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Last-minute summer getaways: It's not too late

Labor Day marks the unofficial and symbolic end to summer vacation season, but travel procrastinators can still find great deals on hotels, restaurants, attractions and even a few airlines.

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.

“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 has just released a sale offering discounts of up to 40 percent on 10 cruises departing over Labor Day weekend. 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.)