While it seems summer (and the Olympics) are winding down, don't assume all the fun is over just yet. Consider a last-minute getaway to Baltimore, which is keeping its seasonal deal offerings alive through Labor Day. And even if you can't get away until later, the city and its famous Inner Harbor remain affordable year-round. Plus, you can pay homage to hometown hero Michael Phelps to keep your inner Olympic torch burning long after the closing ceremonies (check Baltimore.org for info on Phelps' "Welcome Home Celebration").
Baltimore Hotel and Activity Deals
Through September 1, Harbor Magic Hotels is offering two special deals that can help you pull together a Baltimore vacation for under $500 per person. With the first (Ultimate Inner Harbor Experience), stay two nights and get the third free at one of three hotels, as well as receive discounts on Inner Harbor attractions. The second (Harbor Magic Hotels Room and Breakfast Special) includes overnight accommodations, breakfast, and discounts on retail shops and restaurants. For instance, for a three-night stay over Labor Day weekend, rates for the Ultimate Inner Harbor Experience package cost $156.50 per night for a two-room suite at the Brookshire Suites overlooking the harbor. With taxes, the three-night total comes to $532.89 based on double occupancy, or $266.45 per person (minus a half cent). For the same dates, the Harbor Magic Hotels Room and Breakfast Special totals $498.71, or $249.36 per person (minus a half cent).
The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association also has a list of hotels offering a free third night through September 1. Accommodations options include major chain hotels, budget chains, and independent inns and B&Bs. Pair the hotel discount with a Harbor Pass good for four days, and save 20 percent on tickets to popular attractions such as the Maryland Science Center and National Aquarium. Another option is the Heritage Pass, with discounts on the Baltimore Maritime Museum, Carroll Mansion, and Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, among other historical and cultural sites.
For more deals, be sure to check out the major hotel discount sites. For example, hotels.com's Labor Day Sale features 30 percent off select Baltimore properties for stays between August 29 and September 2, plus a free $50 gas card. When I checked, rates for a three-night stay at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel came to $491.39, including taxes, or $245.70 (minus a half cent) per person. Rates also include free parking and Wi-Fi, in addition to the $50 gas card (enter code GAS50 when booking).
While I've focused on Labor Day sales, other major sites like Orbitz and Expedia provide hotel discounts on a continuous basis, so check back often. And while the Harbor and Heritage passes are available year-round, also look out for Free Fall Baltimore, a promotion offered by The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, celebrating free arts events throughout the month of October.
Getting to Baltimore
If Baltimore isn't within driving distance of your home, it's quite possible you'll find a flight that will fit within the $500 budget, especially from the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest. Most cities further west will run about $100 to $200 more on average; however, you can still uncover budget-friendly fares with a little luck (case in point: Albuquerque). Here's a sampling of round-trip fares, including taxes and fees, I found for late-August/early-September travel:
- Columbus: $148 (US Airways)
- Boston: $179 (Delta)
- Buffalo: $183 (US Airways)
- Ft. Lauderdale: $183 (US Airways)
- Jacksonville: $193 (US Airways)
- Ft. Myers: $197 (US Airways)
- Louisville: $200 (US Airways)
- Indianapolis: $203 (US Airways)
- New Orleans: $236 (US Airways)
- Albuquerque: $239 (Continental)
- Dallas: $239 (US Airways)
- Detroit: $241 (US Airways)
- Cincinnati: $244 (US Airways)
- Atlanta: $249 (Delta)
Here's the cost breakdown for the most expensive airfare on my list paired with hotel, based on two people traveling together:
$249 (airfare from Atlanta) + $249.36 (three nights at Brookshire Suites) = $498.36 per person
Been to Baltimore or know of a great deal? Comment below on your favorite money-saving tips, activities, or places to eat and stay. Or, post questions for fellow travelers to answer.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com and hotels.com.)