If you’re looking forward to breaking up your January with a post-holiday getaway, now is the time to start planning for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend travel.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday, Jan. 21 this year, which means you have one month to finalize your travel arrangements. Experts say this is a great time to score travel deals, because most people are saving their vacation days for later in the year. Additionally, many museums offer free or reduced admission for the holiday. Last year, the Chicago History Museum and other museums offered free admission. Meanwhile, Los Angeles celebrated with free admission to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the California African American Museum.
If you need some on how to get away after the holiday spending season, follow these tips to help you make the most of the long weekend.
1. Book your flights now
According to an analysis by DealNews, the best time to book flights for MLK weekend is at least three weeks out, which falls right around the new year or before.
Alexis Tiacoh, public relations specialist for Expedia.com, says their data shows it’s important to book your airfare at least 30 days before you depart. “In addition to purchasing airfare at least 30 days in advance, people can improve their odds even more by booking flights on a Sunday and then choosing a flight that departs on a Thursday or Friday,” she says. “That means travelers should look to depart on Jan. 17 or 18 if they’re flying out for MLK weekend.”
2. Think domestic
If you haven’t locked down a destination yet, Expedia also has data on some of the weekend’s most budget-friendly cities.
“Travelers are taking trips to the theme parks in Orlando, seeking out holiday sun in Southern California and treating themselves to a weekend of entertainment in Vegas,” Tiacoh says.
Expedia’s data shows you can find round-trip ticket prices under $300 to popular destination cities like New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and Detroit.
For super-savers looking to check out less-traveled areas, Tiacoh says destinations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Ocean Shores, Washington; and Mesa, Arizona are “showing an average daily rate of $150 or less during MLK weekend.”
3. Use a travel credit card
The beginning of the year is a great time to open a new travel card or redeem the rewards you racked up over the holidays for a discounted trip.
If you already have a travel or rewards credit card, consider redeeming your rewards for a weekend getaway. Look into your issuer’s travel partners and rewards portals to determine where your miles will go the furthest. You may be able to save on your entire weekend’s transportation and lodging costs.
For travel card beginners, opening one of these cards now (or another travel card more suited to your needs) and using it for your MLK weekend travel can help you score discounted travel deals on your bigger trips later in the year.
4. Cut down your travel time
For a three-day weekend getaway, you’ll want to cut down on your travel time as much as possible to enjoy more time on your vacation.
Consider a trip closer to home that you can easily reach by car. If you rely on public transportation or don’t have access to a car, you can potentially find a good deal on a rental car to get you to your vacation destination. Enterprise offers an ongoing weekend special rate that renters can apply during the holiday, according to Laura Bryant, a representative from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Just remember that January weather is often unpredictable, so make sure you’re covered by rental insurance (often included with your credit card) in case you run into unfavorable road conditions.
5. Take advantage of free attractions
The National Park Service recently announced its entrance fee-free days for 2019 and Monday, Jan. 21 is the first date offered. If you’re looking to explore a national park or landmark this year, especially somewhere usually pricey like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, this is a great opportunity to save.
Many museums, zoos and other cultural institutions offer free or reduced admission for the holiday as well. Last year, Chicago institutions like the Chicago History Museum, Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum all offered free admission. Similarly, Los Angeles celebrated with free admission to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the California African American Museum.
If you’re near the East Coast, you can see both the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture on a short trip to Washington, D.C. No matter which city you’re traveling to, you can likely also spend the day celebrating Dr. King by attending a local parade in his honor.