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Top five off-peak destinations for spring 2004

SmarterTravel

If you think taking an off-peak vacation during the spring means a trip spent dodging rainstorms and trudging through the mud, think again. We used our knowledge of the travel industry and data from our archives to pinpoint five destinations that have decent to gorgeous spring weather, and are also less crowded and less expensive to visit this season than during other times of the year.

Our top five choices for off-peak spring travel include four popular destinations, Southern California, Hawaii, Italy, and the Dominican Republic, and one more exotic choice, Southeast Asia.

Southern California

Spring may just be the most beautiful and least expensive time to visit San Diego, Catalina Island, and other Southern California destinations. Winter in this region is also considered off-peak, but in our estimation, the warmer, drier spring months are preferable with both low prices and good weather: Spring temperatures range from 55 to 70 degrees, most days are sunny, and the average precipitation is about half as much as in winter.

While family-oriented attractions in the area such as the San Diego Zoo and Sea World have reduced hours, other attractions and events are in full swing. The season brings the blooming of coastal and desert wildflowers, numerous Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and many other arts and culture festivals. And, the lull in visitors before the summer onslaught of amusement-seeking families and sun worshipers, causes hotel and other travel providers to drop rates and promote special packages.

Sample spring rates compared to peak summer rates for accommodations in two popular southern California destinations, Catalina Island (off the coast of Los Angeles) and Coronado (a seaside village near San Diego), are:

Hotel Spring rates Summer rates
Hotel Villa Portofino (Catalina Island) $75 to $365 (through April 30) $145 to $379
Hotel Vista del Mar (Catalina Island) $85 to $300 (through April 30) $105 to $350
Coronado Inn (Coronado) $95 to $110 (through June 15) $125 to $195
El Cordova Hotel (Coronado) $99 to $599 (through June 12) $129 to $759

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes.

Browsing the websites of local convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) can help you find more spring travel deals. For example, the San Diego CVB is currently offering specials on accommodations and coupons for discounts on dining and shopping. Our weekend getaways section also lists some notable accommodation packages for the area. If you need airfare, you can use our site to search for discounted last-minute fares to San Diego, Los Angeles, and other regional airports.Top

Hawaii

A repeat from the top off-peak fall destinations, Hawaii is also off-peak in spring and worth another consideration. The spring season straddles Hawaii’s busier winter and summer months, and with fewer visitors, the airlines and resorts tend to have lower prices. There are no weather-related deterrents that might keep you away in the spring months: Temperatures range from about 67 to 86 degrees and precipitation is minimal. So if you can get away, the combination of lower prices, less crowding, and good weather makes spring an opportune time to visit the islands.

To get a general idea of the price differences you can expect between peak and off-peak travel to Hawaii, we looked in our archives for sample sale fares to Hawaii for summer 2003, and compared those prices with some current sale fares for flights to Hawaii this spring. We found that sale prices for summer travel were around $150 more than current spring fares.

Sample fares for summer travel, not including taxes and fees, were:

  • $399 from Los Angeles (Santa Ana) to Kona: Aloha
  • $546 from San Francisco to Honolulu: United
  • $754 from Chicago (O’Hare) to Honolulu: American

Fares from Aloha are based on travel in July 2003 and fares from United and American on based on travel in August 2003.

Sample fares for spring travel, not including taxes and fees, are:

  • $250 from Los Angeles (Burbank) to Honolulu: Aloha
  • $388 from San Francisco to Honolulu: Delta
  • $602 from Chicago (O’Hare) to Honolulu: American

Fares from Aloha are based on travel through June 15, 2004 and fares from Delta and American on based on travel through April 30, 2004.

SmarterTravel.com keeps track of all Hawaii airfare sales, which you can view on our airfare page. You should also visit the websites for Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines, as these carriers have regular specials and promotions. For Hawaii hotel deals and vacation packages, check our hotel and vacation sections. You can also visit the website for the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, where you can search for accommodations, activities, events, and travel specials.Top

Italy

Choosing to go to Italy in the spring rather than in the more popular summer months is a no-brainer when you compare seasonal differences in weather, crowding, and pricing. Spring promises mild temperatures and fewer tourists while summer can bring hot and humid weather (many Italian hotels and restaurants do not have air conditioning) and crushing hordes of visitors.

