Dead Week: It's the travel equivalent of the post-holiday gift-wrap sale, and to frequent travelers, the words summon the same giddy anticipation that "spring break" did during our younger years.
In the period between New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, travel drops off sharply, and cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies offer discounts that can make even the most jaded traveler giggle with glee. Here's how to make the most of the post-holiday deals.
Have Santa come late: Love your large extended family but hate trying to get everyone in one place over Christmas or Hanukkah? Push the family celebrations back a few weeks and save enough on airfare and hotel rooms to splurge on gifts for everyone.
Schedule some 'me time': In a recent survey, 9% of travelers confessed to checking into a hotel just to get away from their loved ones. Need a little space? Spas throughout Napa and Sonoma countries in California's famed wine country offer discounted rates in the lull between New Year's and Valentine's Day. Indulge in temporary singledom and celebrate surviving the in-laws by booking a package for one.
Work your way down your bucket list: Off-season travel generally offers substantial savings, and Dead Week is the perfect time to explore those places on the bucket list. Smaller crowds, more genuine interactions, and of course, savings on everything from restaurants to theater performances can make packing the extra outerwear worth it.
For example, a flight from Washington, D.C., to Iceland on Dec.19, returning Dec. 26, costs more than $5,700. Flying out Jan. 7 and returning Jan. 14 can cost as little as $1,100. Tickets for the best shows in London's West End can be purchased at walk-up for as little as 10 pounds, and the staggeringly beautiful Westin Excelsior in Rome, which costs as much as $500 a night in July, is $250 a night in mid-January.
How to Get the Best Deals
Flexibility is always the key to finding the best deals, and never is that more true than during Dead Week. For patient travelers with relaxed schedules, flight deals abound. A recent search for a last-minute round-trip ticket from Washington, D.C., to Easter Island found one for $900. Flights usually cost between $1,500 and $4,700 for the exotic locale.
Cruises, which set sail regardless of the number of passengers, offer great savings for last-minute travelers, and traveling in January is no exception. Norwegian is offering a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise for $349 a person, a four-day Bahamas cruise for $119 a person (both leave from Miami), or a nine-day Canary Islands jaunt for just $399.
Thinking of traveling by bus during Dead Week? Megabus is giving away 200,000 free seats for travel throughout the United States and Canada between Jan. 9 and Feb. 28. Tickets are first come, first served.
Deals Abound Everywhere Except ...
While travel deals can be found in nearly every facet of post-holiday booking, there is one notable exception to Dead Week this year: Washington D.C.
In the days and weeks leading up to the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21, airfare, hotels, car rentals, and other travel-related prices near our nation's capital have increased dramatically. Also increasingly difficult to find? Alternative accommodations such as those found through Airbnb and Couchsurfing.
To get the best deals, consider working with a travel agent, or search an all-inclusive site like Kayak.com, utilize booking apps for your smartphone, and watch for hidden fees with hotels and airlines.
Motley Fool contributing writer Molly McCluskey is a frequent traveler who writes about the intersection of finance and travel. Follow her tweets on Twitter @MollyEMcCluskey.