Mammoth Lakes, CA. Along with hiking and fishing, themountain bike park is one of the biggest summer draws at thisEastern Sierra resort. The area is popular with weekendroad-trippers from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Watchout for the annual beer and blues festival (Aug 5-6, 2005), whenrooms can be harder to book. www.visitmammoth.com or888/466-2666.
Steamboat Springs, CO. A ski-resort town on the westernridge of the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,695 feet. Raftor tube the Yampa River, fish, hike, or soak in hot springs. Theweather stays prime well into fall. www.steamboatsummer.comor 970/879-0880.
Teton Valley, ID. The tiny triplet communities of Driggs,Tetonia, and Victor are located at the eastern edge of the Idahoborder, close to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone National Park, and GrandTeton National Park. The fishing and hiking here are first-rate. www.tetonvalleychamber.comor 208/354-2500. ―Abigail Peterson
Elk, CA. This tiny town Northern California town makes agood alternative to better-known and more crowded Mendocino, justto the north. Lodging ranges from the plush (the Harbor House Inn)to the simple. Nearby Greenwood State Beach is a classic NorthernCalifornia shoreline: a moody and beautiful seaweed- anddriftwood-strewn cove. www.gomendo.com or866/466-3636.
Huntington Beach, CA. Surf City USA has spruced itself upnicely, and with 17 hotels and motels you should be able to find aroom here, especially during the week. Surfing and bodysurfing opsare, needless to say, excellent. www.surfcityusa.org or800/617-8992.
Ocean Shores, WA. Size matters: The beach here is so long,it never feels crowded, even at the height of summer. OceanShores's large number of (mostly chain) hotels and motels give evensummer procrastinators a good chance of finding a room. www.oceanshores.org or866/602-6278. ―Peter Fish
Los Angeles. The infamous sprawl means two things: You'llneed a car, but you'll have no problem finding a room. Visit nowfor LACMA's King Tut exhibit (through Nov 15, 2005) and a concertunder the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. www.seemyla.com or800/228-2452.
Phoenix. Sky Harbor is a major base for Southwest andAmerica West Airlines, so fares here are competitive. Lounge by thepool, indulge in the spa scene, or beat the heat and check outNative American arts at the renowned (and air-conditioned) HeardMuseum. www.visitphoenix.com or877/225-5749.
Portland. The green city stretches your greenbacks: Shoppingis tax-free, the Portland Big Deal offers lodging and diningbreaks, and the Portland Attractions Pass ($29) grants you admission to nine popular attractions,including the Portland Art Museum. www.travelportland.com or877/678-5263. ―Erika Ehmsen
Internet travel tips
The Web has made last-minute vacation planning easier than ever.With a specific destination in mind, you can quicklycomparison-shop on many airline and virtual travel-agent websiteslike Expedia.com, which have stricter cancellation policies but aretypically less expensive than going directly through an airline;identical America West flights from San Francisco to Albuquerqueaverage $20 less on Expedia.com than on America West's own website(a savings of $40 for two passengers).
If you have at least two days before your intended departuredate, you can let Orbitz's "DealDetector" (visit www.orbitz.com and click "Deals")do the searching for you; just select your destination, set amaximum fare price, and receive an email alert if the airfare dropsto your price point.
Feeling spontaneous and just want to get out of town? Check outthe "last-minute deals" section of Travelocity ( www.travelocity.com) andTravelzoo ( www.travelzoo.com) to finddiscounted air, hotel, and hotel-air combos (and even a fewcruises) to major cities.
Familiarize yourself with what you should pay for a flight bysubscribing to free newsletters from the above companies. If youdon't want to clog up your primary email account with temptingtravel deals, sign up for a free Yahoo or Hotmail account, thencreate "Getaways" folders to save info on cities you're eyeing.―Erika Ehmsen