The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel.com's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
vicibear writes, "My husband and I are looking for a vacation deal during the first week of August for our anniversary. We have taken the full week off, but want to do something for maybe four to five days, and if possible do everything for under $1,000. Are there specific travel days we should look at, that may be cheaper than others? Are there any all inclusive deals we could find for this price so we don't have to worry about additional expenses? We are open to going anywhere, as long as we are together and can have a romantic, relaxing, and hopefully fun vacation. We live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Please help!"
This type of question—one that includes all the necessary information with an open destination, specific travel dates, departure city, and a budget—would typically generate an answer jam-packed with far-flung destinations at bargain-basement prices. But summer airfare is escalating, and I'm just not seeing many deals that are within your budget for your travel dates.
Since you want to travel in the high summer season, you're going to run into higher airfare and hotel prices than you would during the off-season. Though I would love to give you the magic word to make discounts appear, I sadly am no magician. There are several things you can try, such as looking for cheaper flying days, but your budget and travel dates are going to make it pretty difficult. So, let's instead set our sights a bit closer to home and plan a trip that requires never even leaving the ground.
The first step in planning a road trip, i.e. weekend getaway, is figuring out your route and fuel cost. This allows for a great deal of freedom; it's completely up to you how you want to get from point A to point B. For instance, you can take a direct shot to Savannah, which takes about four hours and 10 minutes from Charlotte, or you can decide to go a roundabout way, and stop in Myrtle Beach before driving along the coast through Charleston on your way to Savannah, which takes about seven hours and 45 minutes.
The difference in these two routes is obviously time, but also the cost of driving. Using a gas calculator—which takes into account current gas prices, distance traveled, and miles per gallon—is a great way to estimate your overall cost of a road trip. While there are plenty of calculators available online, AAA and MapQuest are fairly straightforward and easy to use. Since I don't know what kind of vehicle you drive, I calculated the cost based on a low average of 20 miles-per-gallon at a fuel cost of $2.79 per gallon (average cost of fuel in the Southeast). The direct route covering 252 miles costs about $35 one-way, while the more scenic drive through Myrtle Beach covering 379 miles costs about $53 one-way. These are only two options of how you can reach your final destination, and you can play with the total cost of transportation based on how far you drive. At the very least, you know you can expect to spend about $70 round-trip.
Next, you'll need to find a place to stay. Savannah offers a variety of elegant B&Bs and historic hotels, but you may want to skip the traditional and instead rent your own apartment. Vacation rentals are becoming a popular way to experience a city first-hand without paying a great deal. Plus, many people find that they can cut costs by cooking some meals at home. Apartments start for as little as $70 per night for a studio condo, or you can stay right on the famous Forsyth Park in a one-bedroom carriage house for $119 per night. Five nights at the higher price comes to about $595, and taxes and fees are included.
This brings the grand total for the two of you (taking the direct route and staying in the nicer apartment) to $665, which leaves $335 for entertainment and dining options. Savannah offers a smorgasbord of things to do, including haunted pub crawls, live Jazz performances, historic tours, art galleries, and antique shops. Plus, you don't have to spend a fortune or even meager wages to have a good time. The Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau provides a sample itinerary of things to do and not-to-miss during a four-day stay, as well as ways to save. If you were hoping for something a bit sandier, you can relax in the sun on Tybee Island, located just 18 miles from the city.
You may not be able to afford a tropical vacation, but that doesn't mean you can't still have a grand old adventure. Never forget that a diverse and fascinating culture is right in your own backyard, just waiting to be explored.
I wish you and your husband a very happy anniversary, and safe travels wherever the road may take you.
As for my other readers: How are you combating the high cost of summer travel? Do you have any tips for vicibear?
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