Smart Buying

Score the Best Deals on Summer Travel

Snag these travel deals and bundle bargains to enjoy popular attractions—with more room to roam.

Fewer tourists venture out between peak periods and dead zones, and airfares and hotel rates drop when they're bundled together.

Time your trip

Shrug off costs by traveling during shoulder season.

London calls in April or October, when the weather is mild (in the 50s and only a bit rainier than usual) and sites are less crowded. And this year's Anglo autumn, suffering from post-Jubilee and post-Olympics withdrawal, may offer even bigger bargains than usual. "Historically, there's been a travel lull after any Olympics, and it can be a great time to snag some bargains," says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com.

Hit the Colorado slopes in April or November for huge savings. For example, at the Village at Breckenridge Resort in early November, you’d pay less than half the cost to stay during the fringe of ski season than for a Christmas visit. And even if the powder isn’t prime, you can enjoy other area activities, such as golfing, mountain biking, horseback riding and hot-air-balloon rides.

Head to Aruba in April or September to get away from it all for less. The threat of hurricanes blows visiting crowds far from the Caribbean in late summer and early fall. But Aruba and the southernmost islands are a safe distance from most storms.

Cruise from Alaska to Hawaii in September, when ships need to relocate for the season. You can hop aboard such "repositioning" cruises at deeply discounted rates. You'll have to pay for the one-way flights to your departure port and from the arrival port.

Bundle travel

Package airfares with hotels to trim costs.

Save mucho dinero. Extend summer into fall by flying south to the Dominican Republic in October. On CheapCaribbean.com, we found a deal for two round-trip tickets between Austin, Tex., and Punta Cana (which is rarely hit hard by hurricanes) and a six-night stay at the three-star Barceló Dominican Beach hotel. Airfare and hotel cost $2,560 when booked separately. But in a package the price drops $653, to $1,907.

Bonjour, bargains. Expedia.com offers a discounted autumn stay in Paris, with five nights in the four-star Courtyard by Marriott Paris Defense West-Colombes. The package includes two round-trip tickets from Chicago by way of Dublin. If booked separately, the visit would cost $2,919; booking flight and hotel together costs $2,190, for a savings of $729.

Say aloha to savings. A Hawaiian vacation booked on Travelocity.com includes two round-trip flights between the Washington, D.C., area and Honolulu and eight nights at the four-star Aqua Waikiki Wave in Waikiki. Booked separately, the trip would cost about $3,440. Bundled, it goes for $2,258—saving you $1,182.

Domo arigato for discounted deals. On Orbitz.com, you get two round-trip tickets from San Francisco to Tokyo and six nights at the four-star Hotel Niwa Tokyo in October. The package costs $2,769, or $222 less than booking airfare and hotel separately.

Save at the gas pump

Take some of the sting out of filling up.

Use the right card. Branded gas cards, such as the BP Visa or ExxonMobil MasterCard, have made it harder to redeem rewards, so stick to cash-back cards. The PenFed Visa Platinum Rewards card offers five points per dollar spent on gas purchases (plus three points on groceries and one point on all other purchases); you can redeem 5,000 points for a $50 prepaid Visa card. The TrueEarnings card from Costco and American Express offers 3% cash back on gas purchases, plus 2% at restaurants and 1% everywhere else.

Use an app for that. Download the free GasBuddy app on your smart phone (available for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Phone) to find gas prices near your location. Sort the resulting list by distance or price for any gas grade, or view the results on a map. You can also search by city, state or zip code.

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