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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/27/2010 2:12:07 PM ET 2010-08-27T18:12:07

It's not too late to squeeze in a last-minute summer getaway. The season unofficially ends on Labor Day, but travel procrastinators can still find great deals on hotels, restaurants, attractions and even a few airlines.

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“Last-minute planning will certainly require flexibility for travelers on a budget,” says Travelocity’s Jennifer Gaines. “But many popular domestic destinations have a decent selection, even at the last minute.”

Expedia is advertising 40 percent off on select hotel stays through Sept. 6 and offering a $50 pre-paid MasterCard rebate for three-night bookings at some hotels.

And Travelzoo’s Jaime Samuels says some hotel rates are almost 50 percent off during Labor Day weekend. “After a summer when travel was more expensive across the board, hotels are trying to fill last-minute inventory with discounted rates.”

That may be what’s behind the third-night-free deals and “sweeteners” that travelers are finding in cities such as San Diego.

“A couple of years ago, rates at many San Diego hotels would have been higher over the holiday weekend,” says Kate Buska of the San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, “But this summer, like last year, hotels are offering deals and money-saving offers to give travelers that extra little incentive.”

Some hotel chains are offering customers a little extra as well. Marriott’s Summer in the City package, offered in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. through Sept. 5, throws in breakfast for two and passes to local museums and attractions. Eighteen Southern California Embassy Suites hotels, which offer complimentary breakfast and evening receptions year-round, just announced a “Kids Eat Free” offer for AAA members during lunch and dinner. And starting Sept. 1, guests of hotels in the IHG family (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites and others) can get up to $50 of their airline checked baggage fees reimbursed after a two-night stay.

Barbara Messing, general manager of Travel Ticker (a division of Hotwire) suggests travelers seeking Labor Day weekend deals consider hotels in big cities. “There are no business travelers over the long holiday weekend,” says Messing, “so many very nice properties have plenty of extra rooms and are putting together some very good offers for leisure travelers.”

The Chicago Jazz Festival is among several major events taking place in the Windy City during the Labor Day Weekend, yet Orbitz is showing hotel rates in Chicago hovering at just $114 during the holiday weekend. The company’s Labor Day Insider Index report also reveals that Las Vegas (average holiday hotel rate: $106) tops the list of Labor Day destinations.

The deals don’t stop there.

“Those wanting to bid a final farewell to summer, but with limited funds, should set their sights on Denver, Orlando and Los Angeles, all offering average daily hotel rates under $100 per night,” says Orbitz Senior Editor Jeanenne Tornatore.

More deals
Travelzoo’s Jaime Samuels notes that Cruise.com has just released a sale offering discounts of up to 40 percent on 10 cruises departing over Labor Day weekend. SmartDestinations.com announced Labor Day reductions on some discount attractions passes in Boston, Chicago, San Diego and New York City. Amtrak’s list of summer deals includes a “Kids Ride Free” offer for families taking the train to the New York State Fair in Syracuse (Aug. 26 to Sept. 3.) And the Parking Spot, which has 18 locations near airports, is offering 20 percent off airport parking through the holiday weekend and until Sept. 10.

Dining out can eat a big hole in a travel budget, but many restaurants are offering discounts during Labor Day weekend. Boston’s Restaurant Week officially ends Aug. 27, “but many participating restaurants will extend the deals [two-course lunches: $15.10, three-course dinners $33.10] until Labor Day, Sept. 6,” says Stacy Shreffler of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city’s free Family-Friend Value Pass (good through October) also offers significant discounts at restaurants, museums and attractions throughout the city.

“In New York City,” says Chris Heywood of NYC & Company, “Restaurant Week [three-course lunch: $24.07; three-course dinner: $35] has also been extended through Sept 6.” And Orlando’s 5th Annual Magical Dining Month kicks off Sept. 1, just in time for Labor Day weekend. More than 60 restaurants in Orlando will serve three-course, prix fixe dinners for $30.