What’s more, summer airfare tends to be almost double the cost of winter and spring fares. For example, last June we featured a deal on European summer flights that included a Delta round-trip sale fare between Atlanta and Rome for $863. For travel this spring, the same Delta route is on sale for $446.

You can also save a bundle on accommodations during the spring. To demonstrate the possible savings, we compared weekly spring rates for apartment rentals in Tuscan villas with rates for peak dates. Excluding stays around Easter (April 11 this year), spring rates were several hundred dollars cheaper than peak rates, and in one case, nearly $1,000 cheaper:

Rental type and location Spring rates Peak rates
Flat by the Tuscan seaside $344 (March 27 to May 29) $1,267
Villa near Sienna $516 (through May 22) $930
Farmhouse near Chianti $535 (through May 22) $930
Villa near Florence $703 (through May 29) $832

These prices are based on the per-week double occupancy rates posted on the villa rental website Toscanet.com and do not include taxes.

To find more Italian vacation rentals, you can visit sites such as Toscanet.com (the site we used), HomeAbroad.com, and Vacations-Abroad.com.

For the latest Italy airfare sales and vacation deals for spring travel, visit out Europe air deals and Europe vacation deals pages.Top

Dominican Republic

According to a recent survey by the American Society of Travel Agents, the Dominican Republic is the fifth most popular international destination requested by U.S. travel agent clients. Though popularity usually means high prices, you can still snag some good travel deals to this Caribbean hot spot and avoid the hurricane season if you arrive after the peak winter months, between mid-April and June.

There are no great temperature variations throughout the year, but the spring is a bit warmer than the winter, with temperatures averaging between 75 and 80 degrees, and rain is heavier than usual during the month of May. However, you can still enjoy the country’s many outdoor activities, including windsurfing and kiteboarding, and there is little worry of hurricanes, which tend to hit in the late summer.

While our research shows that it’s possible to find good airfare sales for travel to the Dominican Republic throughout the year, there is a definite drop in hotel and resort prices in the spring. Sample spring rates compared to peak rates for accommodations in the Dominican Republic are:

Hotel Spring rates Peak rates
Casa Laguna & Beach Resort $50 to $70 (April 1 to June 30) $86 to $102
Fun Royale Beach Resort $130 (April 11 to June 30) $200
Camino del Sol $162 to $222 (May 1 to June 30) $228 to $288
Casa de Campo $183 to $929 (April 12 to December 20) $299 to $1,271

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes.

To learn more about other hotels and resorts in the Dominican Republic, visit DominicanRepInfo.com, a site that allows you to search the island’s accommodations offerings by town. You can then link to individual properties’ websites where you can check for special rates and packages.

Some good places to look for vacation deals include CheapCaribbean.com, eLeisureLink.com, and our Caribbean vacation deals page. For discounted fares to the Dominican Republic, check out our Caribbean air deals page.Top

Southeast Asia

If you’re looking for someplace more exotic, consider a spring Southeast Asia vacation, particularly to one of the region’s tropical destinations such as Phuket, Thailand, and Bali, Indonesia, where the weather is cooler than inland areas. A visit before the summer months can save on your biggest travel expenseÂ?airfareÂ?as the spring months are a less popular time to fly to cities in Asia.

Digging through our archives, we found a Northwest Airlines Asia sale for travel in summer 2003 that included a fare for round-trip travel between Philadelphia and Bangkok for $818, not including taxes and fees. A quick search on Orbitz for flights on the same route this April revealed United fares for $704 round-tripÂ?a non-sale price that includes all taxes and fees. Obviously, spring sale prices can be much lower, and we found a Cathay Pacific Bangkok sale for travel through May 31 with round-trip fares from San Francisco or Los Angeles for $599, or from New York (JFK) from $699, not including taxes and fees.

To keep abreast of the latest Asia air sales, monitor our international air deals page and the websites for airlines that frequently offer Asia sales such as Cathay Pacific, Northwest, and United.

Weather is a factor in creating the low season for some areas within this region, but the spring climate in Southeast Asia is surprisingly varied depending on where you visit. Because of these differences, we’d recommend you do some research on the climate of the place you’re interested in visiting before booking a trip. The website MyTravelGuide.com has a tool that allows you to search for climate data by country and city.Top

This feature is the first installment of our 2004 off-season travel series. You can expect future articles on off-season travel for the summer, fall, and winter seasons. For general low-season travel planning strategies, read our feature Low season, low cost: Five tips for off-peak travel.

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