A getaway to the Dominican Republic. A road trip with friends. Even a weekend in Vegas â€” as long as you take it easy in the casino.
With most Americans expecting to receive a tax rebate of up to $600 ($1,200 for married couples), there are plenty of ways to get the most vacation for your buck, say travel experts. Whether itâ€™s a cruise, a tropical paradise, or family travel, these trips can all be done for under $600 a person.
Note: Deals are subject to change, travel may be limited to certain time periods, and taxes and other fees may apply.
CRUISES: Appealing to first-time cruisers and time-pressed travelers, several cruise companies are offering shorter cruises on older ships for as little as $60 a night per person (based on double occupancy), says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. For example, a Caribbean Princess three-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas in May starts at $259 (for a no-frills room).
â€œThere is no other travel option (other than a cruise) that gives you so much for the base price,â€ said Brown. â€œYou get all your meals, you get accommodations, you get entertainment, and you get to go to a variety of places without having to hop on planes, trains, buses.â€
Travelers seeking a longer vacation aboard a more luxurious ship can catch deals in the offseason. A seven-day cruise on Holland America to the Western Caribbean (leaving from Tampa) in November starts at $514. (Transportation to the port, tips and extras like the spa, alcohol and shore excursions will add to your bill.)
ROAD TRIPS: Skip the airport hassles and hit the road. Even with the high cost of gas, driving is cheaper than flying a group of four, says Carol White, who wrote â€œLive Your Road Trip Dream,â€ with her husband Phil.
â€œItâ€™s also a great way to reconnect with your spouse or family,â€ said White, who recommends leaving the electronics at home for real bonding time. â€œHow long has it been since you played cards or a board game?â€
To save on lodging and meals, White suggests camping out in a tent or RV in one of the national or state parks. Yellowstone National Park has biking, horseback riding, boating and hiking.
â€œYou can pack a picnic to your favorite spot, take a whitewater rafting trip on the Rio Grande, go snorkeling at Dry Tortugas, rent a sailboat (on a lake) in Grand Teton,â€ said White. â€œThe list is endless and just depends upon the features of the park itself.â€
For couples, â€œthere are a lot of beautiful parkways and scenic drives all over the country that you can combine with activities along the way,â€ such as Californiaâ€™s State Route 1 (Highway 1) along the Pacific or routes through the stateâ€™s wine country in Sonoma and Napa Valley. In New England, U.S. Route 1 includes small towns and the coast. Pick a theme, such as historic mansions, golf courses, or wine, and map out the route.
â€œDonâ€™t overplan your trip,â€ said White. â€œThe best part of the road trip is letting things happen along the way.â€
CITIES: Itâ€™s not impossible to travel to a sophisticated city for $600. Get out of the casino, the high-end restaurants and upscale shops, and Vegas can be done for less than $500, says Bryan Allison, vice president of marketing for Vegas.com.
Vegas.com has several deals on air-hotel packages, including two airline tickets from Phoenix and two nights at the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino for $474 per person (double occupancy).
Once in Vegas, spend the afternoon relaxing in your hotel pool complex, and at night wander the Strip to see free attractions like the Bellagioâ€™s fountain show, Conservatory and Botanical Garden; the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand; or the â€œSirens of TIâ€ show, staged four times a night outside Treasure Island Hotel. Red Rock Canyon, 17 miles from Vegas, offers hiking and a 13-mile scenic drive ($5 car entry fee).
Washington D.C. is a great destination for families looking for fun on a budget, since many museums are free. Visit the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court Building. Check out the Smithsonian and the Museum of Natural History. Stroll through Constitution Gardens. See the pandas at the National Zoo. And for a night on the town, head to Adams Morgan or Georgetown.
— By Megan K. Scott, Associated Press Writer