It happened again. You meant to plan a summer vacation. But it seemed like you had plenty of time, and there was always something else to do. Now, somehow, you're staring down July. No worries: We've gathered tactics for pulling it off, on the double!
You may assume that you'll have to be totally open on the dates to be able to take a trip before Labor Day. But it's actually more important to have wiggle room with the place. Sure, your heart may be set on an iconic dream destination, but a lot of other people's hearts are, too. "I'll hear 'I want to go to Hawaii' at the last minute," says Jennifer Gaines, a contributing editor at Travelocity, "but that's not the best idea." Pick a date range, define the type of vacation you're hankering for--say, beach, hiking, or city wandering--and then hunt through that wider lens. Even then, keep an open mind. Saudia Nagamootoo, a mom of two in Coral Springs, FL, often finds out when her husband can take time off only a week in advance. They always go somewhere, even if it's a road trip nearby.
Go to extremes
Focus your search on under-the-radar places or where everybody goes. "For the very last minute, I like what I call the 'central coast' of California, Carmel through Santa Barbara," says Amie O'Shaughnessy, editor of Ciaobambino.com, a travel site that rates family-friendly properties. She says the relatively unknown beach towns can be a little kitschy and there's a summer fog pattern that rolls in ("There's always a trade-off"), but in places like Avila Beach, you open your condo door to a quiet beach and a playground. Yes, please! Or flip this script completely by taking a chance on a mega-popular family destination like Orlando, FL, or San Diego. Due to the sheer number of guests they expect in the summer, last-minute cancellations can be scavenged. Places you probably won't have any luck? Well-loved but small-scale spots, such as Cape Cod, MA, and Lake Tahoe, CA.