Top five off-peak destinations for summer 2003

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Box Canyon, Telluride, Colorado (Photo: Telluride & Mountain Village Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 27, 2003. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Australia, Costa Rica, Florida, Molly Feltner, New Zealand, vacation package.

You can save money on your next vacation by going against the flow and visiting popular places during their off-peak months. Our top five picks for low-season travel this summer are North American ski towns, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, Florida, and Costa Rica.

Last week, we told you our favorite strategies for low cost, low-season vacations. This week, we're putting those tips into practice.

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1. North American ski towns

Winter ski vacations to resort towns like Aspen, Killington, Sugarloaf, Telluride, or Whistler can have an astounding price tag when factoring in the high cost of transportation, lift tickets, ski equipment, and condo rentals. However, when the snow melts and the ski bums move on, prices drop and the mountains become accessible for hiking, biking, fishing, golfing, and more. And, the weather isn't a problem for most ski resorts in the summer—you can generally expect sunshine and moderate temperatures in these mountain-encircled towns.

You'll save money because hotel rates are significantly reduced from normal winter rates—some by as much as 50 percent—and many hotels will offer free meals and activities with hotel stays. Restaurants and shops may also lower prices, and many summertime activities, like hiking, are free.

Telluride, CO, is an example of a ski town that offers a range of activities and deals for the summer. Here's a comparison of Telluride hotel rates for the summer with winter rates:

Hotel Summer rate Winter rate
Telluride Lodge $109 to $149 $129 to $239
Camel's Garden Resort Hotel $155 to $250 $325 to $495
Hotel Columbia $195 to $310 $230 to $395

These prices are based on the per day "regular" summer and winter prices posted on the hotel's website. Different rate ranges may be applied during holiday or transitional periods.To find summer package deals and additional discounts in ski towns, try searching the official tourism websites for the resorts. For a complete list of North American ski towns, visit SkiTownResorts.com, and browse by region or through an alphabetical list. On Telluride's tourism bureau website, we found deals by clicking on "Specials and Packages." An example includes a deal where you get 20 percent off hotel rates when you stay at least seven nights at selected hotels in Telluride through August 29. To read about more ski towns and the deals available for summer travel, read Eileen Ogintz's column Heading to the mountains.

2. The Caribbean

Travelers fearing high temperatures and tropical storms tend to avoid the Caribbean in the summertime, driving down occupancy rates and prices. While less than perfect weather is a factor to consider, May, June, and July are still good months for a visit. Being in close proximity to the equator, the Caribbean doesn't experience huge temperature variations, and the summer temperatures usually aren't more than 10 degrees higher than in the winter. More rainfall can be expected in the summer, and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the vast majority of tropical storms in the Caribbean take place August to October.

In the summer, you'll find that the beaches and pools are less crowded, that you can get into top restaurants without reservations, and that there will be less of a wait for access to activities. In terms of savings, shops put on summer sales, hotels cut rates by at least 20 percent, flights and cruises go on sale, and package prices are lower.

Check out sample rates of hotels in the Bahamas for the summer when compared with winter prices:

Hotel Summer rate Winter rate
Buena Vista Hotel $60 to $70 $70 to $100
Casuarinas Hotel $75 to $145 $85 to $200
Treasure Cay Hotel Resort $140 to $325 $170 to $395

These prices are based on the per day "regular" summer and winter prices posted on the hotel's website. Different rate ranges may be applied during holiday or transitional periods.

For deals, try the islands tourism bureau (visit Tourism Offices Worldwide and search by island to link to tourism bureaus), or an online tour promoter that specializes in the Caribbean, like CheapCaribbean.com. Elsewhere on SmarterTravel.com, we report on seven-night air and hotel packages to the Bahamas from $399, Caribbean cruise deals, and a special on flights to Grand Cayman Island.

3. Australia and New Zealand

Since they're located in the southern hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand experience winter during our summer. Thus, the low season begins mid-April with fall, and lasts through the winter to the end of August. During this time, temperatures are a bit cooler, and slightly more precipitation falls. Of course, it gets much colder in the mountainous regions, but you'll want to avoid those areas because the influx of skiers means higher prices.

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