Let's face it: Americans are dealing with some hard economic times, and travel may not be at the top of your list of priorities. But, if you can't bear to part with your annual vacation, you should consider traveling to a destination within its off-peak travel season. During low and shoulder seasons, prices for airfare and accommodations cost less than during peak times, and you'll often find fewer tourists to boot.
Here are five great money-saving destinations experiencing an off-peak season this spring.
Orange County, California
This spring is the perfect time to visit "the O.C." This Southern California county is home to Disneyland (in Anaheim), as well as picturesque beach towns like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach (both became household names due to the popular television shows The O.C. and Laguna Beach.)
Spring is considered shoulder season in SoCal, so hotel prices are less expensive than summer. The Anaheim and Laguna Beach visitors bureaus list accommodations specials, and when I searched, I found per-night savings of up to $75 by traveling in spring rather than summer.
|Hotel||Room Type||Off-Peak Rate||Peak Rate|
|Balboa Inn, Newport Beach||Standard room||$169 (April 5 to 9)||$189 (July 26 to 30)|
|Castle Inn and Suites, Anaheim||Standard room||$88 (April 28 to May 3)||$112 (July 21 to 26)|
|Little Inn by the Bay, Newport Beach||Standard room||$90 (May 5 to 7)||$99.95 (August 11 to 13)|
|Manzanite Cottages, Laguna Beach||Cottage||$175 (through June 27, 2009)||$250 (June 28 to September 1)|
Prices are per night based on double occupancy and were found on each hotel's website.
If Disney isn't your scene, there are plenty of other options for fun in Orange County. Artsy Laguna Beach is popular among artists, actors, and musicians, and access to the arts is inexpensive (if not free!). The town's nearly 100 art galleries, studios, and small shops welcome gallery-hopping visitors at no charge. Free chamber music performances are presented in the Laguna Beach Live's First Sundays program, which takes place on April 5 and May 3 this spring. For theater, tickets to the Laguna Playhouse's performances start at just $25; this spring, All the More to Love and An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf will be performed.
Newport Beach also has its fair share of art, music, and theater performances, as well as several spring festivals. The 10th annual Newport Beach Film Festival, from April 23 through 30, is a huge event featuring new films shown around the city. In May, the Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival at The Balboa Bay Club & Resort offers three days of food and wine with tastings, seminars, and more.
In addition to all of Orange County's specials and events, it's about to get easier (and cheaper) to get to the area. Two low-cost carriers are introducing service to John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County this spring. Virgin America's service starts on April 30; Southwest's service begins May 9.