Mar 16 2014

Research, Plan and Budget for That Special Vacation

Vacation TimeThere are myriad ways to vacation, so to make the best use of your precious time and dollars, plan ahead. Start by deciding what you can afford, and then figure out what you want from the vacation. Do you want total relaxation? Intense sightseeing? Adventure? Something else?

Then research likely destinations. You can do your own online research or try one-stop travel sites like Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, or Orbitz.com.

You may consider consulting a professional travel agent. There’s no charge to you, and it could save significant time. If you do, make sure the agent is reputable. Ask family and friends for recommendations, and find out how long the agency’s been in business.

After determining your ideal destination, consider these tips to get the most for your money:

* Book your flight and hotel together as a package. The rates often are lower.

* Search for airfare sales on Tuesday evenings when airlines typically release new ones.

* If your dates are flexible, look for last-minute airfare deals.

* Consider all-inclusive resorts or cruises where accommodations and meals are included as a package.

* Avoid peak travel times—summer and holidays—because airfares and hotel rates are generally at a premium then.

* If you have a rental car, you can drive and stay at a hotel outside an urban center where hotel rates often are lower.

* Hotels that cater to business travelers often are underbooked on weekends and offer discounts, so check those rates.

* When you book any travel arrangements, read the fine print and avoid hidden costs. Most travel agencies and online travel services include airfare and/or hotel taxes and fees in the total price you agree to, but be sure to ask.

* Be aware of extra charges, like fees for hotel telephone or Internet use, or inflated minibar prices.

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