NEW YORK (MainStreet) Forget about it: You cannot afford to spend Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons (figure upwards of $1,000 per night) or Martha's Vineyard (likewise) -- and the prime places were booked long ago anyway.
And yet there remain plentiful, highly desirable, getaway options for late bookers. The key is knowing where to look.
A big tip from Jon Gray, a senior vice president at vacation home rental company HomeAway, is to look near but not in the prime destinations. "We see a good chunk of people heading to markets near but outside major markets, where they save a pretty penny. Hollywood, Fla, for instance. Go for the extra mile destinations, a little further away."
Hollywood, Fla., for instance, is near Ft. Lauderdale (just six miles from Fort Lauderdale Airport) - but it's much cheaper, said Gray.
Another tip, from Tom Spagnola, a senior vice president at CheapOair, is "look at warm weather locations -- we are seeing great deals."
It's not too late to bargain hunt for Labor Day. Here's MainStreet's list of where to search.
Here are five cases in point:
The Arizona Biltmore is a Waldorf Astoria collection resort in Phoenix, built in the style of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright (he consulted on it but did not design it). This place screams old money - it opened in 1929.
It perfectly illustrates Spagnola's promise of warm weather deals.
Feast on this deal at the Biltmore: a room for two is $199. Sounds like a lot? Read on.
Included in the price is breakfast for two. Lunch for two. Dinner for two. Free self-parking. The resort fee ($28 ordinarily) is included and it covers WiFi, access to the fitness center, and use of the 18 hole putting course.
You also get 20% off any spa treatments.
Meals are at Frank & Albert's restaurant and the poolside Cabana Club (in-room dining excluded).
The drawback: it will be hot, around 100 degrees. Plan for a getaway that features a lot of indoor activity and pool time.
Bryson City, N.C. Homeaway's Gray pointed to this town, which nestles the Great Smoky Mountains - it's on the south side of Smoky Mountains National Park, around 300 miles from Raleigh on the other side of the state. Proudly "non touristy," Bryson City is for the outdoorsy person in you. What can you do? Whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, tubing, zip-lining, paddleboarding, and mountain biking are all there.
Cost? A luxurious log cabin - with its own trout stocked stream (so dinner is included) - runs $175 a night over Labor Day on Homeaway. It's three bedrooms, two baths.
A traditional hotel - Lloyds on the River Country Inn - runs $109 per night over Labor Day.
Weather will be in the low 80s, with similar humidity. It's hot, it's muggy but it's outdoors and it is beautiful.
You were hoping for a cooler weather getaway?
The Grand Traverse Inn in Michigan beckons. It's $189.67 a night. The real Labor Day weekend draw is Taste of Traverse City festival, a foodie's delight, and know that chef superstar Mario Batali summers here and has pronounced the local food scene a kind of "gastro-paradise."
Maybe the highlight is a White House Dinner featuring erstwhile White House chef Walter Scheib ($110).
Tix to "The Taste of Traverse City" - including 15 tasting tickets - are $45.
Expect highs in the 70s. Late August is a great time to be in northern Michigan, but plan for rain.
Queen Mary, Long Beach, Calif. Introduced into service as the world's luxury cruise ship in 1936, the Queen Mary retired to Long Beach (a handful of miles south of LAX) in 1967, where it now serves as a floating hotel, with rooms at $134 a night.
The best bit: Queen Mary is holding its tenth annual Art Deco festival - tickets start at $15 - August 29 to August 31. Of course, the Queen Mary herself is a showpiece of art deco design, and the event includes "Prohibition tastings," a lot of jazz and old-time ballroom dancing.
Tip: the Queen Mary is also notorious for its ghosts. A $15 tour will acquaint you with the ship's many poltergeists.
In Long Beach there's also the Aquarium of the Pacific and the battleship Iowa. For a day trip, there's a fast boat to Catalina Island.
Expect highs in the mid 80s. Rain is unlikely.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Co. Built a century ago as "The Grand Dame of the Rockies," the Broadmoor is an AAA five diamond resort, but over Labor Day room rates start at a jaw dropping $145.
Book a Great Fall Getaway, and you also get a 20% discount off golf green fees and a 15% discount off spa services.
There's excellent hiking available, and of course there's Colorado's marijuana.
Daytime highs will be around 80. Night time lows around 50.
--Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet