By LAURA T. COFFEY
The summer travel season is upon us. Whether you're considering a return trip to a favorite destination or a first-time adventure in an exotic locale, the following tips can help you save money on transportation, accommodations, dining and drinks.
1. Check out package deals. Discounts are abundant this year for travel packages that include the cost of flights and accommodation. All-inclusive resorts also offer good fixed-price deals that cover just about everything, including meals.
2. Be flexible. You can cut the cost of your flight significantly by flying during off-peak seasons or by flying in the middle of the week and staying a weekend.
3. Get help from a pro. A travel agency can help you custom-build an itinerary and get access to room upgrades, free tours and other amenities. Choose an agency that belongs to the American Society of Travel Agents.
4. Make reservations early. Many airlines and cruise lines offer early booking specials, so be sure to inquire about them. Even if formal specials aren't available, you're still likely to save more by making your travel arrangements as far ahead as possible.
5. Use those air miles. Apply for an airline credit card that provides frequent-flier miles, then use it regularly and pay your balance off each month. Before you know it, you'll accrue plenty of air miles that can be used for ticket upgrades and free travel.
6. Don't be just another member of the herd. Before your trip, research the part of the world you're visiting and and make plans to travel off the beaten path. By doing so, you'll be able to avoid high-cost tourist traps and enjoy a more eye-opening vacation.
7. Dine out without breaking the bank. Scour the food sections of local newspapers for restaurant promotions. Seek out two-for-one coupons at the visitors' center in the area you're visiting, and don't forget to do the same thing in your hometown.
8. Eat lunch at top-notch restaurants. The lunch menus at many high-quality restaurants feature the same entrees served at dinner, only with smaller portions and lower prices. You also can pursue early-bird specials that may be available before the evening dinner rush begins.
9. Opt for "prix-fixe" overseas. When you're abroad, scan for the prix-fixe, or fixed-price, menu. This meal, which is invariably a good deal, includes up to four courses for a set price.
10. If you're a wine lover and a regular at a certain travel destination, make a point of visiting the same wine retailer whenever you're in town. Merchants are apt to give loyal, long-term customers good deals.
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