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How to Get the Best Deals During September Shoulder Season

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leavesAbout this time every year, friends and family get wistful about the waning days of summer, but savvy travelers know that we are entering the absolute best time to pack a bag and beat the crowds. Industry insiders like to call these in-between times the “shoulder” seasons, and some of the hottest destinations struggle to even keep the doors open this time of year.

The science behind these slowdowns is simple: kids are back in school and destinations have a tough time marketing any unique qualities about the late summer and early fall. Here’s a closer look at some destinations you can visit over the next couple months—and how to get the biggest savings.

Ski Resorts

The best targets for off-season deals are ski resorts. Snow is still two months away, and balmy summer temperatures often last well into October. The luxury ski resorts have an especially difficult time during the shoulder seasons—which means they also have the best deals. Here are a few resorts where you can find staggering savings this time of year:

Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colorado

Autumn rates at this resort are less than half the winter prices. The same room that rents for $1,000 in December is less than $450 in October. While you won’t be able to hit the slopes just yet, you can check out the fall foliage and scenic views.

Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming

The ski season in Wyoming often drifts deep into the heart of traditional shoulder slumps, which offers another great opportunity. Grand Targhee occasionally has ski lifts running before November 15, and they offer steep discounts to early birds. The resort starts accepting winter reservations in October, and they offer three-day passes that include lift tickets, lodging, and a snowcat adventure for $515.

The Caribbean

Shoulders in the Caribbean can be tricky because September and October also happen to be the heart of hurricane season. But if you book now for November, the hurricanes—and the crowds—will be long gone, likely to be replaced by excellent discounts and empty beaches.

Ritz-Carlton Cancun in Cancun, Mexico

Your spring break dollars will stretch twice as far when you book a $300/night room in November. The holiday rush will still be several weeks away, and the late summer monsoon rains generally make way for perpetual blue skies by the time autumn rolls around.

Paradisus Punta Cana Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The summer low season in the Caribbean is low for a reason: the heat and humidity can be so miserable that even the locals want to get away. But strangely, the low season continues up until holiday season, even though December is one of the nicest times of year to enjoy the Dominican Republic. At the Paradisus resort, nightly rates right before the holidays hover around $200 per night, while anything between Christmas and Memorial Day can go for nearly twice as much.

Las Vegas

las vegasThe one shoulder season that is guaranteed to leave savvy travelers scratching their heads is Las Vegas. With over 100 degree summers that continue through October, it’s hard to understand why peak season drops off right after the weather turns tolerable. This shoulder is small—just a couple weeks surrounding Thanksgiving—but it is absolutely the best time of year to visit Sin City.

The crowds are gone, the temperature is pleasant, and hotels across the entire state of Nevada are practically giving rooms away. Huge resorts on the Strip including the Luxor, Circus Circus, Riviera, and the Stratosphere all offer rooms under $50 a night. Some even dip down to $30 a night on weekdays. Stay out of the casinos and it might be the cheapest trip you’ll ever take.

Shoulder seasons aren’t a big insider secret, they’re just the reality of a fickle industry. Many resorts even anticipate the downturn and use the time to offer packages that include meals, classes, and tours of nearby attractions. With a few phone calls, a little flexibility, and some patience, this season can be the best time of year to get out and see the world—and save a bundle.

Want to learn more about getting the best hotel rates? Check out:

By Colin Weatherby for PeterGreenberg.com

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