Hot Travel Deals in Cold Months

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Airlines, hotels, beach and ski and resorts, cruise-ship companies and tour operators have been slashing prices all through 2009, trying to jump-start sluggish consumer demand.

Based on current trends, low prices will continue well into 2010, especially in winter when crowds typically dwindle. The recession is playing its part, too, still holding back travel. Even security jitters, brought to life by the attempted bombing of a Delta/Northwest flight on Christmas Day, could prompt airlines to offer deals, hoping to coax people back onto planes.

American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR) is offering flights between California and the East Coast, starting as low as $99 one-way before taxes and fees. American has also joined resorts to offer family-friendly Colorado ski packages in Vail. American is offering a “Kids Fly Free’’ deal through Feb. 10, which includes a free child’s ticket with every adult ticket. Kids can also ski free on the first day.

Discount king Southwest Airlines (Stock Quote: LUV) has jumped into the mix with low fares to and from Chicago in January. Examples: round-trip flights between Chicago and Denver from $158 and round-trip between Orlando and the Windy City for $178. Virgin America’s end-of-year sales have expired, but the carrier is offering free Wi-Fi on all its flights through Jan. 15.

Giant hotel chains are getting into the act, too. Hilton Hotels has slashed weekend rates by 33% throughout January at hotels in North and South America. Marriott International (Stock Ticker: MAR) is putting rooms on sale for $100 at its downtown Chicago Blackstone Hotel to celebrate the hotel’s 100th anniversary. And 15 luxury hotels in Manhattan, including the Pierre, Peninsula, Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis, are offering third nights free from Jan. 4 to Feb. 28 for guests who book two consecutive nights.

As always, there are catches such as blackout dates and limited availability. If you’re interested in a specific deal, move fast. And sign up for e-alerts from airlines, hotels and bargain-hunting Web sites such as Travelzoo.com and lowfares.com, so you can get early notice of deals down the road.

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