As the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day warrants a salute to vacation season and all its breezy, bonding glory. Though many Americans will travel, most experts say it won’t be as crowded as peak summer holidays.
“People start getting ready for fall with their kids returning to school,” says Jeof Oyster, a travel adviser with Outward Travel in Greeley, Colorado, noting a strong reason some stay closer to home.
Still, planning your escape in advance is one of the most reliable ways to save money. Estimates on how far ahead range from a year to a month out, though most travel professionals stress that the time is now. “I’m still seeing decent availability for September, but accommodations will start filling up fast as we get closer to Labor Day,” Oyster says.
In addition to timing your reservations, consider other money-saving travel strategies. American Consumer Credit Counseling, a nonprofit organization devoted to consumer financial management, recommends driving trips as thrifty alternatives and inexpensive outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.
“Road trips are always a great way to pack a ton of value into a trip,” says Laura Motta, digital editorial director for the travel brand Lonely Planet. She also recommends state parks over national ones and lake destinations over ocean locales. “If you’re really looking to save, opt to stay in a log cabin or cottage away from the lakeshore.”
Additionally, look for destinations where traffic dies in the fall. In Alaska, the cruise season starts to wind down over Labor Day. “It’s a great time to get the most bang for your buck,” says Jen Rosa, a travel adviser with Cruise Planners.
To arouse your wanderlust, here are five destinations where you can celebrate summer’s last hurrah on a budget.