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"It tends to get busier when February vacations hit because a lot more people tend to be traveling," Banas says. "Carnival season starts to happen in the Caribbean so you start to see a lot more high-season travel there later in the month."
Even the destinations themselves are trying to deal their way out of the winter doldrums.
Disney's(DIS - Get Report) theme parks shouted out their latest promotion to anyone within earshot of
Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve or college bowl games this New Year's when it announced its
four-nights-for-the-price-of-three hotel promotion for late February and March. In Vegas, Southwest's vacation arm is offering airfare and three nights at the pyramid-style Luxor hotel
starting at $124. The city itself is promoting
40% to 50% room discounts at casinos such as Circus Circus, with rooms starting between $26 and $28 in what is usually Vegas' high season.
Even in peak-season towns where the hotel deals aren't so hot, vacation rentals can give travelers a de facto discount. Stephen Daimler, co-founder of vacation rental site
PackLate, says even skiers with their sights on some of the nation's most popular slopes can get deals in January. A
three-bedroom luxury condo on bustling Main Street in Park City, Utah, with a private hot tub and pool table and just down the block from the resort's lift, is going for a 50% discount at $465 a night. A
three-bedroom luxury condo four-bedroom home in Breckenridge, Colo., with a private hot tub and shuttle service to the slopes gets a 25% discount at $387 a night.
If travelers love the cold but don't need as many comforts, there's far greater dark-weeks savings to be had.
Yosemite National Park in California, for example, those willing to bundle up in the park's unheated cabin tents between now and March 19 will pay based on how low the temperatures go. Tents that usually go for $39 a night will be $10 if it's only 10 degrees Fahrenheit that night. If the temps drop below zero, that night's stay is free. For those willing to part with a little extra not to lose their extremities or have to bring seven blankets as carry-on items, heated tents are available for $59 a night, with that price dropping to $20 if it falls below zero. This was a slightly better deal last year, when the price was based on Celsius temperatures, but it can still be a bargain for those willing to risk it.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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