Before You Go
To plan your trip, stop by your nearest AAA Travel office. or call 1-888-FON-4AAA (1-888-366-4222)

Fulfilling your wanderlust before winter sets in
Bag some travel bargains before summer slips away from you

Published: Jul/Aug 2002
By Dennis R. Heinze
Regional Editor

Cruise fares typically drop in late summer, when you can escape to the Caribbean for a short getaway and be gone for only three or four nights. /Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line photos
Summer is about freedom, about hitting the open road. It’s about screaming on a roller coaster ride and scrunching sand between your toes at the beach.

Ironically, Independence Day signals that the travel season is about halfway over and your chance to take advantage of your freedom to travel is slipping away along with the summer. July Fourth fireworks are a reminder that time is running out for those who want to get away before the new school year starts and winter threatens.

Fortunately, the end of summer offers travel bargains for those who have waited or procrastinated in planning their vacations. Whether you choose a cruise or a weekend getaway, there are some inexpensive options for travelers who want to take a break without breaking the bank.

Cruise into savings

Rebounding from the tragic events of Sept. 11, most cruise lines have been offering fantastic savings, with fares much less than they were last year. Some four-day cruises can be booked for around $400, and some seven-day excursions are under $600.

For instance, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival offer a number of sailings to the Caribbean in mid- to late summer. The shorter cruises, from three to five days, offer the least expensive way to get away to the islands.

For instance, rates for a five-night western Caribbean journey, which departs from Fort Lauderdale, start at $589 in July and $549 in August with Royal Caribbean. Along the way, the ship stops at Cozumel, where passengers can go snorkeling to see incredible coral formations or explore ancient Mayan ruins. The ship also calls on Grand Cayman, where you can relax on the talcum-soft sands of Seven Mile Beach.

For a shorter adventure, consider Royal Caribbean’s four-night Bahamas cruise that departs from Port Canaveral. The ship docks at Nassau, where you can snorkel with stingrays, and at CocoCay, a private island paradise. Rates start at $509 per person in July and drop throughout the summer to as low as $299 in October. Three-night cruises to Nassau and CocoCay start at $409 in July and also drop thereafter.

Carnival is offering similar deals for late summer and early fall with four-, five- and seven-night cruises. Four-night western Caribbean excursions depart from Galveston, Texas, or from the Florida ports of Tampa and Miami. Depending on which departure you choose, the ports include exotic Cozumel, fun-loving Key West and Mexico’s Playa del Carmen. The starting rates range from $299 to $429 in July, with prices generally dropping through the summer.

Cruisers also can save on Carnival’s seven-night Caribbean voyages from Miami, Tampa Bay and New Orleans that visit both eastern and western Caribbean ports. Rates start as low as $549.

All that Orlando offers

In honor of Walt Disney’s 100th birthday, the Walt Disney World Resort is pulling out all the stops for the 100 Years of Magic Celebration, which will end Dec. 31. All four Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando–Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom–are celebrating the milestone in their own way with great new parades, exhibits and discounts.

From Aug. 25 to Oct. 2, AAA members can enjoy shorter lines and terrific savings with AAA Vacations® AAA Days Fall packages that begin as low as $329 per person, based on double occupancy at a Disney Value Resort. The packages include accommodations for three or more nights at a selected Disney resort hotel and an Ultimate Park Hopper Ticket, providing unlimited admission into all four parks.

The AAA packages also provide admission into Disney’s water parks, Downtown Disney Pleasure Island and Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex. AAA members receive $25 Disney Dollars per room and exclusive AAA Vacations® benefits, including preferred parking.

Also in Orlando, Universal Studios offers thrilling rides and fascinating attractions, as well. At this real working film and television studio, the rides, shows and sets help you experience your favorite movies firsthand. You can become an agent in the Men in Black Alien Attack ride, rocket to the future in the Back to the Future ride and mosey on into The Wild Wild West Stunt Show for two-fisted action.

Find more thrills in Universal’s Islands of Adventure park, where rides and water fun await. And the Universal Studios CityWalk is a 30-acre complex with a dazzling array of restaurants, nightclubs, shops, live entertainment venues, cinemas and more.

AAA is offering members a package that includes four nights’ accommodations, unlimited admission to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, a City Walk Party Pass and one lunch. The rate for the Wyndham Orlando resort is $405, and the price for the Hard Rock Hotel is $609. Rates are per person, double occupancy.

Roll the dice and save

The middle of summer is hot in Las Vegas, with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees. But the chance to win cold cash and see an array of cool attractions is enough to draw thousands to the city when the thermometer is peaking.

The city’s ever-changing collection of shows and attractions provide a fascinating experience for newcomers or veterans. Where else can you see the Eiffel Tower, a pyramid, the New York skyline, gondolas, a fuming volcano, dancing fountains and a sea battle all in one place?

In this man-made paradise of glitter and neon, the hotels themselves are attractions. For instance, the gargantuan MGM Grand hotel and casino complex bills itself as “The City of Entertainment,” and rightly so. The MGM Grand cost $1 billion to build and sprawls over 114 acres. Four emerald-green towers soar 280 feet in the air, and a massive bronze lion statue guards the entrance. AAA is offering three-night getaways to Las Vegas, including round-trip airfare, through MLT Vacations. Rates start at $463 for the MGM Grand and $438 for the South Seas-inspired Treasure Island. Prices are per person based on double occupancy.

Branson getaway

Set in the 1880s, Silver Dollar City combines adventures of the past with thrills of the present, including two roller coasters and other thrill rides. /Silver Dollar City photo
For a getaway that’s closer to home, Branson offers enough shopping, attractions, shows and dining experiences for every member of the family. And if you are traveling with children, don’t miss Silver Dollar City’s National Kids’ Fest, which runs through Aug. 25. In addition to the park’s existing rides and shows, the festival features more than 100 activities, games and entertainment.

The park has teamed up with VeggieTales, producers of popular videos and read-along storybooks, to present a VeggieTales show all summer. And from July 1–Aug. 25, children can become part of the action in “Scooby –Doo’s Movie Madness,” an interactive musical revue.

Another event that adults might find more appealing is the Festival of American Music and Craftsmanship, which will run from Sept. 7–Oct. 26 at Silver Dollar City. The park welcomes craftsmen and artisans from around the country to present everything from carving to coppersmithing. As you wander around the park admiring the crafts, you can hear bluegrass, country, gospel music and more.

AAA is offering packages to Branson that include three nights’ accommodations; one premium show of the following: Dixie Stampede Dinner Show, the Showboat Branson Belle Dinner Cruise or Silver Dollar City; two other shows and a coupon book. Rates are $220 for the Best Western Music Capital Inn or the Comfort Inn Suites.

The sand through the hourglass seems to fall faster in summer. Don’t let the season slip away without getting away yourself.
For more details on these and other discounted trips, visit your nearest AAA Travel Agency office.

Also see: Break away and save with AAA

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.