How to Spend Your Tax Rebate
In May, the Internal Revenue Service begins mailing out tax rebates of up to $600 per person to help Americans weather the current economic slump. We can't think of a better way to take advantage of the extra cash—and grease the U.S. economy—than to spend it on a summer getaway. We've priced out seven possible tax-rebate trips, some for couples and others for families of four.
The itineraries are based on the assumption that couples will receive $1,200, plus $300 for each qualifying child (so $1,800 for a family of four). But we've factored in plenty of wriggle room for those who don't end up getting the maximum amount—and there are cheaper hotels and restaurants you can choose, if you don't want to blow the whole rebate.
NEW YORK CITY TO D.C., 3 NIGHTS
Getting There The new low-fare bus company BoltBus offers one-way fares between the Big Apple and D.C. for as low as $1.50, including fees—if you get lucky and book weeks in advance. But even average one-way fares are reasonable: $7.50-$20.50, with last minute prices topping out at $22.50.
Where to Stay Three nights at the Hotel George, a hip boutique hotel on Capitol Hill, comes to $787, for a King Deluxe Room with a plasma TV and leopard-print bathrobes. A weekday wine hour in the lobby, a complimentary daily shoeshine, and in-room spa services (for an additional fee) are added perks.
Something Extra With the money you save on transportation, you'll have plenty left over to splurge on a romantic dinner. Citronelle, a James Beard Award winner, is one of D.C.'s ritziest restaurants. The "Dinner à la Carte" three-course prix fixe menu starts at $95 per person; choose from main courses like veal with steak and sweetbreads or lamb in a white bean and jalapeño sauce.
Freebie Watch the cute pandas play on the Asia Trail at the National Zoo, which charges no admission. Tip: Take the Metro's Red Line to the Cleveland Park stop; it's actually closer to the National Zoo entrance than the Woodley Park-Zoo stop, and getting out there will save you an uphill walk.
Total: $983 ($491.50 per person)
4x$1.50 (2 round-trip tickets) + $787 (hotel) + 2x$95 (dinner) = $983
MILWAUKEE TO CHICAGO, 3 NIGHTS
Getting There Like BoltBus, Megabus offers low-fare bus service: One-way fares between Milwaukee and Chicago start at $1.50 but will most likely fall between $3.50 and $5.50 (last minute fares run as high as $12.50). Megabus has routes all across the Midwest and a few in the Northeast and the West—the Milwaukee-Chicago leg is among the cheapest.
Where to Stay Treat yourself to the Palmer House Hilton, which earned a Historic Hotels of America designation for preserving its landmark beaux arts architecture and two-story, gold-tinged lobby. Pause on your way in to admire the ceiling's opulent scenes from Greek mythology. The hotel, which has more than 1,600 rooms, is right by Millennium Park and the theater district and costs $758 for a three-night stay.
Something Extra The Chicago Architecture Foundation's two-hour Modern Skyscrapers walking tour—one of 85 led by experts—includes interior and exterior views of the Richard J. Daley Center and 1 South Dearborn tower ($15). Make a post-tour stop at Prairie Avenue Bookshop, an independent store specializing in books on architecture and design, where you can read while perched on Le Corbusier and Stanley Tigerman furniture.
Freebie The Chicago Gospel Music Festival, held in May, is one of many free events held in downtown's Millennium Park, whose grounds include art installations and a garden. Download a self-guided audio tour here.
Total: $794 ($397 per person)
4x$1.50 (2 round-trip tickets) + $758 (hotel) +2x$15 (architecture tour) = $794