A little taste of luxury
In late autumn, take advantage of prices that fall right along with the leaves.
© Beth Gauper
The Geneva Inn sits on a bluff above the shore of Geneva Lake.
If you'd like to travel like a rich person, this is a good time of the year to do it.
In November and December, most folks travel only to visit family, so rooms go begging at luxury resorts and inns.
I paid $70 to stay at the luxurious Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, Wis., and $95 to stay at the Geneva Inn (pictured) in Lake Geneva, one of the very few places that's right on the water.
It was nice to feel rich, even if I had to work the angles to do it.
The more rooms a resort has, the more motivated it is to sell them; that's how I got a great last-minute deal on Hotels.com for the Lake Lawn, a sprawling complex on Delavan Lake.
I got the Geneva Inn deal with a Groupon. When you buy a Groupon, you have to reserve fast if you want a weekend reservation in peak season — but not so much in November.
I lucked out with gorgeous weather that allowed me to take a long walk on the famous lakeshore path around Geneva Lake, which crosses the inn's back yard.
If you see a coupon deal you like, buy it right away and call immediately to reserve the date you want. Most current deals are good into spring, and some into summer, but weekends go fast.
Recent Groupon Getaways included a stay at the highly rated Herrington Inn on the Fox River in Geneva, Ill., in the Chicago suburbs. It's $119-$169 for four people depending on the room, including a bottle of sparkling wine, and good through April.
If you don't know the place, check online ratings for the hotel before you buy. Also check to see if you can get a better rate (and more flexibility) on Hotels.com and from a search engine like Hotwire or Orbitz.
Also check the hotel's own site, which may be offering specials. You'll also see how good the coupon discount really is.
Living Social Escapes also offers good deals, and current offers include three inns in excellent locations. I've stayed at all of them and can recommend them as well as their locations.
In beautiful northeast Iowa, pay just $79 for a room at Decorah's Hotel Winneshiek, where President Obama stayed when he visited in August. The deal includes breakfast and a $25 dining credit, good through March. Decorah, a college town, is one of my favorite places.
On Minnesota's North Shore, pay $149 for two weekday nights and $169 for two weekend nights at the Cascade Lodge between Lutsen and Grand Marais. The deal includes snowshoe or ski rentals and breakfast and is good through May 24.
In the southeast Minnesota town of Lanesboro, pay $190 for two nights at the Hillcrest Hide-Away. The deal includes two soup suppers and two mugs and is good through May, when bicycling season starts.
And this is the cheapest time of the year at the big indoor water parks in the Wisconsin Dells.
At the Wilderness, pay $99 weekdays for four people the first two weeks of December. Veterans, firefighters and police officers pay just $79. Two weekend nights go for as little as $225.
Through Dec. 22, the Chula Vista offers two weekday nights for two people at $199, including a pizza and a breakfast for four, or two nights for $279 including $200 in resort credit at the restaurants or spa.
If you're interested in staying at a specific resort, "like'' its Facebook page. At the Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Lake Geneva, that will get you a free lift ticket to opening weekend at its Mountain Top ski hill.
Its sister resort just up the drive is the Grand Geneva, founded in 1968 by Hugh Hefner as the Playboy Club but a very classy joint today. Even in an expensive place like that, you'll get a good rate if you can go on a weekday in the off season.
For the best rates of the entire year, visit a big city the week before Christmas, when no conventions are in town. We love Chicago, where the Christkindlmarket runs right up to Christmas Eve.
For more about coupon deals and discounts in many locations, see Cornucopia of coupons.
The cheapest rates still can be found through Priceline, if you know the ropes. For tips, see Happy deals.
Last updated on November 21, 2011