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Travel

Summer Travel Planning Guide

High gas prices have driven up travel costs this season, but there are still deals to be found. Use our guide to help you snag a bargain on everything from airfare to lodging to cars and cruises. Plus: We offer money-saving tips for traveling with ki

With Memorial Day just around the corner, the summer travel season is ready for takeoff. But vacationers face higher prices this year as rising gas prices threaten to cast a shadow on their plans.

In fact, fuel costs will add an extra $30 to $50 to each trip this summer, estimates the Travel Industry Association of America. While that cost itself probably won't deter most tourists, they will look for other ways to trim expenses, says the group. According to a recent survey by TIA, the average length of the longest trip Americans expect to take this summer is six days -- down from an average of eight days in 2002. And more travelers say they plan to eat at less-expensive restaurants and look for bargain accommodations.

We can't do anything about skyrocketing gas prices, but we can point you the best places to find good travel deals on everything from airfare to lodging to car rentals and cruises. Consult our bevvy of travel advice when making your plans and you can spend your spare time dreaming of the perfect vacation instead of fretting about the cost. We'll show you how to snag the lowest prices, find the perfect accommodations and lower your stress level whether you plan to take to the skies, the sea or the open road.

Score a good deal

Get a Deal on Last-Minute Vacations
If you haven't yet made plans for Memorial Day, or you're dreaming of an early-summer escape, use these strategies to save hundreds of dollars on 11th-hour airfare, vacation packages, cruises, European getaways and more.

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25 Best Value Travel Sites
Where to go online to find the best bargains in air travel and cheapest rates for car rentals, hotel rooms and vacation packages, whether you travel in the U.S. or internationally.

More Choices in Custom Vacations
Looking for a package deal? Hotels, airlines and car-rental firms have stepped up to offer sweet savings on package trips.

Want Great Travel Deals? Join the Club
Membership has its perks -- hotel discounts, free second-night stays, reduced restaurant bills and cheaper museum admissions.


Find the perfect place to stay

Sniff Out the Best Pet Accommodations
Find a hotel that'll treat your pal like one of the family and get other tips for pet travel.

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No-Strings Timeshares
To vacation in a timeshare, you don't have to listen to an investment pitch, nor do you have to have a timeshare of your own to trade. Renting someone else's vacation spot can land you a deal on a great place to stay.

Mi Casa es Su Casa
Free lodging is just a house swap away. Trading spaces lets you enjoy the comforts of home without paying for a hotel. Link up with other swappers through these five popular exchange club Web sites. Plus: 13 Niche Home Exchange Clubs.

The Thrill of a Villa
Renting a private house in Europe lets you live like the natives, at a reasonable price. There's still time to book a summer getaway. Plus: Online Resources to Plan for a Sweet Retreat Abroad.


Stress-Busting Travel Tips

Traveling with Tots
If you're taking to the skies this summer with an infant or toddler, a little preparation can go a long way toward saving you money -- and your sanity.

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Best Cards to Use Abroad
While planning your itinerary for a trip overseas, you should also pay close attention to which credit and debit cards you're taking, or else extra fees could cause some unpleasant surprises on your statements when you return. Find out which plastic is best to pack.

Win the Bumping Game
You fight the traffic, negotiate the parking, slog through security -- and then get the boot because your plane is overbooked. But a little knowledge of how bumping works, and of your rights as a bumpee, minimizes your chance of delay -- and may even win you some travel perks.

When to Insure Your Trip
It can't make your plane arrive on time, but a travel insurance policy can spare you from losing money if you suddenly fall ill, are called to jury duty or face a similar last-minute mishap. But you don't need coverage for every trip.

Simplify Your Life on the Road
Five travel accessories that will help you pass the time and make the right connections.