Planning a budget-friendly vacation?

These tips will help you get there

Planning their annual family vacation is something DawnDenise and Douglas Capers III of White Lake, Michigan, anticipate with zeal. And last year was no different. The Capers decided to take their two kids, ages 12 and 21/2, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for the holidays. For more family fun at Disney, log on to blackenterprise.com/disneyblog.

Although they did not purchase a travel package, their travel agent managed to save them $700 by booking their airline reservations in advance and traveling on Christmas day. The Capers also saved tremendously on their hotel accommodations by using their business reward points at a top hotel. They ended up paying a mere $159 for a six-night stay in a suite. The Capers spent close to $3,500, which included airfare, three-day passes to all the Disney parks, a minivan rental, food, lodging, and souvenirs. “We saved where we could. There was nothing to complain about. Overall, it was a great trip, even though we went there during a peak time,” DawnDenise says.

Planning a vacation can be expensive, especially when you are talking about a whole family. But with a little time, creativity, and persistence, you can extend your travel buying power. The key is to start early in order to get the best deals.

Before you begin, decide what you want to get out of your vacation. Are you searching for a trip abroad, a cruise, a relaxing all-inclusive family resort vacation in the Caribbean, or a fun-filled excursion at a specialty destination? Whatever you desire, staying within your budget is possible with proper planning and minimal Web-surfing skills.

Here are some tips to help you book a budget-friendly vacation:
Extend your travel buying power by purchasing vacation packages at sites such as www.priceline.com. You can save money by booking your airline tickets along with a hotel room or rental car. If flying, airline tickets are cheaper February through May and September through December (except the week before Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas).

Instead of trying to pack the family up and fly across the country, consider taking the scenic route–and yes, that means a road trip (www.roadtripamerica.com). Road trips can be fun because you have control of when you can stop and enjoy your surroundings. However, be prepared for your kids to ask you over and over, “Are we there yet?” Pack food, books, music, and games for the road.

Be flexible about when you travel. Plan your vacation for the off-peak season. Peak and off-peak seasons vary depending on where you are going and the time of year. If you want to avoid the crowds and save a few extra bucks, ask the hotel about the best time to travel.

When making hotel reservations (try www.travelweb.com or www.hotel discount.com), be sure to ask for the lowest rate available for corporate, senior, AAA, AARP, and military members. Hotels are typically more expensive the closer you get to a major attraction. Also, consider staying at a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast. Talk to the concierge where you

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