(LOS ANGELES, April 26, 2007) — Summer vacation season has almost arrived, but that doesn?t mean that families have to pay top dollar for a getaway, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
"There are always ways to economize and make your vacation dollar go further," said Diana Meinhold, the Auto Club?s Vice President, Travel Products & Services. "Special deals may be harder to come by, but they exist if you know where to look."
Among the most popular destinations for Southern California families traveling this summer are Hawaii, the Grand Canyon and other national parks, Alaska cruises, and Europe, Meinhold said.
Here are the Auto Club?s Top 20 tips to make family vacations more affordable:
- Plan your vacation days according to when you can get the cheapest lodging. If traveling to a major city such as New York or Los Angeles, weekend stays (Thursday-Sunday) may be cheaper because business travelers boost hotel occupancy on weekdays. But if you travel to a major resort area such as Las Vegas or Orlando, weekday hotel rates could be less expensive.
- Check out great restaurants in cities with an active arts/concerts/shows program such as New York City by going for the pre-theater/post-theater menus which are often 20-30% cheaper than at peak times and let you sample gourmet food for more affordable prices.
- Check out cities where there are discount theater/concert tickets available for same-day performances (example: TKTS booth in NYC for top shows).
- If you can?t travel in the off-peak season, see if you can schedule your trip in the "shoulder" (usually the second week in June or the second week in September).
- Consider purchasing a package that may include hotel plus air, hotel plus rental car or hotel/air/car because the combined price may prove less than the individual components.
- Show your AAA card everywhere because many establishments will provide AAA discounts even if they don't advertise them in hopes of getting your business.
- Check with your travel agent, who can shop for you to save you time and money.
- Seek advance booking deals with extra discounts for paying in full far in advance.
- Select repositioning cruises when a ship is being moved from Europe to the Caribbean in the late fall or from the Caribbean to Alaska in the late spring. There are fewer ports of call, but the shipboard experience is still outstanding.
- Name brand credit cards such as Visa? have different policies on international exchange rates, depending on the bank that issues the cards. Consumers should read the fine print on the credit card agreements to find the best one for them to use. Some cards charge a 3-5% premium over and above the normal Visa? or MasterCard? exchange rate on international purchases. The AAA Visa? and MasterCard? charge 2% on international purchases.
- Families planning a reunion trip should consider a cruise or tour, because many cruise lines and tour companies provide the equivalent of a free cabin or other upgrades to the person planning the trip which may be spread among the entire group to reduce costs. Your travel agent can arrange the entire trip free of charge.
- Some tour companies offer discounts to repeat customers. Be sure to tell your travel agent if you have previously traveled with a specific tour company.
- Look for countries or regions that are recovering from storm damage, such as the Mexican Riviera or areas of Southeast Asia. Many offer significant discounts to lure tourists back to the region to show that they are restored and "open for business."
- In metropolitan areas, use transit when possible and safe to do so, rather than taxis.
- In hotels, avoid using the mini-bars. Bring bottled water or snacks.
- Avoid the high cost of using the hotel laundry by taking clothes to a nearby cleaner. You lose some convenience, but the cost is usually less.
- Be a flexible flyer. Flying in and out of alternative airports (Long Beach or Burbank instead of Los Angeles International) or varying the day of the week or time of day can often save money.
- Ask hotel or taxi staff where they like to eat to avoid higher priced restaurants that cater to tourists.
- Families should consider all-suite hotels, which generally offer more space and kitchenettes in which you can make lunch or breakfast. Also, many all-suite hotels offer breakfast or afternoon snacks as part of the package.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club?s members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club?s Web site at www.AAA.com .