Place: Las Vegas
Why it's a hot ticket in 2009: Bargains, bargains, bargains. Remember when Sin City was synonymous with "cheap getaway"? It seems like ages ago. After the gambling mecca went glam and morphed into a chic adult playground, some weekend rooms on the Strip zoomed past $200 and into the stratosphere (the atmospheric zone, not the casino-hotel).
No more. The economic downturn has humbled Vegas, which toward the end of 2008 was logging about 10% fewer visitors than the year before. Average hotel rates were down more than 9%.
Stalwarts such as the Luxor on the Strip and Golden Nugget downtown were recently offering rooms at less than $50 per night. Of course, you can still pay more than $300 a night for a weekend stay at fancier or newer places, such as Steve Wynn's latest Strip behemoth, the all-suite Encore. But the point is this: You no longer have to be rich to lounge in style.
And when you spend less for your sleep, you'll have more money for the slot machines or blackjack tables. Maybe the winnings can pay off your mortgage -- or not.
Information: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
-- Jane Engle
Why it's a hot ticket in 2009: Because it's as beautiful and exotic as ever, and there are some good deals being offered to woo back tourists after political unrest shut Bangkok airports for a week late last year and drew protesters into city streets.
With a new government coalition, strengthened by a good showing in parliamentary by-elections, the situation was recently stabilizing, and the State Department removed a travel alert from Thailand.
The Tourist Authority of Thailand has launched a campaign, called Thailand Super Deal, to offer free room nights and other discounts at dozens of hotels.
Information: Thailand's official tourism website
-- Jane Engle
Place: Yosemite National Park
Why it's a hot ticket in 2009: You can always bet on Yosemite to get crazy busy on summer weekends. But if you can get to Yosemite Valley any other time -- and score overnight accommodations -- you have a chance at some beautiful solitude, especially in the hours before and after the day-trippers come and go. The number of park visitors who stay overnight has been heading downward in the last decade. And with the National Park Service's Nov. 21 move to close 233 tent and solid-wall cabins for safety reasons (falling rocks from Glacier Point), only 1,503 hotel rooms, cabins and campsites remain in Yosemite Valley. (In 1996, before several rockfalls, floods and planning decisions prompted reductions, there were 2,353.) If you're up for a winter visit, it'll be lonelier still: The park gets five July guests for every one it gets in January.
Information: Book campsites at www.recreation.gov, hotel rooms and other park accommodations at www.yosemitepark.com/Accommodations.aspx.
-- Christopher Reynolds
Why it's a hot ticket in 2009: The big year in Warsaw is going to be 2010, the 200th anniversary of composer Frédéric Chopin's birth. But if you go before the hoopla starts, you can visit scores of Chopin sites and take advantage of cheaper hotel rates, which are generally lower than those in Western European capitals. For instance, in early April, doubles at the stylish Warsaw InterContinental will start at around $140 a night, and there are plenty of nice guesthouses for half that amount. The city is nuts about Chopin, who died in Paris in 1849 but left instructions for his heart to be returned to Warsaw for interment.
DESTINATIONS FOR 2009
Discount vacations for 2009
Bargain hunting close to home yields hotel and perks on the cheap in Las Vegas, Yosemite and San Diego. Or set your sights farther: London, Laos and Cape Town.
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