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10 Tips to Track Down the Hottest Summer Vacation Bargains

Frugal travelers, consider this your summer travel checklist.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Tips to Track Down the Hottest Summer Vacation Bargains

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Your guide to sniffing out the season's top deals.

Summer is practically synonymous with vacation, but planning a trip during the most popular travel season can get pricey. Whether you want to book a trip alone or with family, on a moment's notice or well in advance, these 10 tips can help you cut summer travel costs – and secure a great value on your getaway.

Additional reporting by Liz Weiss.
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Bundle your travel expenses.

You can shave hundreds off your trip by purchasing multiple services at once. For example, if you will need a combination of flights, lodging and attraction tickets, consider booking a package deal, which is often less expensive than booking each component separately. And whether you're looking for bargain-priced luxury hotels or budget-friendly backpacking adventures, you're apt to find the affordable vacation you want on deal-focused sites like LivingSocial Escapes, which features travel packages for family-friendly escapes, flight-inclusive escapes and more. On top of giving you a rock-bottom vacation price, LivingSocial Escapes offers a Good Deal Guarantee, which grants you 30 days to return an unused voucher.
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Your guide to sniffing out the season's top deals.

Summer is practically synonymous with vacation, but planning a trip during the most popular travel season can get pricey. Whether you want to book a trip alone or with family, on a moment's notice or well in advance, these 10 tips can help you cut summer travel costs – and secure a great value on your getaway.

Additional reporting by Liz Weiss.

Bundle your travel expenses.

You can shave hundreds off your trip by purchasing multiple services at once. For example, if you will need a combination of flights, lodging and attraction tickets, consider booking a package deal, which is often less expensive than booking each component separately. And whether you're looking for bargain-priced luxury hotels or budget-friendly backpacking adventures, you're apt to find the affordable vacation you want on deal-focused sites like LivingSocial Escapes, which features travel packages for family-friendly escapes, flight-inclusive escapes and more. On top of giving you a rock-bottom vacation price, LivingSocial Escapes offers a Good Deal Guarantee, which grants you 30 days to return an unused voucher.

Cut out the middleman.

If you need room to spread out and want a great deal, take a look at the properties listed on VRBO, which allows you to rent a property directly from the owner and eliminates the fees charged by rental management companies. VRBO features more than 1 million vacation rentals at almost every price point. Plus, most rentals offer amenities like free high-speed Internet and extras like portable playpens, beach toys and bikes at no extra charge. Best of all, VRBO rentals typically come with fully equipped kitchens, so your family can save even more cash by dining in.

Don't overlook deal-focused sites.

Many travel booking sites offer handy tools that allow you to snag bargains at the last minute. For example, Priceline's Name Your Own Price tool lets you bid on hotels, flights and rental cars. Meanwhile, Priceline's Express Deals tool allows you to choose from a wide selection of hotels that are up to 60 percent off without requiring any bidding. Before you book, you can browse the neighborhood, amenities and price of the hotel you're interested in. And for spur-of-the-moment travel, download the Priceline app and tap into its Tonight-Only Deals. This tool allows you to search for the day's best-priced lodging and it reveals important details of the hotel, including the nightly rate and guest ratings, prior to purchase.

Stay flexible in your travel plans.

If you have your heart set on a certain vacation destination and time frame, your chances to secure a deal will be a bit more limited. However, if you're open to visiting lesser-known locations or taking budget airlines, you can save big. That's where sites like WhichBudget.com come in handy. WhichBudget is a free flight search engine that scans the Web for the lowest prices on plane tickets, including those from low-cost airlines that aren't always featured on larger third-party booking sites. Another benefit of booking with WhichBudget is that you can further customize your departure and arrival settings. The site gives you the option of searching all cheap flights from the airport nearest to you without having a preset destination punched in and helps you ensure that you're actually getting the best deal available.

Look for deeply discounted destinations.

There are plenty of budget-friendly summer vacations to be found across the globe. Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic and one of the Caribbean's most popular cities, and Lisbon, Portugal's stunning coastal gem, are two affordable international destinations. Closer to home, you can book a reasonably priced getaway in off-peak destinations, such as Fort Lauderdale or Key West, Florida. Planning a trip to a wallet-friendly destination doesn't have to sacrifice safety, either. In fact, some of the world's safest destinations are not cost prohibitive. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from New York City airports to Reykjavik, Iceland, for as low as $603 in June. And thanks to a recovering dollar, you can secure great bargains in destinations across Japan and Canada this summer.

Be smart about your booking schedule.

Oftentimes, you can find low prices on flights Monday night through Wednesday afternoon, so make sure to book early in the week. Also, keep in mind that flights departing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be less expensive than other days of the week. And to secure the lowest airfare, make sure to purchase your ticket six weeks prior to a domestic trip and 21 weeks before a European vacation. You should also consider planning your summer trip for early June or the last two weeks of August to dodge peak season prices and crowds.

Compare pricing at alternate airports.

A smart way to secure the lowest airfare is checking the prices for flights into alternate hubs. For example, if you're planning a summer trip to San Francisco, you may be able to get a better rate by flying into Oakland International Airport instead of San Francisco International Airport. Or if you want to visit Miami, compare flight options to Miami International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which serves low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines. And if your heart is set on visiting Los Angeles, rather than flying into Los Angeles International Airport, consider flying into Long Beach Airport, which serves budget carrier JetBlue.

Stay attune to social media.

Savvy travelers use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to tap into the latest deals. For example, "liking" hotel loyalty program pages as well as individual hotel pages, grants you access to flash sales and promotions. Plus, major airlines like JetBlue and Virgin America often promote vacation packages and last-minute sales on social media platforms. In-the-know travel rewards program members can also earn perks and bonus points for social check-ins. The Starwood Preferred Guest Program, for example, allows members to earn points for checking into Facebook or Foursquare when they stay at participating hotels. 

Organize a midweek vacation.

For lower flight prices and increased availability, consider planning a midweek getaway. You'll likely find reduced rates on less popular travel days, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when there is lower demand and a greater inventory. And you can often secure steeply reduced rates on hotel rooms on off-peak weekdays, too. Plus, many hotels do not require a minimum night's stay for weekday bookings. And if you're able to take an extra paid vacation day during the busy holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and July Fourth weekend, you can easily shave hundreds off your trip by flying during off-peak times.

Take advantage of loyalty program perks and promotions.

If you haven't already committed to a travel credit card, there are many that rewards cards that offer generous sign-up bonuses and offer exclusive access to deals available with affiliated program partners. The Citi ThankYou Premier Card, for example, offers cardholders a 40,000-point bonus for spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account and allows Hilton HHonors members to transfer points to their Hilton account at a 2-to-3 ratio. Many loyalty programs also offer members-only promotions. For example, Marriott is offering a MegaBonus promotion through May 15, 2016, that gives Marriott Rewards members the opportunity to collect bonus points in addition to one free night after two paid stays at Marriott properties.
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