(Photo: Washington, D.C. via Shutterstock)
Spring is our favorite season for great travel deals. There's simply no beating that perfect combination of pleasant weather and low prices. Whether you're looking to squeeze in some late-season skiing, celebrate spring in style, or head to the beach, you can do it for less. We've monitored trends, industry news, currencies, and sale patterns to point you in the direction of places that offer the best bargains and low-season pricing for the coming season.
Shoulder-season visitors can explore the city's bustling souks, soothing hammams, and lush tropical gardens under the gentle warmth of a spring sun. Depending on exactly when you go, you probably won't encounter swimming pool weather in Marrakesh, but you'll almost definitely experience balmy, bright springtime conditions.
You'll also save money by traveling in spring, especially compared to higher summer prices. Flights, for example, are, across the board, cheaper during springtime. A search for round-trip flights from Newark to Marrakesh on Kayak turned up May tickets for as low as $752 round-trip; compare this with high summer ticket prices, which start at about $900 for travel on the same route in mid-July.
No matter the season, Marrakesh is a great destination for grabbing luxurious hotel rooms at less-than-posh prices. The place has ample reasonably priced, elegant boutique properties, often called riads, which are small hotels in buildings originally constructed as private homes. At the Riad Star, for example, nightly rates start at about $215 throughout the year. This historical property is the former home of Josephine Baker, and it features a plunge pool in a gorgeous lobby atrium, an on-site hammam, and traditional Moroccan breakfast included in the rate.
Each year, another Latin America destination is called "the next Costa Rica." This spring, we're calling Costa Rica the next Costa Rica. With plenty of air, hotel, and vacation-package deals and brand-new flights from Southwest, it's an affordable paradise just waiting to be discovered.
Southwest kicks off new service to Costa Rica with flights connecting Baltimore and San Jose starting on March 7. The airline says it expects to offer fares up to 40 percent lower than competing airlines on the route. And Costa Rica is included in Southwest's beach hotels sale, with nightly rates starting at $58.
In our opinion, spring is the absolute best time to go to Washington, D.C. The weather is Goldilocks perfect (not too cold, not too hot), the crowds are manageable, and the city is awash in cherry blossoms. This spring, we're seeing discounted airfare to nearby airports plus plenty of hotel deals that make a spring jaunt to D.C. a bargain traveler's dream.
Marriott's spring deal helps travelers make the most of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place this year between March 20 and April 15, with air-inclusive two-night vacation packages starting at $359 per person. Destination DC has rounded up spring hotel sales from around the city. And American, Delta, and United have all recently offered discounted flights to D.C. and are likely to continue with similar sales throughout spring.
Vacationers might flock to the Eurozone countries to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, but don't rule out the pound sterling when you're looking for a good deal this spring. Impressive discounts on airfare and vacation packages put London in the top spot for bargain hunters this upcoming season.
All-business-class airline La Compagnie is promoting new service between New York and London with fares from $1,007 round-trip. Now, even for an economy seat, that's a pretty good price, but you're getting lie-flat seats, lounge access, and the rest of the business-class experience. When we checked out the deal recently we found that seats are limited but available. American and Go-Today both have well-priced air-and-hotel deals, with rates starting at around $1,100 per person for four-night packages.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Earning a place on this list with an unbeatable combination of new air service and great deals, Reno and nearby Lake Tahoe deliver what we'll call the three-season win: cold-weather activities like skiing, plus the beginning of summer activities like river kayaking, all packaged into pleasant spring days.
JetBlue starts new service from New York City to Reno on May 28, marking the first time in a long time that East Coasters have had direct access to the splendor of Tahoe. While the introductory fares of $89 each way for spring flights are no longer available, the debut of the route will likely keep prices competitive from New York. Hotels and resorts around the lake have spring specials as well. For instance, 968 Park Hotel in South Lake Tahoe is offering two nights for the price of one (rates from $99 to $199) for stays March 21 through June 4, booked between March 21 and April 5. And Tahoe Seasons Resort has a two-night Sweet Retreat offer that includes a suite and extras like wine and chocolates for $385 during spring.
Oslo is a notoriously expensive destination. In fact, the city made our list of 10 Places in Europe You Never Thought You Could Afford last year. So if you want to see Oslo without blowing your travel budget, low season--especially this year--is the prime time. The krone has lost 26 percent against the dollar since June. With the U.S. dollar holding strong against the declining krone, Oslo may be cheaper than it's been in quite a while.
According to a TripAdvisor survey of hotel-room prices, Norway's rooms are 17 percent less expensive this year compared to 2014. Add to that the lower-than-usual seasonal pricing, and you've got a bargain-priced stay. For example, at The Thief, April stays start at 2,190 krone (about $284) per night, compared to 3,190 krone (about $414) in May.
Warning, caveat ahead. Orlando is a great bargain destination this spring ... except during spring break. The Florida city best known as a theme park hub will see a sharp, painful spike in prices during the most popular spring-vacation weeks in March and early April. But from mid-April through the beginning of June, deals reign in the Magic Kingdom and beyond.
US Airways Vacations has 35 percent off Universal Orlando Resort vacation packages of three nights or more. And while Disney increased its prices on February 22, Visit Orlando will continue to offer tickets at the lower price until March 2. The site lists other savings as well, including discount attractions tickets to other parks and savings on food, transportation, activities, and more with its free Magicard.
The dollar buys you a lot more in Canada these days--about 13 percent more than it did in 2014; that's huge. On top of the awesome exchange rate, travelers can find low-season prices across the country during spring. Our northern neighbor is a true travel steal this year.
Train travel is an ideal way to take in the vast and gorgeous Canadian countryside. And VIA Rail Canada's train trips are almost always priced a lot lower in spring. This epic Across Canada by Train package costs $5,504 per person, based on double occupancy, for travel through May 24. From May through September, though, the cost jumps as high as $6,795 per passenger. The Canada Rockies trip, an excellent way to explore the wilds of Western Canada, starts at $1,643 per person in April, compared to as much as $6,253 per person in summer.
--By Christine Sarkis