Your Money: Discount Vacations

If the economy made you put off your summer vacation, now may be the time to act.

You're not alone if you're thinking about taking a trip just before the end of summer.

"Two-thousand nine has certainly been challenging for all of us," said Grayce Walters, Maupin travel. "We're seeing a tremendous amount of last minute travel."

Walters says the travel industry's pain may be your gain.

"We're seeing some of the best rates ever in the hotel and cruise business this year," she added.

Caribbean cruises from as low as $80 a day. Even the Alaska cruises are at a deep discount.

Walters recently book an Alaskan cruise for $500 a person -- down from $1300.

Timing is also key to saving money. Off-peak season rates started early and last until December 15. Then high prices will kick in.

Whether you fly or drive, Walters says hotel rates, depending upon the dates you stay, are 35 to 60 percent cheaper now. Some companies are even throwing in perks!

"Your better hotels -- Ritz Carlton brand, other high end brands and resorts -- giving nights free, full breakfasts, spa features reduced, kids stay free," Walters explained.

For fun, Walters checked to see what it cost me to fly to Miami and stay in perhaps the hottest hotel on South Beach. The nonstop flight from RDU is $259 roundtrip and to stay at the newly renovated Fontainebleau Resort and Spa, it would cost less than $200 a night. That's down from the usual rate that can go up to $800 a night.

Walters says there are goodies out there, you just have to look for them.

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