Summer vacations are an American tradition, but there's a new bugaboo crimping our style: high gas prices.
The price of filling the tank can make a summer trip much more expensive. Maybe there isn't a way to reduce gasoline prices, but certainly there are ways to keep down the cost of a summer vacation.
Here are five vacations that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
The nation's capital has a wallet-stretching promotion called "Staying Power,'' good until Sept. 1. Stay three nights including a Thursday or Sunday night at a participating hotel and get 30 percent off your entire stay, with rates starting at less than $100 a night. Other "Staying Power'' suggestions: Take a baseball outing at Nationals Park for as little as $5 per seat. Or take advantage of the free admission to the capital's wonderful Smithsonian museums, its great memorials, the U.S. Capitol and many public concerts. 1-800-422-8644, washington.org.
Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie offers a Florida Residents Special starting at $99 per adult per night with children ages 2 to 15 $60 each, or $318 per night for a family of four. A minimum stay of two nights is required. The price includes lodging, all meals and snacks, all beverages (including alcoholic), Mini Club Med for kids, tennis, group sports lessons and nightly entertainment. Golf is on-site at an extra cost. The special is good until Oct. 24. 1-888-932-2582, clubmed.us.
In the mountains of western North Carolina, you can hike, fish, tube, river raft, explore waterfalls, take in an outdoor drama, go shopping for mountain crafts or dig for rubies. The best way to enjoy the mountains is to book a cottage for a week, then use it as your base. For instance, Mountain Brook Cottages On Cowee Mountain, 9 miles south of Dillsboro, has 12 fully equipped units. Prices start at $90 a night with a discount of 10 percent for stays of six nights or longer. (828) 586-4329, mountainbrook.com. For general information about western North Carolina, call 1-800-847-4863 or visit visitnc.com.
From Channelside, two Carnival Cruise Line ships offer four-, five- and seven-night cruises into the Caribbean this summer. Four-night cruises to Cozumel start at $479 per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin; five-nighters to Grand Cayman and Cozumel start at $549. Seven-night sailings on the Carnival Legend visit Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize and Isla Roatan and start at $949. To all prices, add fuel surcharge of $7 per person per day and cruise fees ranging from $35 to $75. Price includes lodging, meals, most onboard activities and entertainment. Outside cabins are priced higher. 1-800-227-6482, carnival.com.
All-inclusive resorts, for which one pays one price upfront for all services, abound in the Caribbean. Among them is Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts, a new brand for the budget-minded created by Sandals Resorts. At its Antigua property, summer rates start at $223 per night for a family of four, based on a seven-night stay. Included are lodging, meals and snacks, beverages (including alcoholic), nonmotorized water sports and nightly entertainment. 1-877-846-3290, grandpineapplebeachresort.com.