There's still time for a memorable summer vacation — and you might even save some money.
It’s August — and you forgot to go on vacation.
But, luckily, summertime is still with us.
So, here’s the good news: Because so many kids go back to school ridiculously early, prime vacation spots are already starting to empty out.
This gives you plenty of time to plan a last-minute getaway, sometimes for a deal. Here are some of my favorites.
Big Bear Lake, Calif.
After 30 years of living in Southern California, I only visited Big Bear for the first time a few years ago. But it immediately became one of my favorite spots.
It’s only a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, and August is perfect lake weather. There are so many things for families to do here, and it’s also one of the most dog-friendly communities around.
On the lake, you can learn to water ski, go fishing, kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. In town, you can bowl at the 16-lane Bowling Barn, ride down the Alpine Slide, see a movie or get some delicious ice cream. There’s a great Alpine Pedal Path bike trail around the lake, and mountain bike trails on the ski slopes. Don’t forget to visit the Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin.
Go to BigBear.com, the tourist website for the region, and check for deals and discounts. If you rent a cabin, make sure you know what kinds of cleaning and other fees you’re being socked with on top of the nightly rate.
All right, you already know that it’s 1.2 million degrees in Las Vegas in August. I once got burned just from touching a metal pool chair. But, here’s the thing: Those scorching temperatures keep anyone with a lick of sense away, and that means it’s perhaps the most economical time of the year to visit.
I just got a solicitation to stay at the Flamingo Hotel for $30 per night, not including, of course, the resort fee. But the Flamingo has an outstanding pool, which you could enjoy early in the morning or at night, so you don’t get fried to a crisp in the afternoon.
Vegas.com is offering a package at numerous MGM resorts that includes two buffets or a resort credit per day. It must be booked by Aug. 18 for stays through Dec. 29.
Sequoia National Forest
If you’re looking for a rustic vacation for the whole family, I heartily recommend the Montecito Sequoia Lodge, which is in the Sequoia National Forest, just outside the national park.
It’s not fancy, but it’s jam-packed full of outdoor fun for everyone at the lodge’s family summer camps. For one price, you get three buffet-style meals a day, a seemingly endless number of activities and a rustic room or cabin. There’s a small lake and all sorts of supervised fun for kids and adults, including an archery and rifle range, fencing, hiking and, well, you name it.
The camps are booked by the week, but at the end of the season, they have four-day “adventure camps” that have fewer programmed activities but still plenty of fun.
I’ve been getting emails from publicists trying to persuade me to recommend Phoenix right now, but unless you have some particular reason to be there, there’s no reason to endure the hellish August heat.
However, Tucson is another story. There are some gorgeous resorts in Tucson, and it’s at a higher elevation, so it’s typically several degrees cooler than Phoenix.
Summer is an excellent opportunity for you to stay in a posh resort that your budget normally doesn’t allow for for around $100 per night.
The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort usually has deals this time of year. We got a summer deal a few years ago at the Westin La Paloma that made us feel like we were living large.
Palm Springs, Calif.
And, speaking of hellish heat, how could I leave out Palm Springs? But if you’re in the pool most of the time, it can be OK.
Last year, we stayed at the Hyatt Indian Wells, which is a nice property with several pools and a small water slide, for less than half price. Which was good, because it was 116 degrees, and even the hairs on the inside of my nose were burning. We spent much of our long weekend in air-conditioned movie theaters.
If you catch a period when it doesn’t feel like Dante’s Inferno outside, this is a great time to stay at a nice resort that may be cost-prohibitive in the winter.
Check the official tourism website at visitpalmsprings.com and click on “Hot Deals.”
Aug. 25–28 is the National Park Service Birthday Weekend, when everyone gets in free to all national parks for four days. That’s a good time to visit parks that are bunched together, such as Zion and Bryce in Utah. However, if you do, note that it’s really hot there, so plan your sightseeing for early in the morning. I like staying at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, which has a variety of lodging options and is day-trip close to numerous scenic locations.