3 Last-Minute Summer Vacations for Under $500

Summer getaways aren't cheap, but sometimes not traveling at all isn't much of an option. Thankfully, there are bargains to be had as we head into the final few weeks of the season.

Let's go over a few last-minute vacation ideas that won't necessarily break the bank.

1. Hit an Indoor Water Park

One of the biggest travel trends to emerge over the past decade is the indoor water park. It began in the Wisconsin Dells, where resorts began to build massive indoor pool areas complete with water slides and lazy rivers to entertain guests in all climates. Now they can be found in most states.

Staying at some of the more popular indoor water park resorts doesn't usually come cheap. A family of four heading out to Kalahari Resorts in the Wisconsin Dells this weekend would be paying at least $580. However, if that same family of four could hold off on that two-night stay until an early weekday getaway in September, the rate drops to as low as $280 for a stay that includes the room and access to the watery fun.

2. Cruise Control

Hopping on a multiday cruise may seem like a lavish diversion, but it's not as expensive as you might think. Sure, you may have to limit yourself to older Carnival (CCL) boats sailing on shorter itineraries, but you will still get decent meals, daily on-board activities, and exciting ports of call that are included in your fare.

CruiseCheap.com has a list of last-minute bargains, and as of now that includes a four-night sailing out of Miami on the Carnival Ecstasy leaving in early September and a late August getaway leaving out of Long Beach on theCarnival Inspiration starting at just $229 a person. The rate assumes that at least two people will be traveling together. If you're willing to sail later in September, there are a few bargains to be had south of $200. There are also port charges and suggested gratuities to factor into your tab, but as long as you don't go on costly shore excursions or break the bank on spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, or casino outings that aren't included in your fare, you should be fine.

3. Let the Internet Smoke Out a Bargain

There's no shortage of getaway deals to be found online, but the same can also be said about travel scams. You certainly don't want to follow a link from an unsolicited email promising a beach getaway at a ridiculous price, but if you stick to legitimate deal finders, you might be surprised at how deep resorts are willing to go with discounts to fill empty rooms.

All of the major travel portals promote great deals, but you might also want to check with markdown specialists. Groupon (GRPN) may get a bad rap from time to time, but Groupon Getaways does offer some great prepaid deals for last-minute bargains. Travelzoo (TZOO) is another bargain-seeking specialist. It pushes out the weekly Travelzoo Top 20 list, and as a publisher it vets the offers to present the ones most relevant to you. Yes, it does get paid for the referral. (How else do you think a free service makes money?) Either way, stick to legit websites to make sure that you don't wind up falling for a scam or have to sit through a timeshare hard-sell to make a marked-down getaway happen.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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