by Sarah Pascarella, SmarterTravel.com Staff
Sometimes, you just want to get away. Many hotels, inns, and B&Bs recognize this, and often put together discounted packages that make it easy to book a weekend escape. The following sites are 10 of the best for planning an unforgettable getaway weekend without having to arrange every detail yourself.
BedandBreakfast.com: Thorough and comprehensive, BedandBreakfast.com offers listings for B&Bs around the world. Somewhat buried within the many property descriptions are package listings, easily organized by topic (romance, culinary, and more) or geographic location. To start your getaway package search, visit the website’s special offers page. Click on the arrow in the drop-down box to see specialty package areas and locations. The site will then redirect you to a page listing available getaway options. Best feature: Specialty areas and locales are easy to search. Needs improvement: Currently, you can’t search by both topic and destination, or by more than one topic within a specialty area (e.g. Spa packages in Oregon, wine and romance weekends, etc.)
Kimpton Hotels: Kimpton, a boutique hotel chain, regularly puts together special packages at its properties across the United States. Possibilities include health and wellness getaways in San Francisco, romance weekends in Chicago, and Sex and the City escapes in New York City. The brand has 40 hotels in more than 15 cities; all offer getaway packages and special rates. Once you visit the Kimpton website and choose your preferred property, you’ll be taken to a new website listing the latest getaway offerings. Best feature: Lots of packages to choose from. Needs improvement: The same package themes are offered at many properties, with few actually taking advantage of local resources.
ILoveInns.com: Another directory-based site, ILoveInns.com focuses on B&Bs in the U.S., Canada, and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This site’s search feature works a little differently from the others. The landing page provides a directory of articles on the latest news, specialty travel areas, holidays, and more. Click on an article that interests you (including topics such as free fuel promotions, Irish heritage getaways, etc.) and within that article, you’ll find a search tool for inns that specifically address this specialty area. If you don’t see a topic aligned with your travel tastes, visit the site’s more extensive search page. Here, you can choose from specific inn features (fireplaces, Internet access, whirlpool tubs) and location, or browse the left-nav options (leisure activity, region, postal code) for an even more specific search. Best feature: Great cross-searching capabilities among topics and destination areas. Needs improvement: No specific package listings.
Lastminute.com: Lastminute.com (formerly Site59.com) offers a host of possibilities for those needing a quick getaway. Specializing in travel within a two-week period, the site is a boon for procrastinators, spontaneous travelers, or those just needing a change of pace. Focus areas include pampering/stress-free experiences, thrill-seeking adventures, and trips organized by budget. Customize your package by choosing flight-and-hotel options or flight-and-rental car bundles, or just search for the best deals for flights and hotels alone. Best feature: Great range of possibilities, especially beyond accommodations. Needs improvement: May not be a good fit for all travelers, especially those who like to plan ahead.
BnBFinder.com: BnBFinder.com provides a virtual clearinghouse of getaways in an easy-to-search list. Site sections include fall specials; classes, courses, and workshops; and bike tours/cycling getaways, among many others. You can also search promotions by state, province, or country. BnBFinder has a wide choice of topics to choose from, on par with BedandBreakfast.com’s specialty areas. It also offers a variety of options for specific demographics, including packages tailored just for empty nesters, girlfriends, seniors, and families. Best feature: Great choices by demographic. Needs improvement: Currently not able to search by price.
WeekendTrips.com: Canada lovers, take note: Here’s a website with a plethora of Canadian mini-break possibilities. WeekendTrips.com highlights the best of Canada, from day trips to long weekends, two-day weekend trips to last-minute escapes. Available packages include retail therapy weekends in Toronto, sailing excursion getaways on Prince Edward Bay, and culinary retreats in Silver Springs. Best feature: This attractive site has a whimsical look, with great graphics and an alluring design. Needs improvement: The design outweighs practicality, as there is limited search functionality to speak of beyond the site’s current list pages. Canada-only destinations may have limited appeal.
BBOnline.com: BBOnline.com, another directory of inns and bed and breakfasts across the U.S., provides listings by state and package type, with easy-to-access links. The site sponsors a monthly contest in which a different B&B offers two free nights to guests willing to take a short quiz about the respective inn. (Many answers can be found on the property website or BBOnline property summaries.) You can also search for inns by specific recipe, breakfast offerings, and other gastronomic parameters. Getaway categories include Murder Mystery weekends, golf packages, and seasonal specials. Best feature: Well-organized home page, including interactive map and dropdown menu of “discount packages” for easy searches. Needs improvement: Each inn has a BBOnline landing page with links to its own site (if applicable), which adds an often-unnecessary extra step.
Hilton: Some people don’t enjoy B&Bsâ€”they don’t like the communal breakfasts, prefer a more anonymous approach, or simply want to stay at a recognized, tried-and-true hotel brand. Hilton hotels and resorts have put together packages for travelers wanting a little something extra at its properties around the world. Possible promotions include Food Network packages with multi-course dinners and wine pairings; romance specials with sparkling wine, breakfast, and discounts for dinner; and extended weekend offers. You can also search specific hotels for the latest promos. Best feature: Can search for all current available offers by destination. Needs improvement: Could have a more extensive list of sample special offers by property. Small Luxury Hotels of the World Want to really splurge this weekend? Consider the latest getaways from the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Possibilities include spa, golf, and culinary weekends, among others. Whether you want to stay stateside or be a jet-setter, there are plenty of options to choose from. Additionally, for Europe lovers, the Small Luxury staff has singled out several properties they regard as particularly luxurious, in France, Italy, the U.K., and Ireland. Each hotel offers a few packages for truly pampering getaways, ranging from private tours to spa escapes, all-inclusive offers to half-price specials. Best feature: Extensive worldwide listings, wide variety of specialty areas. Needs improvement: Catering exclusively to the luxury traveler, this site offers little beyond window shopping for mid-range and budget types.
EscapeMaker.com: If you’re traveling to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, browse the latest getaway offerings on EscapeMaker.com. The site lists getaways from Virginia to Maine, and you can search not just by accommodations but also area of interest. For example, if you want to spend your weekend outlet shopping, the site provides listings of area outlets by state; you can then search for nearby inns to customize your own getaway. Of course, for those who don’t want to do any legwork, the site also has a general package search, specific package listings, and packages categorized by geographic area and/or radius outside a given city. Best feature: Multitude of package search combinations. Needs improvement: Site appears cluttered in places; multiple search options sometimes create too many choices right off the bat.