Great Vacation Values

How to get the most for you vacation dollar

Travel experts agree that the best time to start saving money for your next vacation is right after you return from your last. But if you find yourself slightly behind–long on vacation days and short on funds– consider these simple ways to expand your horizons and vacation dollars.

1. Find a good travel agent. Getting that bargain vacation can depend on finding the right travel agent. Start by shopping around for the best agency, one that offers a variety of air and cruise line packages and uses up-to-date equipment for the best deals.

Clear communication between client and travel agent is essential, says AAA spokesperson Jill Mross. “Ask for the lowest fares, lowest rates and lowest value stay,” she says. Some cost-cutting tips to keep-in mind: zero in on properties that offer free continental breakfasts and discounts on large parties and kids fares, and check out hotels that cater to business travelers, since they often lower weekend rates to fill rooms. Gwen Miller of Travel Network in Queens. New York, suggests avoiding the annual membership fees of travel clubs by visiting the Web sites of travel organizations and airlines. Tap into the American Society of Travel Agents Web site (http://www.astanet.com) to scan the travel scene and customize vacation packages, and find last minute travel bargains on the American Express Travel Web site (http://www.americanexpress.com/travel).

2. Decide when to travel. Travel agents differ on whether advanced planning or impromptu trips are a better value. If your vacation days are set, take advantage of advanced-purchase discounted airfares, says Gaynelle Henderson-Bailey of Henderson Travel Service in Silver Spring, Maryland. Other agents caution vacationers to be more flexible about travel, since costs often rise during peak seasons.
3. Travel in groups. Group travel is the most economical way of taking advantage of discounted group rates and maximizing your time in your destination, says Jon Haggins of Haggins International Tours in New York City. Travelers should opt for tours without additional out-of-pocket expenses. Haggins, a specialist in black history tours, recommends Senegal as an ideal family value, not just dollar-wise but also culturally and educationally.

4. Consider all-inclusives. Jamaican hoteliers helped make all- inclusive land packages popular, and they remain one of the most common and economical ways of spending your vacation dollar. You can save on all-inclusives in the Caribbean from April to December.

5. Take a trip by sea. All-inclusive cruises appeal to a number of needs: they can be romantic, activity-filled and family-friendly. Jocelyn Sylvester-Gairy of Astral Travel & Tours in Brooklyn, New York, suggests you do your homework. Some cruises are at the high end of the activities scale and are more youth-oriented; others are slowerpaced and more leisure-oriented; and some have special programs for families and children, she says.

Cruises allow you to visit one or more port destinations, but with the short docking periods, you are left with just a snapshot of the country. If you’re looking to truly absorb the culture, an all-inclusive land package is your best bet. Still, cruise vacations to warm weather

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