Yes, you should have booked your vacation accommodations last year, but we've got some eleventh-hour options.
Craving a little lakeside R&R, but haven’t gotten around to booking a room? It’s true, accommodations go quick in these parts—the most popular and conveniently located hotels and B&Bs are fully booked months in advance—but there are plenty of resources you can turn to in your last-minute search for a place to crash.
Harbor Grand Hotel
Start by calling the Harbor Country Lodging Association’s toll-free hotline (800-352-7251, 9am–5pm EST Mon–Fri and 10am–3pm Sat).
“We get so many calls that start out with, ‘Don’t laugh at me, but…,’?” Lodging Association manager Sue Harsch says. “We don’t take reservations, but we keep track of which members have openings, so we can give callers some contact numbers.” The Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce website (www.harborcountry.org/availability) lists more than 100 lodging options you can check out, and in addition to its hotline, the Lodging Association offers online availability schedules for its 25 member lodging providers (www.harborcountry.org/php/search.form.lodging.php). Type in the date (yes, the current day is an option) and click on “show me availability.”
So, what—besides a Super 8 (which, incidentally, is right off the highway and only a mile from the beach)—can you get at the last minute? Weekends in July and August are pretty tough, but your options increase during weekdays and off-season. Act now, for instance, and you could stay at the Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired Harbor Grand Hotel, which offers waterfront views, bike rentals, a restaurant, a masseuse and—get this—an all-night Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream delivery service. “We can usually accommodate last-minute shoppers from Sunday through Thursday,” manager Robert Kemper says.
Another good bet for spontaneous weekend waterfront lodging is the brand-spankin’-new Marina Grand Resort, which opens this month. The rental condo units have their own kitchens, and you can fish off the pier. Because the restaurant and indoor pool aren’t ready yet, the resort expects to have many last-minute units available at introductory (read: discount) rates. And if a sailboat is your means of avoiding the Dan Ryan, you can book a slip along with your suite.
There’s also the White Rabbit Inn, which serves late breakfast—since everyone sleeps in—and has cottages where your dog is welcome, too. You can check for vacancies on individual cabins and theme rooms at www.whiterabbitinn.com.
Blue Fish Vacation Rentals and RSVP Rentals represent private residences that range from modest bungalows to wicked-pricey five-bedroom homes. The rentals usually lease by the week, but RSVP owner Greg Gardner admits you can probably snag last-minute discount deals for a weekend stay. “It may not be that gorgeous, lakefront house,” Gardner says. “But we’ll find you something if you can be flexible.”
If you don’t mind getting back to basics, Warren Dunes State Park has 218 modern and rustic campsites, and Kamp Across From the Dunes has 69 sites within walking or biking distance of the beach. Both recommend, however, that you call no later than Monday for the following weekend.
You can also venture north to the “Twin Cities” of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The Southwest Michigan Tourist Council’s website (www.swmichigan.org/hotelmotels_index.htm) has links to 21 hotels there, along with last-minute beach-town deals (www.beachtowns.org). Or, travel 30 minutes south to Michigan City, Indiana, which has an official website (www.michigancity.com) that can hook you up at the local Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn. (Neither is the Ritz, but both usually have many last-minute rooms available.) However, it’s best to call ahead for weekend stays, as they both get overflow bookings from the nearby Blue Chip Casino Hotel, which sells out two weeks in advance.
Blue Fish Vacation Rentals, 269-469-0468, ext 112; email@example.com I Harbor Grand Hotel, 888-605-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org I Kamp Across From the Dunes, 269-426-4971, email@example.com I Marina Grand Resort, 269-469-2600, Jim@oselkamarina.com I RSVP Rentals, 269-469-0012, firstname.lastname@example.org I Super 8, 269-426-8300, email@example.com I Warren Dunes State Park, 800-447-2757 I White Rabbit Inn, 800-967-2224, firstname.lastname@example.org