-- Airfares to Las Vegas during the mid-December "dead zone" are as much as 61 percent below peak fares. The lowest-cost day is December 11, but fares are good until just before the start of the Christmas vacation period. Hotel rates are also really good during this period -- but watch out for the "resort fee" scam that makes the featured rates look a lot lower than what they really are.
If you're looking for last-minute hotel deals, a new online bidding agency, Stayful (http://www.stayful.com) allows you to place bids for accommodations within a 30-day period for accommodations in independent "boutique" hotels. Initially, the site covers hotels in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco, with New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle and Washington to come online by the end of the year. You select the city, dates and party size, and optionally include filters such as location, Wi-Fi, and the display posts a "suggested" bid, as well as a reference "best available" regular rate. When I checked the beta version, I found that some suggested bids were only a few dollars less than the advertised rates, but Stayful claims "savings" as high as 42 percent. And, of course, you can always bid less than the suggested figure. In addition to (sometimes) good deals, Stayful includes hotels you might not find in other hotel discount programs. It's certainly worth a look for upcoming holiday visits, but you might do better with Hotwire or Priceline.
Trivago, the Internet's largest hotel metasearch site, mined its extensive price database to come up with some winter travel suggestions:
-- Hotels in some business-oriented cities cut prices substantially over Christmas. Trivago says that rates in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington are as much as 52 percent below rates earlier in the month.
-- On the other hand, rates in some visitor-oriented cities increase. Trivago cites increases in Ft. Lauderdale, Memphis, Orlando and Savannah in the range of 10 percent to 29 percent, topping out at 36 percent in Cancun and a huge 59 percent in Paris.
-- If you want to have a festive New Year's Eve in a big city, pick your city carefully. Rates in Las Vegas soar by 213 percent over previous dates, with New York City up 51 percent and substantial hikes in many others. On the other hand, rates in Houston drop by 19 percent; rates also lower in Washington and San Jose.
Cheapair posts a current "Christmas Calendar" (http://www.cheapair.com/blog/holiday-flights) of year-end airfares:
-- The best days to fly are December 19, 23 to 26, and 31; January1 and 7.
-- The worst days to fly are December 20 and 29; January 5.
Hotwire reminds us that, on average, working Americans leave an average of 12 days of paid vacation time unused at the end of the year. And Hotwire has plenty of ideas about how you might want to use those vacation days before the end of 2013. Among major destinations, the 10 where prices for four-star hotels drop the most between Thanksgiving and Christmas range from 11 percent at Orlando, where a four-star hotel is available for $52 a night (but may add the "resort fee' scam) to 47 percent at San Diego, where a four-star downtown hotels goes for $102 per night. Comparable deals are available in Boston, Cancun, Chicago, Cost Mesa, Houston and Seattle.
Meanwhile, my inbox is full of holiday promotions from individual hotels and resorts, ranging from a 50 percent sale (for travel through March) to last-minute packages at several all-inclusive Caribbean resorts. If you're interested, do some online searching or contact your travel agent. One way or another, you're not too late to arrange a great winter vacation.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
(c) 2013 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.