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With winter weather still in full force in many U.S. states, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your summer travel plans. Planning ahead is always a good idea, especially if you are trying to take advantage of government deals and discounts.
Here is a rundown of the best summer travel ideas:
Located just 600 miles south-east of North Carolina, Bermuda is often overlooked in favor of one of the more popular Caribbean islands. However, with its unique pink sand beaches, British architecture, amazing golf courses and proximity to the US, Bermuda is an amazing vacation destination for both young and old.
The Summer season in Bermuda starts at the end of April and runs through late September, even October.
There are flights to Hamilton from many major cities, however the most affordable way to visit Bermuda is on a cruise. Several cruise lines offer cruises to Bermuda from Baltimore, New York and Boston, all of them spending at least 2 (and sometimes 3) full days docked in the Bermuda ports, allowing tourists to explore the island without having to pay exorbitant hotel prices. 7-Day Bermuda cruises start from $629 per person.
For retirees, the best times to visit would be May and September – kids are in school and the weather is perfect, and the best deals can be found during these months.
Europe is not typically considered an affordable destination, but there are many undiscovered places along the Mediterranean coast that offer amazing landscapes, great history and top-notch food at a very reasonable cost.
Croatia and Montenegro combine medieval castles, crystal-blue water and late-night entertainment. Malaga, Granada and Cartagena, Spain are a paradise for foodies as well as easy access to Moorish palaces like Alhambra and Alcazar. Barcelona and Rome both offer plenty of hotel options offering discounted rates for government employees and can both be used as a base to explore the surrounding region.
For those who want to sample several Mediterranean regions in one trip, a 7-Day Mediterranean cruise is the best options as those start from around $700 per person and include the accommodations, food and lots of entertainment options as you sail from one Med port to the next.
For retirees and other travellers for whom time is not an issue, the best deals on travel to Europe are found on Repositioning Cruises. These cruises travel from the US to Europe each Spring and back to the US each Fall. Not only do they allow you to get to Europe without flying, but they offer amazing value, sometimes priced at under $600 per person for a 14-day sailing.
With travel restrictions for Cuba being updated every year, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to visit is on a cruise. Several cruise lines offer 4- and 5-day sailings to Cuba from one of Florida ports, and summer pricing averages $400-$500 per person. Ships spend a day (in some cases 2 full days) in Havana and offer many cultural tours including a visit to Hemingway’s House, a night in the famous Cabaret Parisien, and even a tour around town in one of the legendary colorful classic cars.
To get the most value of a Cuba cruise, and if you are in the mood for a party vacation, pick a cruise line that offers an Unlimited Open Bar, such as the Norwegian Sky.
Bahamas and the Caribbean
Summer marks the beginning of hurricane season in the Caribbean, however, for many families with school-age kids, it is also prime time for travelling there because the Caribbean offers great beaches, lots of kid-friendly activities and the opportunity for unique experiences like swimming with dolphins and stingrays.
Many chain hotels such as Choice Hotels, Best Western and Marriott, offer government employee discounts in their hotels in Aruba, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Nassau and some of the larger Caribbean islands. During summer-time it is possible to find a 4-star room in one of their properties for as little over $100 per night. Another option for affordable Caribbean travel are all-inclusive resorts and CheapCaribbean.com offers discounted rates for active military and reserve personnel.
Airfare to some of the best Caribbean islands may not be so budget-friendly, so consider a cruise vacation as a great alternative. Caribbean and Bahamas cruises leave out of Florida, New York and even Galveston, TX and in many cases cost less than $700 per person for a 7-day cruise. However, if you are traveling with family, book early because family size cabins are very popular during the summer months and often sell out months in advance.
Orlando is a favorite vacation spot for families with kids as it is jam-packed with activities for children of all ages.
Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, multiple water parks, exhibitions, themed restaurants, character visits, great golf courses and shopping make the Orlando area the perfect destination for both short getaways and longer vacations. You can even combine an Orlando visit with a trip to the beach or the Kennedy Space Center in Port Canaveral.
While there are no specific government discounts for most of theme parks, there are many ways for fed workers to save money on their Orlando trip by taking advantage of government hotel rates, sometimes as low as $60-$70 per night.
SeaWorld Orlando offers up to four free one-day tickets to active military personnel each year.
While most people are looking to travel south, there is much to be said about a Canadian vacation during late summer and early fall. The weather in Montreal and Quebec City is in the 70s, there’s plenty of nature and culture to see and you can drive there in less than 10 hours from many East Coast cities.
In early Fall, a popular option is a cruise from Boston or New York City up the Atlantic coast to see the foliage colors changing. It is also prime time to spot whales and seals off the coast as you sip a drink from your balcony. Cruises are also the most affordable option to see this area with 7-day sailings starting as low as $550 per person.
New England and Eastern Canada are both great wine producing regions, so you will find plenty of wineries in Massachusetts, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Whether you are visiting on a cruise or staying on land, make sure to visit some of the local wineries and try their wines and delicacies.
Special Deals for Federal Employees
CruiseDealsforFeds.com is a web site created specifically by and for government employees. They work directly with the major cruise lines to find exclusive cruise offers for government employees and retirees. Their weekly newsletter features the best cruise offers and deals as well as cruising tips and advice. Feds and federal contractors and retirees can save hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of group rates, extra onboard credit and other perks offered on over a thousand cruises each year.
In addition, many of the big U.S. hotel chains offer discounted government employee rates valid on both leisure and business travel. Marriott Hotels, Starwood Hotels, Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western, Choice Hotels, and Holiday Inn all offer nightly rates on select dates in many of their properties. For Fed workers with flexible travel plans, taking advantage of these rates can save them hundreds of dollars on many vacation plans.
Poli Marinova is a travel blogger, avid cruiser and a federal employee spouse who is always looking for the next best vacation deal.