15 Last-Minute Spring Break Deals You Can Book on Your Phone
Everyone knows that procrastination typically doesn’t pay off. But it does if you’re still looking to book a spring break vacation this year.
Down to the wire and still hunting for a bargain? Check out these destinations first! For spring break, they have some of the lowest average hotel rates, according to new data from Priceline.com, whether you want to hit the beach, ski some fresh powder, or take advantage of sunny outdoor activities.
• Phoenix, AZ ($127.14)
• Charleston, SC ($131.89)
• Austin, TX ($135.70)
• Nashville, TN ($138.68)
• Palm Springs, CA ($143.08)
• Myrtle Beach, SC ($69.48)
• Jacksonville, FL ($105.87)
• Costa Rica ($106.61)
• Daytona Beach, FL ($137.09)
• Long Beach, CA ($146.01)
• Salt Lake City, UT ($96.68)
• Toronto, ON ($98.49)
• St. Paul, MN ($111.01)
• Chicago, IL ($113.33)
• Denver, CO ($136.46)
And we have even more intel on how to save big: The new way to find deals is bypassing your computer and relying solely on your mobile device. Priceline.com travel analyst Brian Ek says some of the site’s best deals on hotels, flights, and car rentals are available exclusively through its app, particularly for last-minute bookers. (If you don't have the app, download it here for iPhone/iPad and here for Android.)
“For example, exclusive to the Priceline.com app are Tonight-Only deals,” Ek says. “Priceline.com adds hotel deals at up to 40 percent off daily at 11 a.m. that are available for same-day check in. When in the app, simply tap on the filter button and sort by ‘deals’ to bring all Tonight-Only deals up to the top of your search. You can book your stay up to four nights at the discounted rate.”
To maximize savings, Ek recommends bundling your hotel and flight together. However, the strategy to saving on hotels is the opposite of nabbing cheap airfare. While flights are cheaper more than 21 days in advance and rates typically increase as the travel day gets closer, hotels are the opposite, with rates dropping as check-in day approaches. Ek explains: “Booking more last-minute can score you extra savings since at the end of the day, many hotels have unsold rooms, and to offer those rooms up at a discount benefits both the hotel and the consumer.”
Procrastination has never felt so good!
Step Into Our National Parks
We’re counting the days till the February 12 release of National Parks Adventure, an IMAX 3-D film shot in some of America’s most beautiful and inspiring places to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, in August. Nearly a century ago, the National Park Service was founded on the firm belief that America’s wildest places should be preserved. Forever. Not subject to political or commercial whims or trends but protected in perpetuity for future generations. As we approach the NPS centennial, Budget Travel feels proud to have played a role in celebrating places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia, and Everglades and unlocking their secrets, making them accessible to every traveler. National Parks Adventure, presented by Expedia and narrated by actor/environmental activist Robert Redford, was shot in 30 national parks over nine months by director Greg MacGillivray, who hopes the massive effort (involving four separate film crews) will bring what documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called “America’s best idea” to a new audience and encourage travelers to discover the 400-plus parks across the U.S. The film is told from the point of view of mountaineer Conrad Anker, a national parks ambassador with a deep, off-the-beaten-path knowledge of iconic sights and lesser-known backcountry. FIND YOUR PARK While we’re awaiting the film’s release, we’ve been having fun researching (and getting inspired by) America’s national parks at FindYourPark.com, an interactive initiative launched in anticipation of the NPS centennial that includes every park in the system.
Meet the World's Newest National Park
Peru has announced the establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park, a 3.3-million-acre reserve in the Amazon that will protect endangered wildlife and indigenous communities. Some are celebrating the new park by dubbing it the “Yellowstone of the Amazon,” but in fact Sierra del Divisor is bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite put together, and is the final link in a much bigger chain of protected areas, the Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor, which will now cover 67 million acres. Reflecting nine years of work by nonprofits such as Rainforest Trust and the Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon and the Peruvian government, the new park is, according to Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, “one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth.” The area, which, thanks to this national park designation, is now protected from logging, oil exploration, coca cultivation, and other deforestation activities, is home to 21 indigenous groups, and animal species that include giant armadillo, jaguar, the unusual bald uakari monkey, and others. Budget Travel will keep an eye on new opportunities for U.S. travelers to responsiby (and affordably) explore the Amazon region in light of this new park designation. If you've got the Amazon on your to-do list, we’ve recently recommended Friendly Planet’s Exotic Ecuador and Peru tour. TALK TO US! We want to know: Have you visited the Amazon? Are you planning a visit in 2016?
