A New Year’s getaway can be a great way to kick-start the year before returning to school. Even if end-of-year grading and holiday preparations have kept you from making plans until December, it’s not too late.
Although New Year’s is a popular—sometimes expensive—time to travel, you can still find last-minute options for your budget by being flexible about your destination and accommodations, whether you hit the road or fly. You might even score a good money-saving deal. Just keep in mind that, at this point, you need to act swiftly when an offer appeals to you. So, don your party hat and funny glasses: Here are tips and resources to help you ring in the New Year away from home.
Check local and regional visitors bureaus
For an affordable last-minute New Year’s trip, you may want to pass up the most glamorous destinations. Consider nearby cities that are business-focused and thus may have rooms they’re eager to book. Smaller towns are another option, as are destinations where it’s off season. The websites of local and regional visitors bureaus such as Visit Philadelphia and the San Diego Tourism Authority are standbys when you’re looking for last-minute hotel deals. Also check visitors' bureau websites for money-saving offers for everything from restaurants to tours and attractions.
Use your NEA Member Benefits
Savings for your New Year’s getaway are a click away with your NEA Member Benefits. Check for last-minute offers and discounts on NEA Vacations; you can also earn and use NEA Travel Dollars for greater savings. NEA Click & Save offers special discounts, including for hotels, and you can access cheaper rates for car rentals and discounted rooms at Red Roof Inn.
Look at apartment and home rentals
Lodging is a substantial part of any getaway budget, and New Year’s can bring higher prices and full hotels. It’s a great time to take advantage of the enormous inventory of apartments and houses listed by companies such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner, a subsidiary of HomeAway). Local companies, such as those that handle summer vacation rentals, are another choice. Websites showing rentals have sophisticated filters to help you find a place that’s right for your family. You can see guest reviews and photos, and many sites even have travel suggestions. Another bonus with rentals: With access to cooking facilities, you can save even more.
Use online discounters
Travel planning takes time, so a last-minute New Year’s trip is the perfect opportunity to use a discounter who has already assembled a trip. At Vacation.com, you can talk to a travel planner, too. Dreaming of someplace warm with a beach? CheapCaribbean.com focuses on luxury packages and accommodations at deep discounts. Some deals are all-inclusive, and packages may include air. TravelZoo works with 2,000 companies and offers vacation packages or hotel deals. Other resources for late-breaking deals are online travel agencies such as Travelocity, whether you need a hotel room or want a flight and hotel—and a car. Many of these websites have helpful traveler reviews as well.
Take advantage of hotel packages
Don’t overlook hotel websites: These days chains from Marriott to Hilton are eager to keep you booking with them directly to increase their revenue. That’s excellent news for last-minute New Year’s travel, since chains have plenty of rooms in many destinations and may be ready to offer them at good rates. Join a chain’s loyalty program for even sweeter deals (room upgrades or breakfast for free, for example). Be as flexible as you can about your destination and dates for the best options. You can have a wonderful New Year’s escape in all kinds of places, including a city or region within a few hours’ drive.
Consider Airline Packages
To get value on flights during the busy New Year’s season, bundle up. Airlines including United and budget-oriented JetBlue have good deals that combine flights, hotels and even rental cars. To find more options and save money, consider destinations that have ample air service from your area, assess alternative airports and think about different travel dates or flying early or late in the day. It’s worth the effort: Hotel and airfare packages can save hundreds of dollars. See the respected Airfarewatchdog for good-value last-minute flights; you can set travel alerts, and there are hotel deals on the site.