Looking for a Memorial Day or summer escape, but airfare and gas prices have got you down? Before you relegate your annual vacation to pitching a tent in your backyard and roasting marshmallows on the Char-Broil, consider a trip to Lake George in New York State's Adirondack Mountain region. Little says summer more than water and the great outdoors, and the price is just right. Plus, apart from the overall affordability of this childhood hometown of "$40 A Day" host Rachel Ray, there are plenty of special deals ripe for summer picking.
While $40 might not be realistic for this column, I can get you a hotel for $70 per night and an entire vacation for well under $500.
Where to stay in Lake George
Before settling into that Adirondack chair overlooking the lake or taking a plunge for swimming, kayaking, boating, or whatever, you'll first need to find a place to stay. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable motels right in town among the bevy of kitschy or quaint shops and restaurants. And if you time your stay right, you can pile additional savings on top like a cherry on an already perfect summertime sundae.
For example, you can book a double room for $85 per night at the Heritage of Lake George Motel, which was ranked #2 out of 59 Lake George hotels on TripAdvisor for its meticulous cleanliness. Children 16 and under stay for free. Add in an 11 percent tax (seven percent state and four percent county tax), and the whole family (or a couple, for that matter) can stay for $94.35 per night.
Now here's where the deals kick in. If you go midweek and stay at the Heritage for three nights, you get the fourth night free, bringing your four-night total to $283.05. That's just $70.76 per night!
The Wingate by Windham Lake George, open since last Memorial Day weekend, is offering 25 percent off three-night midweek stays. I found rooms for $66.75 (regularly $89) per night, that come with a hot buffet breakfast every morning. The hotel is located a half mile from the lake, and amenities include free Wi-Fi, indoor and outdoor heated pools, and discounted tickets to the Water Slide World theme park nearby. When you figure in tax, rooms come to roughly $74 per night for everything.
For other midweek specials, visit the Warren County Tourism Department's website. Midweek offers posted here are valid from May 1 through July 31, for Sunday through Thursday stays. And while these particular offers exclude holidays, some individual hotels have Memorial Day specials. The Heritage, for example, has reduced its rates by 20 percent for three-night stays over the long weekend.
Vacation packages for Lake George
The New York state tourism site also lists a bunch of vacation packages for the Lake George area. All include reasonable hotels rates, plus extras such as dinners, rafting excursions, museum tours, and spa treatments. The Family Rollback Package at Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center offers a $20 gas card plus activities discounts for a family of four, and special rates starting at $99.
For a Memorial Day escape, Surfside on the Lake treats two adults and two kids 12 and under to an all-inclusive package for three nights. You'll get a hotel room, three buffet breakfasts, three full-course dinners at a choice of area restaurants, and four family-friendly attractions such as a cruise, mini-golf, and admission to Fort William Henry Museum or Fort Ticonderoga. Packages cost $565 for a room with two double or queen beds, and include all taxes and gratuities. Divide that by a family of four and each person pays just $141 for a complete vacation.
Many hotels offer discounts to area attractions, so always be sure to ask what's available. Also, request a summer savings packet from the tourism office to get the latest coupons.
Getting to Lake George
Lake George is an easy day's drive from cities in the Northeast like New York, Boston, and even Philadelphia. If you need to fly, the Albany airport is about an hour away by car. That said, here is a list of sample fares I found for May departures. All fares are round-trip and include taxes and fees, and prices aren't bad considering how the cost of airfare continues to go up.
- Baltimore: $143 (US Airways)
- Pittsburgh: $143 (US Airways)
- Detroit: $184 (Northwest)
- Charlestown, WV: $199 (Northwest)
- Cleveland: $238 (Continental)
- Jacksonville: $250 (US Airways)
- Norfolk: $259 (US Airways)
- Dayton: $269 (Northwest)
- Charlotte: $273 (Northwest)
- Philadelphia: $283 (US Airways)
If you're trying to decide whether to fly or drive, calculate the cost of driving with a tool like the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator or Mapquest's gas calculator and compare the results with your airfare searches. Oftentimes, driving will still work out in your favor in terms of both price and hassle. Just remember that if you fly, you will most likely need to rent a car, so you'll have to factor that in as well.
Here's the cost breakdown if you fly:
$283 (airfare from Philadelphia, the most expensive departure city on my list) + $70.76 (four nights' accommodations for a family of four at the Heritage) = $353.76 per person
Your total cost will depend on whether you fly or drive, your departure city, how many nights you stay, and how many people travel with you. No matter what, I can pretty much guarantee that your trip to Lake George will cost less than, say, a weekend across the Pond, and will be a whole lot more fun than charring marshmallows in your backyard.
Have more to add? Comment (see below) on your favorite Lake George experiences or offer money-saving tips. Or, feel free to suggest a new Escapes Under $500 destination.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc.)