How To Visit U.S. National Parks For Free
Happy 99th Birthday, National Park Service. You Look Great! In case you hadn't noticed, the U.S. is home to some of the greatest national parks in the world. The best part: if you do your homework, you can visit them for free. Here's how. Enroll in the Every Kid In A Park program Get ready for the ultimate family national parks road trip adventure! Starting in September 2015, 4th grade students around the country can sign up through the Every Kid In A Park website to receive a voucher for free entry until Aug. 31, 2016 to U.S. national parks and public lands for the student and up to a carload of people. Translation: you and your family will get the chance to see wildlife and spectacular natural wonders up close—just remember to stay in your car when the urge to take that perfect bison photo suddenly hits. Visit during free admission days The good news in case you didn't get a chance to visit your favorite national park today during the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service, you can still take advantage of free entrance days on Sept. 26th (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11th (Veterans Day). Next year, you'll also be able to score complimentary admission on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents' Day weekend, National Park Week's opening weekend, and on Aug. 25th, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Free annual passes are available for certain groups Current military members and their dependents, families of deployed service men and women in the U.S. Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and most members of the U.S. Reserves and National Guard can pick up a free annual pass at any federal recreation site by showing a valid current military ID. U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities are eligible for the Access Pass, a free annual pass that must be obtained in person at any federal recreation site or you can pay a $10 processing fee to submit your application online. Have you volunteered with a federal agency (ie. the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the Bureau of Reclamation) for more than 250 hours? You can apply for a free Volunteer Pass by applying through the Interagency Pass Program or by visiting Volunteer.gov for more information. Seniors get in for (almost) free If you're over the age of 62, you can pay just $10 for a Lifetime Pass if you apply in person at any federal recreation site, or $20 for a processing fee if you choose to apply via mail. The pass also includes a 50 percent discount on certain fees that are normally charged by the parks for camping, boat launches, swimming, and other activities. Please note that Golden Age Passports are no longer being sold, but will be honored if they've already been purchased. Need more ideas? Find Your Park. At Budget Travel, we're huge fans of our national parks and try to visit them as much as possible. In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I had the chance to view lava from the visitor center, walk through the dormant Thurston Tunnel, and hike along a path that looked down onto active steam vents. In South Dakota's Badlands National Park, my other favorite, each stop at one of the "scenic overlook" markers becomes a scene you'll never forget, a postcard with every view. Want to visit a handful of amazing national parks and monuments in one road trip? Try Southern Utah's National Park circuit through Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands—with a stop at Monument Valley in Northern Arizona—for the summer road trip of a lifetime. We want to know: which national park is your favorite? Is there a certain one you keep going back to? Which ones are still on your travel bucket list? Sound off below!
WATCH! Yellowstone Bison Surprises Motorists
We were sorry to hear that a teen visiting Yellowstone National Park was gored by a bison on Friday after posing for a photo near the animal. Her injuries were deemed serious but not life-threatening. I must admit, though, the animal encounter reminded me of the video above, shot by my wife Michele when she and our daughter Rosalie were visiting Yellowstone last summer. The gigantic bison that huffs and puffs past Michele and Rosie's rental car has become a bit of a video "star" with Budget Travel readers. The bison attack last week is also an opportunity to remind travelers, as the National Park Service does, that you should never get within 25 yards of bison or other park denizens. (The teen who was gored on Friday was reportedly standing wtihin 6 feet of the bison.) Yellowstone National Park is home to up to 5,000 bison by some estimates, and despite their massive size, they can run three times faster than you can. Stay safe.