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Beat the heat: Five cool and affordable summer destinations

SmarterTravel

When the thermometer is pushing 90, your swimming pool feels like a hot tub, and your body is wilting under the glare of the sun, you may be tempted to plan a trip to Siberia just to get away. But you don’t need to travel halfway around the world to find a cool summer escape when there are several temperate destinations right in your own backyard.

We’ve identified five North American vacation spots that have average summer temperature highs in the cool mid-70s and are affordable for any budget. From the mountains of Breckenridge, CO, and the forests of Olympic National Park in Washington to the urban playground of San Francisco and the scenic coasts of Prince Edward Island and southern Maine, you can take a break from the heat without breaking the bank.

San Francisco | Breckenridge | Prince Edward Island | Olympic National Park | Southern Maine Coast

San Francisco

Whether or not Mark Twain really did gripe about the wintry qualities of a San Francisco summer, it is true that when the summer fog rolls in off the ocean, the city’s temperature cools way down. The City by the Bay averages a cool 72 degrees during July and August, and on rare hot days, the evenings cool off quickly once the sun sets. Venture a few miles north, south, or east of the city and you’ll be back in the hot summer sun.

If you’re seeking respite from the summer heat, you can now enjoy San Francisco without breaking the bank, thanks to low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and America West. A recent spate of summer sales kicked off by JetBlue and matched by several major airlines slashed prices to as low as $198 round-trip from the East Coast to the Bay Area. America West has cross-country fares from $238 to San Francisco.

You should have no problem keeping costs down during your California stay. We priced San Francisco hotels as low as $32 for mid-August dates, plus Expedia and Travelocity are running domestic hotel sales through the end of July. And you’ll have plenty of options for free activities, such as exploring Golden Gate Park, throwing a frisbee on Baker or Ocean Beach, and browsing at one of the many San Francisco summer street fairs.

Breckenridge, CO

Ski resorts often make for fun-filled, affordable summer vacation destinations because it’s low season and the mountains still offer plenty of activities. Head for the hills of Colorado and you’ll find cooler temperatures at higher elevations, as well as off-season discounts. Breckenridge is known primarily as a ski resort, but you can hike, bike, and rollerblade along paved and unpaved trails for free, or splurge on a rafting trip, horseback ride, spa day, or round of golf.

If you’re traveling to Colorado from out of state, check low-cost carriers Frontier and United’s Ted for deals to Denver, a hub city for both airlines. Breckenridge is an easy 90-mile drive from Denver, and there’s free summertime parking in three mountainside lots. But you don’t need a car to enjoy your getaway. The Resort Express shuttle will transport you from Denver International Airport to Breckenridge, where the Free Ride Transportation System will take you anywhere you want to go, including the resort’s base areas, downtown, and the recreation center. The Summit Stage is a free year-round shuttle that provides transportation to nearby towns and resorts.

Visit SummitNet.com and Snow.com for summertime accommodations specials. SummitNet.com has last-minute specials from $75 at Breckenridge’s Wildwood Suites, and Snow.com’s deals start at $47 per night for condos on Main Street. You’ll be able to visit this beautiful resort town for a fraction of wintertime costs, plus with the money you save, you can spend a little more on the area’s restaurants, shops, and attractions.

Prince Edward Island

With average summertime highs peaking at 73 degrees, you’ll definitely find respite from the summer heat in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The island mixes natural beauty with Canadian history and culture—PEI is the home of the fictional Anne of Green Gables—and offers many free or affordable attractions. Walk or cycle through the diverse PEI scenery on the Confederation Trail, visit historic homes and lighthouses, or attend free Celtic arts performances at the College of Piping.

The official website of Prince Edward Island lists vacation package deals that include accommodations and extras. Try the “Anne of Green Gable Experience” from $149 per person and receive two-nights accommodations at the lodging type of your choice, theatre tickets, daily breakfast, one dinner at a local restaurant, and a full-day “Land of Anne” sightseeing tour. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the “Confederation Exploration” package from $125 per person, which includes two-nights accommodations at the Rodd Royalty Inn and Suites, bike and helmet rental, lunch at Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort, and a pass to Founders’ Hall.

If you’re just looking for a place to stay, Choice Hotels is offering savings of 10 percent or more at three hotels in Charlottetown and two in Summerside. Be sure to enter rate code LATL when making reservations to receive the discount.

Olympic National Park

Washington State is home to Olympic National Park, a rare temperate rainforest, with summertime highs between 65 and 75 degrees. If you’re up for a rugged adventure filled with stunning natural beauty, you can plan an inexpensive getaway to these parklands that line the Pacific Coast. Cool ocean breezes along stretches of beach or the shade of old-growth trees surrounded by glacier-capped mountains will make you forget the high temperatures back home.

For the true budget experience, pack a tent and stay at one of the 17 campgrounds in Olympic National Park. Campground fees range from $8 to $10 per night. Back-country camping is allowed for $2 per person per night and a $5 permit. Or, you can stay in rustic cabins and lodges at the Log Cabin Resort; accommodations range from $53 for a basic cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing to $130 per night for a chalet with kitchen, private bathroom, and comfy bedding. Lakeside accommodations at the Lake Crescent Lodge start at $82 per night.

Olympic National Park can be reached by car from Seattle in under three hours. If you don’t live in the area, Alaska and US Airways currently have sales for Seattle flights departing after mid-August, including cross-country fares from $198.

Southern Maine Coast

Only an hour and a half from Boston, you can find the tranquil villages and temperate climes of the Southern Maine Coast. Wells, Ogunquit, Moody, and Cape Neddick average mid-70s temperatures in the summer, significantly cooler than nearby Portland and Kennebunkport. Coastal inlets, historic villages, and wildlife refuges make this area a perfect summer escape. And it won’t cost a cent to stroll down the Marginal Way along the water’s edge, go bird-watching at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, or enjoy free summer concert at Wells Harbor Park.

Maine’s southernmost region is an easy drive from Boston, Providence, Manchester, or Portland. If you’re coming from afar, try Southwest Airlines for affordable flights to Manchester or Providence. With a recent systemwide sale, round-trip fares ranged from $58 to $198.

Summer is Maine’s peak season, so book early or risk the more affordable accommodations selling out. Try the Beach Farm Inn in Wells, which has rates between $100 and $135 for rooms in the summer. Or, get back to nature and stay at one of Wells’ many campgrounds.

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