Your calendar and something in the air—maybe a cooler than expected evening or the angle of light—make it clear: Fall is fast approaching and the new school year is around the corner. As summer winds down, nothing may look better than fitting in a bit more relaxation before returning to routine. Fortunately, easy options and plenty of help are at hand so you can plan a satisfying escape at the last minute. We’ll help you identify choices to suit you and your family while meeting your preferred budget for the getaway. Here are four kinds of trips—plus ideas and tips—to make that end-of-summer restorative escape a reality.
Treat yourself to the spa to achieve a Zen-like state of mind
A spa weekend at a hotel is a great way to bring tranquility to the back-to-school rush. Whether you’re looking for a massage, skincare services, mediation or other treatments, check out destination spas near you or consider attractive business-oriented hotels that can have good weekend rates. Local and state residents may get discounts of 15-30% for spa treatments, especially as part of a room booking. Signing up for a hotel chain’s newsletter may help you access money-saving deals. And consider your credit cards: A spa treatment may be included if you book a room through your card’s hotel network or, at a minimum, you’ll earn points.
Travel agents, too, have access to special offers, whether it’s Liberty Travel or Virtuoso. And some great offers are part of your NEA membership benefits, including NEA Vacations online deals for stays at chains from Hyatt and Hilton to Marriott to the luxurious Ritz-Carlton. You can also buy Spafinder gift cards from NEA Click & Save and earn WOWPoints (it’s like cash!) to use on future purchases. Finally, when you want to attain total bliss, remember that old school is new style these days. Talking to a hotel manager by phone to negotiate room rates and treatment discounts can be a successful tactic.
Head outdoors to hike, bike or kayak
Returning to the classroom means more time inside, so a road trip with recreation in the great outdoors may be your perfect end-of-summer recharge. Consider how much time you want to drive to do your favorite sport and pick a destination, whether it’s the Catskills in New York or Minnesota’s lakes. Lodging can be a big part of road-trip costs, so look for room discounts. NEA Click & Save has hotel offerings from many chains. NEA members also receive a 20% discount at all Red Roof Inn locations.
Not sure what to do? An alternative to planning a trip from scratch may be joining an existing group. Research local and regional hiking, biking and kayaking clubs and associations; some list reasonably priced excursions. In Washington State, for example, Washington Bikes has extensive online resources; California Kayak Friends is good for paddlers. Wherever you go, breathe deep and enjoy a final summer escape.
Set sail on a short cruise
A cruise getaway may have it all for end-of-summer recreation: the chance to relax by a pool, explore a port or two, sample varied cuisines and enjoy evening entertainment. Short cruises of 3 to 5 days are popular and can offer great value, with some priced less than $100 per person per night. Always check what’s included: Costs such as taxes, port charges and excursions may not be.
To save money, look for cruises from local and regional homeports where you can drive and park. From Miami, cruise destinations include the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico; from Los Angeles, you might sail to Victoria and Vancouver; from Galveston, head to Cozumel. Research prices through a travel agent (some specialize in cruises) or online; remember that you may need to stay overnight before or after your cruise. NEA Vacations offers discounts on sailings from over two dozen cruise lines, as well as hotels.
Look for last-minute vacation packages
Offering something for everyone, vacation packages can be budget friendly even for last-minute planners. Indeed, savings can be good if you’re willing to travel on short notice and be a bit flexible in your date, destination and hotel choices, and perhaps even your airport. Airlines such as JetBlue and American Airlines are masters of packages, bundling your flight and hotel, and even a car or activities. You can save on all-inclusive resorts, too.
Destinations in packages range from beach resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean to urban favorites such as San Francisco and Boston. Sign up online for an airline newsletter and get exclusive deals and notice of cheaper airfares, especially if you can travel with a few days’ notice or on less-popular days (i.e., a Tuesday to Saturday trip). Discounters offer similar packages to many popular destinations, including good deals on flights and hotels. Start clicking, and you’re sure to find your perfect pre-school getaway.