Your taxes are done. Your economic stimulus rebate checks are weeks away from hitting your mailbox. You finally have a little time on your hands, even with new shows finally hitting the primetime airwaves. Have you made your summer vacation plans yet?
If that question comes out of nowhere, it could be because traveling may be the furthest thing from your mind. Summer is still two months away. The kids -- or grandkids -- are still in school. However, now is the time when travel deals start popping up, especially from distressed travel providers seeing lax bookings.
This may very well be a challenging summer for the industry. AAA is warning drivers to expect higher gas prices. Airlines and cruise ships have responded by slapping on fuel surcharges to their rates. It's not an ideal scenario, but that is what makes finding vacation bargains so important.
I'm going to share a few online resources in this week's column. They're the ones that I lean on when I don't want to overpay for a getaway.
Travelzoo.com -- Travelzoo publishes a weekly list of travel deals. They're sponsored travel deals. That means that Travelzoo is being paid by the providers to disseminate the information, but that doesn't make them any less attractive. In fact, desperate hotel operators, air carriers, and cruise lines are exactly what you're looking when trying to score a bargain. Travelzoo is certainly popular, with roughly 12 million people opting in to receive the company's free Top 20 weekly email of deals.
BiddingForTravel.com -- Everybody knows about Priceline, the "name your own price" travel site where prospective travelers can submit the price they would like to pay for a certain airline route, hotel class stay, or car rental. Fewer people know about BiddingForTravel.com, a forum that has been around for years to make Priceline fans more informed bidders. Not only do forum members share winning bids and strategies, so you don't find yourself overbidding or losing out by bidding too low, but they also provide some the names of some of the mysterious travel providers that Priceline keeps secret in order to provide great unadvertised prices.
MouseSavers.com -- Going to Disney World or Disneyland? The iconic family destinations are never cheap, but Mouse Savers can take some of the sting out by providing everything from resort reservation deals, discount codes for car rentals, and tips to stretch your dining dollar. Even during peak travel seasons when the parks are crowded, there are still deals to be had.
Kayak.com -- Travel portals are everywhere these days. The biggest ones like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz spend plenty on marketing so you know they're out there. Even if they typically parrot back the same rates, sometimes one has a better deal than the rest. Wouldn't it be great if you can go window shopping without having to go window to window? That's where Kayak comes in. The site scours more than 140 different sites to deliver the best airfare, lodging rates, and cruise fares. If a better deal is to be had by booking directly with the provider, it'll tell you.
So what are you waiting for? Summer -- and the end of the travel deals -- will be here before you know it.
Rick Munarriz is a personal finance columnist for HispanicBusiness.com. He has written for sites such as The Motley Fool and Citysearch, with appearances on NPR, TechTV, Sirius, and CNN en Espaņol. He can be reached through http://www.Reportedly.com where he discusses his latest articles.
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