What about airfare?
“Several notable airfare sales ended Tuesday,” says Jeff Pecor of Yapta, an airfare price-tracking service. “But I bet others will arrive before Labor Day rolls around. There are deals to be had; travelers just have to be ready to commit to booking immediately and to being flexible with their travel schedules.”

One deal that popped up Tuesday requires flexibility, creativity and speed: Boston's Logan airport and JetBlue are giving away a pair of the popular — and sold out — All You Can Jet passes good for a month of unlimited travel on JetBlue starting the day after Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Contest rules are online. The winner will need to tweet the best haiku, limerick, verse or image(s) explaining where they’d go with those passes. The deadline for this 72-hour contest is 9:59 a.m. EDT on Friday. (Disclosure: I’m one of the volunteer judges.)

Harriet Baskas is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com, authors the “Stuck at the Airport” blog and is a columnist for USATODAY.com. You can follow her on Twitter .

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Video: Great Labor Day getaways

  1. Closed captioning of: Great Labor Day getaways

    >>> to take advantage of the upcoming holiday but you're not sure where to go. the features editor has six great vacations. even you are amazed. let's get started. first of all you want us to go to paradise island in the bahamas.

    >> who doesn't want to go to paradise island ? they're offering a deal that is too good to pass up. $75 a night for four nights. and kids stay for free under 11.

    >> wow.

    >> honestly --

    >> can i just send my kids?

    >> if you sent your kids, they would have a great time. there's 140 giant water park -- acre water park .

    >> huge aquarium.

    >> you can swim with sea lions , with dolphins. there's a lot to do there and it's so affordable and you can do it last minute.

    >> airfare?

    >> it's reasonable, around $400. i feel it's doable.

    >> to ft. lauderdale, florida .

    >> well, let's go to ft. lauderdale, florida .

    >> let's do that.

    >> it's fantastic and it's great --

    >> easier airport to fly into.

    >> exactly. why steal my thunder?

    >> i'm sorry.

    >> so the great thing is there are these low cost carriers, it's very accessible and right on the beach where they're offering a deal from $169 a nig night. children under 18 can stay for free and there's so much fun stuff to do in florida and there's a little bit of risk of weather right now anywhere you go down in florida or in the caribbean. again, a quick getaway, it's a good one.

    >> to our nation's capital which is great with kids, educational and fun.

    >> well, i think what's great about d.c. is when kids go back to school, what i do on summer vacation , how school to say i went to the spy museum or the great air and space museum ? there's lots of great stuff to see. where do you stay? fairmont washington, d.c., is having a deal for $299 including two kids so you can stay there overnight.

    a great deal. : now do you have to bring two kids or do you have to get one in case you only have one kid?

    >> take me. i'm available for rent over labor day . i'm short.

    >> oh, my.

    >> it's a family show, al.

    >> i know. i'm not sure whose family. now let's move on to the mountains.

    >> so we're moving to keystone, colorado. now this is about 90 miles west of denver. you think about ski resorts in the summertime they're fantastic. you love atv riding. they have tv riding, bungee jumping and $99 a night at the ski stone resort.

    >> amazing.

    >> and we made sure all of these are available for labor day so it's not like we're telling you things you cannot book right now.

    >> let's head out to san diego , california. i love san diego .

    >> what's not to love? they have 248 sunny days a year. they have 33 beaches. plus the san diego zoo . i'm obsessed with their panda cam because they have the gorgeous pandas on camera. what better way is to see them. one of their pandas celebrated the one-year birthday. i know too much about the pandas, i realize. now if your kids are into baseball, there is the omni san diego that is connected to the petco baseball stadium , so you can literally go see the local team on labor day they're having a home game.

    >> and, guess what --

    >> what?

    >> they adibi panda to their lineup. and now let's head to a national park , acadia national park .

    >> i just got back from maine a couple of days ago and it is a beautiful time of year up there and acadia is one of the most magnificent places you can go in this country on mount desert . what's great about camping there the sea wall camp site reserves half of their camp sites for people on a first come, first served basis so you don't have to make advanced reservations and you can stay there for as little as $20 a night.

    >> that's pretty cool. all right. thank you so much. happy labor day .

    >> to you, too.

    >>

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