Winter turns the Valley of the Sun into a destination, luring visitors from colder climates around the world to the warmth of the desert.
Once the searing heat of summer hits, the tourists tend to stay away and even the locals look to escape, heading off to the mountains of Flagstaff or beaches of Southern California.
But here’s a little secret for you value-conscious travelers out there: Summer is the best time to get deals in the desert.
Rooms up to 70 percent off, deals on spa and golf packages, resort and dining credits — all at the same luxury resorts with same stellar service others pay hundreds of dollars more for during the high season.
If you can stand the heat, or at least find a way to avoid it, the bargain-basement price for high-end leisure is more than worth it.
“The services don’t change, it’s the same resort, the same great location whether it’s March or July,” said Shane Allor, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix.
“From a value standpoint, you’re experiencing the same staff, the same very high service levels in the summer that you would get during the peak season when folks are paying $500-600 a night for those same packages.”
Just 20 years ago, many Phoenix-area resorts shut down for the summer because of the heat.
That changed when resort operators realized they could get people to still come out by lowering the prices — a lot.
From around the start of June into September, rates at resorts drop precipitously, starting around $109 up to about $199 at the higher-end places.
And included in those rates are a variety of amenities: a round of golf, an hour massage, $100 credit toward dining or shopping, and activities for kids and adults.
Many of the guests who go to the Valley’s resorts during the summer are locals looking for a short getaway, but more out-of-towners have headed to the desert in recent years to take advantage of the hi-end pampering at low-end prices.
It’s also a great time for meeting planners to take advantage of low rates, booking meetings at luxury resorts they might not have been able to afford during the winter season.
“So much of it is these wonderfully affordable rates,” said Ann Lane, senior director of advertising and public relations at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch. “Sometimes people will be here on meetings and they go home and rave about it, and say ‘hey, let’s try it.’ And they can do it with rates that are within reach.”
Potential visitors unfamiliar with Arizona may be concerned about the recent spate of fires.
Those aren’t an issue in the Valley; the Yarnell fire that killed 19 firefighters is 85 miles northwest of Phoenix and most of the resorts here are far away from the mountains where lightning-strike blazes usually spark.
The heat is another story.
The running joke about the desert is that it’s a dry heat, but when the mercury soars over 110 degrees, it doesn’t matter how dry the air is — it’s uncomfortable.
The key to summer trips in the Valley is finding ways to cool off and avoid the hottest part of the day.
Most of the resorts in the area have spectacular pools — the Hyatt at Gainey Ranch has 10 pools and a 30-foot water slide — so cooling off is usually not a problem.
Anyone wanting to play golf or any outside activity that doesn’t involve the water should do it early, before things heat up.
Dining or 5 p.m. happy hours, those are better indoors than outside on the patio.
And drinking plenty of water is always vital in the desert.
“People usually know that the rates are discounted for a reason and we make sure we keep folks hydrated and don’t have any ill guests, make sure they have the best time when they’re here,” Allor said.
As long as they can handle the heat, it’s hard not to have a good time, especially at these prices.