The holidays are rarely the cheapest time to travel, as airlines hike fares to make the most of increased demand and space sells out quickly to hordes of travelers visiting relatives or taking advantage of school vacation.
In fact, between an improving economy, lower gas prices, and some quirks of the calendar, this holiday travel season is set to be the busiest on record, says auto-club giant AAA, which projects that almost 99 million Americans will venture 50 miles or more from home during 2014’s year-end holidays.
That’s the highest travel volume since AAA started tracking such trends in 2001.
About 91%, or 89.5 million, of those travelers will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, while about 5.7 million will take to the skies.
Still, there are deals to be had if a quiet Christmas or New Year’s at home is not what you (or the family) had in mind this year.
In an attempt to lure frugal families, hotels and resorts across the country are offering deep discounts on their normal rates, or special holiday packages geared toward families who don’t want to spend a lot of money.
If you’re prepared to act fast and book something over the next few days, here are a few offers around the country to consider:
Avanti Resort: Orlando, Fla.
Walt Disney World hums at peak capacity over Christmas vacation week, and hotels inside Mickey’s empire won’t come cheap — if they’re available at all.
But Avanti, a freshly renovated resort located on International Drive in Orlando, is offering 50% off its normal prices for the holidays.
That equates to rooms costing just $66 per day, or $650 for a week, at a resort that includes shuttle services to all the major Orlando theme parks. The property also has a gym, game room, pool, and beach volleyball onsite.
Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes: Friday Harbor, Wash.
This family-friendly property is also promoting a discounted holiday stay. Through December 31st rates will be reduced from their normal $375 per night to $279.
For that price the family gets into a cozy log cabin that sleeps up to six people, great for bringing the children and even pets, says the resort’s spokeswoman.
There’s also a special “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Jolly” package that includes a two-night stay at the 86-acre property, a Christmas tree and ornaments for your cabin courtesy of the resort, a bottle of local hard cider, a cookie decorating kit, and CD of holiday music for the family to sing along with while baking.
The package also includes unlimited fishing, fishing poles, bait, and boats – providing the kids with yet another activity once the cookies are all baked.
Here’s a little secret: some of the lowest prices to be had in Las Vegas are offered in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and often right through Christmas week.
New Year’s Eve will be prohibitively expensive, but on the days leading in and out of the holiday, hotel rates drop below $75 or even $50 a night, says Travelzoo’s senior editor Gabe Saglie.
One such example: Monte Carlo Las Vegas. If you book a room here by Dec. 28th, you’ll receive 54% off package prices.
Family entertainment options at the Monte Carlo include Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.
Clift San Francisco: San Francisco
With its proximity to Union Square, the Macy’s Christmas tree, and ice skating, the Clift has recently begun promoting itself as a fun, family holiday destination. To help attract that target audience, the hotel is also offering discounted stays.
Room rates at the Clift typically range from $309 to $439 per night. As part of its Winter Break package however, room rates have been cut to $199 per night.
The package is being offered through Jan. 10 and, in addition to overnight accommodations, includes two tickets to the Union Square ice skating rink, a Westfield Mall Passport to Savings book with coupons and special offers from retailers and restaurants, and two free drinks for the kids (as well as two free drinks for the adults) in the hotel’s Living Room lounge.
Ruby’s Inn: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Northern Utah’s famed ski slopes won’t be cheap over the holidays. But Ruby’s Inn, at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, offers another destination for families over Christmas vacation that won’t break the bank.
The hotel is offering rooms discounted 60% off the normal price through the winter. That amounts to rooms costing just $61 a night. (Also worth noting: Its sister hotel, Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, is charging just $81 a night.)
Holiday visitors here will be able to enjoy the scenic display of Bryce Canyon’s multicolored red rock formations, which this time of year are typically capped in snow. The hotel also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross-country skiing, and a rustic skating rink.