WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Frugal vacation ideas on WRAL-FM

Posted July 11, 2011

If you have waited a little too long to save up for that weeklong summer vacation in Eurpoe, don’t despair, there are still plenty of other last minute vacation options to give you a break from the everyday without breaking your budget.

Stay close to home with daycations. One day trips to nearby towns can offer just enough of a getaway if you have very little time. One of our Smart Shopper blog readers wrote that she uses the "Our State" magazine articles and once a month they pick a place from the articles and take a day trip there. She pointed out that they have found great places to eat, small town charm and things they would never have known about that are all just a short drive away.

Daily Deal sites: I have mentioned them to you before and using daily deal sites like and are excellent ways to get ½ price discounts to attractions in cities where you are planning to vacation. Both of these sites have deals posted for many cities in North Carolina as well as cities in nearby South Carolina and Virginia. You’ll find fabulous discounts on everything from restaurants to mini-golf to theater productions and more! Now is the time to start watching the deals for your vacation destination so you have some fun ½ price activities to do when you get there.

Use a discount travel site for airfare and hotel needs. has a great article with a list of 24 best travel sites to save you money. You can find the link on my blog at They profile well-known travel sites like and but they also include information about some really interesting sites like that is great for travelers who have a lot of flexibility and can take off at a moments notice when a fabulous deal becomes available. For instance, there was a $148 round trip rate to Boston on the site last night.

Offer to pay less: If a hotel has available rooms the night before you are thin king of taking a last minute trip, they may be willing to discount them deeply to get that room filled. Call the hotel directly to negotiate a better rate. Some hotels allow you to name your own price and the hotel decides if it will accept it. The Create Your Rate promo at Ocean Isle Inn got us to try the hotel at a big discount last year and we had a great time! Click HERE for more information.

Specific last minute deals:

Save up to 25% off regular admission price at Biltmore right now when you purchase tickets online at least 7 days in advance. Click HERE for more details.

Save up to 20% on a 3 night stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord with promo code MOREFUN, which is also mentioned on their website in the deals section. Click HERE for more details.

Please feel free to share any other travel deals or suggestions you have!



Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • juneroman Jul 18, 2011

    ftcc school summer semester ends tomorrow, I am on summer vac. now and am looking for that special deal. I will try the recomendations I have learned here, Thanks

  • juneroman Jul 18, 2011

    ugust 15. thanks june. yipppeeeeee

  • andersonjudyc Jul 13, 2011

    For the 'Create Your Rate' at Ocean Isle what is a good rate to create? I mean what % off the rate for that date would you ask for? How low would you go?

  • momssmallvictories Jul 12, 2011

    Faye, what Groupon did you get for a hotel at Busch Gardens? I got a coupon in the mail for a free park ticket to Busch Gardens so we were thinking of going soon. i love the readers idea to pick a place out of the Our State magazine. Thanks!

  • momssmallvictories Jul 12, 2011

    luvmylife2- we love going to disney, have been several times in last few years. i've heard best time to go is week before thanksgiving. i think anytime kids are off traditional calendar school, it's more likely to be crowded. we like to stay near disney but not on the premises. i like to make sure the room has a fridge and microwave as we'll pack water and sandwiches in cooler for lunch, have breakfast at the hotel (preferably somewhere like embassy suites or buena vista suites that has free breakfast buffet so you can have a big breakfast) and then dinner outside the park. we'd go back after dinner for fireworks and usually get parkhopper passes so we can make sure to see all the night shows at the different parks...they're all great, don't miss em! disney food is ok but we stayed at the movies resort once, the room was small (no microwave/fridge) and we got tired of the disney food. usually though in sept they have a good deal on disney dining plans (but its hurricane season).


  • sfj6380 Jul 12, 2011

    For those who mind this sort of thing, there was an article in the N&O about Groupon privacy policy changes and the data they are going to collect.

  • pss3 Jul 12, 2011

    We went to Disney for our honeymoon the week of Easter 2008. Thank goodness it was just us as anyone with kids would have had a meltdown with the crowds!!! I used the website: to plan our trip. They also have a weekly newsletter you can sign up for that is very helpful.

    luvmylife2-if you can, you would save a lot of money by moving your trip up a couple of days. Disney puts surcharges on holiday weeks which makes everything more expensive. I would call them and ask when they start charging extra for your trip.

    Also, if you are staying on property or plan on eating at disney, make sure you make your dining reservations early! You can make them online up to 180 days prior and YES, a lot of places fill up 180 days in advance, especially the character dining.

  • luvmylife2 Jul 11, 2011

    I'm interested in getting some information about WDW. Looking at going December 16th - 22nd. Anyone have any tips to share?

  • uncsweetchic Jul 11, 2011

    We have annual passes to WDW and went 6 times in the last year (including July 4th week, week before Christmas, and Easter this year). We just got back from taking a trip with my entire family since it was their first trip to WDW and I can honestly say that the crowds were worse 2 weeks ago than they were at Easter this year. Crowds can be hit and miss. A good place to check first before picking a date to go is and check out the crowd calendar. It's usually pretty accurate with crowd levels, oh and it's nice to have the touring plans if you're not an expert at planning your schedule for the day to maximize your time in the parks. If anyone ever has questions about WDW, just let me know. We consider ourselves experts now LOL and we are of course always frugal and know where to find the best deals :-)

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Jul 11, 2011

    Oh happy2.0 - we went 2 years ago at Easter because that was the only time we could meet up with my brother and his family and spend some time with them. The upside is that the Hilton was free using my brothers' hilton honors points so that did make up for some of the craziness! :-)