smart spending

Time it right and save big on vacation travel

An off time "is a nicer time to come, because when we're booked, everything's so crowded," Goya says. "This way it's more accessible -- there are more openings in our shows and in our top restaurants."

A day before or after a convention, Goya says, is one way to go, and you can figure that out from the online calendars.

Between Christmas and New Year's 

If convention avoidance doesn't work for you, try the traditionally cheapest week of the year.

Goya says that apart from odd convention-less times, in Las Vegas, "the only other time that's typically a lot cheaper is the week after Christmas and before New Year's. 

"The only problem with that is that a lot of our shows go dark that week, so you might want to check on entertainment before you book," she says.

You can snag a deal on major city hotels that week, too, if you're willing to deal with some typically cold winter weather.

A downtown Chicago hotel room, for instance, will usually be more reasonable in the last week of the year, and you can still enjoy the same great museums as any other time.

The Magnificent Mile is just as magnificent during the year's cheapest travel week.

Go midweek, and eat in midafternoon 

If you're traveling with children, the cheapest time may also be the most convenient time.

"Typically, midweek or weekends when there are no conventions are better times to bring kids, because it's less crowded," says Goya.

"Think of eating midafternoon meals, or hors d'oeuvres at happy hours," says Goya, who recommends that strategy for visiting Las Vegas. "We have great happy hours that can be really inexpensive.

"One place was doing a one-pound lobster for $12 during happy hour," Goya says. "Often the happy hour includes a lot of food, and you can save money that way.

"Take advantage of those off times during the day, because a lot of places have bargains," she says.

That's true in other cities, too. If you can eat a late lunch in New York, it will be a lot cheaper than dinner. Of course, the biggest saver of all is a big breakfast.

Even better is booking a hotel where a filling morning meal is free.

Arrive at the last minute -- intentionally 

Fashionably late can also be fashionably frugal.

Sometimes a last-minute fare that gets you there on the eve of a holiday, or the next morning, can be a steal.

Another tactic is to consider vacationing right after everyone else does. Thanksgiving Day can be far cheaper than the day before, and you can still have pie with relatives.

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Consider July 6th instead of July 4th, and enjoy fireworks at home.

By the time you get on the road, traffic will be lighter, waitresses will have more patience and you can probably find a better deal.

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