PUBLISHED: 5:40 PM on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Saving money when traveling in today's economy
(SPM Wire) - The cost to go on vacation seems to be doing nothing but rising these days. Set against a landscape of rising oil prices and the weakened state of the American dollar, travelers all too frequently have to reach for their already burdened wallets.

"While it's true that many people are concerned about the economy, we find that this economic climate has a tremendous upside for today's traveler, as there are phenomenal trips offered at great values," said William Sutherland, Vice President, Travel, AAA Southern New England.

"We're seeing more robust and interesting packages offered with many 'extras' thrown in that are not only appealing to consumers, but also enable them to get significant return on investment for their travel dollars. It's important for today's travelers to know what to look for, how to shop for and how to be prepared for booking a trip that suits their travel and budget needs," he added.

Here are some ideas from AAA Travel on dollar-smart ways to travel in today's challenging economy:

• Look for travel extras. Today's consumers are not necessarily seeking the least expensive trip, but are looking to get the most for their travel dollar. To accommodate those needs, some travel providers are even offering 'extras' with trips, such as gas cards, extra nights at a hotel, upgrades, etc. Consumers should be on the lookout - and ask for - those extras.

• Be opportunistic. Many times, the best travel opportunities are discovered at the last minute. For consumers to take advantage of those offers, they need to be prepared for them. Passports can take up to six weeks to secure and with today's new passport regulations, it's a good idea to get yours ahead of time. That way, when a good offer comes along you will be able to take full advantage.

• Maximize the value of the challenged U.S. dollar. Today's traveler should look for trips that maximize the value of the U.S. dollar. For example, consider going to Europe by cruise ship. With a cruise, costs are paid in advance with US dollars. All onboard meals are included, and the ship is your hotel so you can go from city to city without additional transportation costs.

• Buy a package deal. While consumers can put together all of the pieces of a trip online, the best packages are typically developed by experienced travel counselors. These experts leverage their knowledge and connections in the business to compile deals that meet the individual's unique needs. Many packages not only offer savings, but often include extras that heighten the travel experience.

• Time your trip right. Peak travel time equates to top-tier prices while flexibility leads to savings. Consumers can take advantage of "shoulder seasons" - just before and just after peak travel times - to save money at many desired destinations.

For more travel tips, visit online.