According to travel website Orbitz, 75 percent of Americans plan to take summer vacations this year -- and nearly two-thirds of them will pay at least $1,500 for that trip. Local travel experts say there are ways to save money on your getaway, if you know where to look.
Mel Ludovici knows a thing or two about booking vacations. He's spent more than two decades working as a travel consultant and President of Martin Travel in Roanoke. So when it comes to getting the biggest bang for your buck this summer, he has a few thoughts -- first, on beaches.
"The sooner you make your plans the better," said Ludovici. "You're going to find that the prices are a little bit higher and the availability is a little more difficult to come by."
Because many popular beach communities in the Northeast -- specifically New York and New Jersey -- are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, the people who would have visited them are heading south. That means there will be fewer openings at hotels, resorts, and other accommodations than you may have seen in previous years -- and prices are going up.
A better option, Ludovici says, might be a cruise.
"If you intend to take a cruise, which is always a good value, this summer would especially be a good time to take one," said Ludovici.
Carnival's recent woes have knocked down the cruise line's prices, which in turn is driving their competitors to lower their prices as well.
"My best guess is you're going to save 50 dollars per person on a three or four night cruise," said Ludovici. "On a seven night cruise, it's maybe closer to 100 dollars from what one might have paid last year at this time."
Whether you plan to vacation at sea or on land, Ludovici says there are some other tricks of the trade that can save you money and stress. First and foremost, he says the sooner you plan your trip, the cheaper it will be and the more choices you'll have in terms of hotels, flights, etc. And as you're booking each of those pieces, he says it may be beneficial to bundle them.
"There's some value I think in shopping around," said Ludovici. "But there's also the disadvantage of having to cancel three separate things in three separate places if you have to change your plans."
As the summer travel season winds down, so do prices -- so if you can hold off on taking your trip until late August, early September when school is back in session, you can typically score better deals.
Finally, he says don't be afraid to call a travel agency.
"We probably know a lot more about what's out there than you can find out on your own with six hours time investigating it," said Ludovici. "We might very well be able to get you more for less and you have the support of a travel agency while you're traveling."
In many cases, using a travel agent won't cost you more than you'd spend booking a trip on your own. Travel agents have access to special deals and offers you can't get anywhere else -- and they may be able to get you free extras / add-ons that you would have otherwise had to pay for.