a hint of Southern charm.

If you want to escape city life entirely, on Florida's Gulf coast, the Colony Resort of Longboat Key is currently offering one-bedroom suites at $149 per night, which includes a $50 resort credit, which can be redeemed for anything from tennis to meals to spa treatments. But the courts might be the best use: The Colony has been ranked by Tennis magazine as the top tennis resort in the country for eight consecutive years.

Even if these options don't inspire, there are countless other destinations throughout the U.S. available at bargain prices right now. In times like these, travel doesn't require you sacrifice quality to save a buck.

"You don't have to compromise," Messing says. "You can pay a small price and still have a great experience. "Bottom of Form

© 2012 Forbes.com

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