We're just 11 days into the new year and I'm already thinking about my next vacation. Mostly I'm thinking, "Can I afford it?" (And will I have a job when I get back?)
Many travelers are going to have to be even more thrifty about vacations this year. I suspect people will wait longer to make plans, hoping to get the best deal at the last minute. That's not a bad strategy, especially if your schedule is flexible or you're thinking about taking a cruise or booking a hotel. Fewer travelers means more vacancies at hotels, and desperate innkeepers willing to make a deal that's favorable to your pocketbook. Luxury hotels, in particular, are having a hard time, so if you have the cash, now is the time to stay someplace that you may have only dreamed of, such as the Four Seasons or Trump International Hotel & Tower.
Another idea is to decide where you want to go early on and then monitor airfare prices at airfarewatchdog.com, a Web site that keeps tabs on the highs and lows of airfare anywhere. Budget travelers can also save by signing up for e-mails from hotels or other travel providers that will give you the inside edge on coming deals.
Trying to decide where to go? CheapTickets.com lists the top places for 2009 where your money will have the most stretch if you go off-season, including Portland, Maine, in spring; Napa Valley, Calif., in winter; and Tucson in summer - yeah, I know. Blazing hot. But to save money, you've gotta make sacrifices. Overseas budget-friendly locales include Hong Kong, Brazil and Greece. Frommer's top destinations for 2009 include Berlin; Cartagena, Colombia; and Alberta, Canada. Still can't decide? Check out our list of fun 2009 events around the world at baltimoresun.com/travel.