Unless you just want to Google "Last Minute Vacation Deals” and pick whatever deal the search engine gives you, but that may not be exactly what you want, we first have to decide what kind of trip we want to go on before we can start pricing it. There are several online tools that can help us.
What if I don't know exactly where I want to go, but have an idea of what I want to do?
Tripadvisor.com allows you to choose a general idea of what you are looking for and in what part of the world you might like to be in. Click on "Inspire Me!" and it whisks you to destination results based on your preselected criteria. Click on any of the suggestions and you are given options to reveal subcategories exploring family and best value options.
What if I know what my budget is, but nothing else?
Kayak.com/explore generates travel options based on your budget. On the left hand panel you plug in your current location. Decide what time of the year you are departing, what your budget is, and how long you want to be traveling. If you have little ones you may want to choose the "non-stop only" option. The map of the world will reflect the regional prices according to your criteria.
What if I don't want to mess with buying tickets to attractions from multiple sites or paying full price at the door?
LastMinuteTravel.com offers up to 70% off services. They offer packages as well as an "Activities" feature that allows you to narrow down your locale based on interests. Plug in your region of interest, select your interests, and results will come up that allow you to purchase entrance to any attraction, show, or tour from one site.
Is bundling really the way to go?
Priceline.com– Bundling is the main appeal here. Priceline.com has been around for over ten years now and part of its attraction is that you can bundle air travel with hotel with transportation.
What about those umbrella sites where you plug in your information and a bunch of sites give you offers?
You can go to Umbrella Sites, like CheapFlights.com, that have partnered up with other companies to bring you search results from 100's of other sites. You enter your information once and results get generated from companies like Expedia.com and Orbitz.com. Keep in mind that some of the more reasonably priced airlines, such as Southwest, don't partner with those kinds of sites. There are alternatives for finding deals:
Fantastic Family Fun Vacation Resort Ideas:
The Breakers Resort- Palm Beach, FL
Ranks first among most national magazines for "family friendliness." They're are also running a last minute summer special with rooms starting at $299/night and INCLUDES kids camp fees, free breakfast for adults, free meals all day for kids, and unlimited fitness classes.
Tyler Place Family Resort- High Gate Springs, VT
It's an old-fashioned summer camp for the entire family. It's all-inclusive and kids are in camp in the morning and evenings, giving parents time to take adult classes with each other. It's priced per person and rates cover all meals, sports, family and adult activities, and children's programs.
Loews Coronado Bay Resort- San Diego, CA
On-property marina has kayaks, standup paddleboards, sailing lessons, and gondola cruises. They offer a complementary Shutterfly gift package. There are deals for your pets– Wag Your Tail Meals, Luxury Sleep Memory Foam Mats, etc. The PB Teen Lounge is a great place for teens to hang out and feel independent. There are activities for just kids, just adults, and plenty of activities for the whole family.
Disney World Art of Animation Resort- Orlando, FL
This is one of Disney's newest resorts in their lower price point category. Right now, they are offering a 15% discount on their site. There is complimentary parking and transportation to all of the parks. They also offer extra "Magic Hours" at select attractions that only guests of Disney resorts have access to.
For more with consumer reporter Joy Benedict, follow her on Twitter @joybenedict.