Travel Deals: Summer Travel Planning Mode

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This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.

Nothing says “time for your summer vacation” more than when the calendar turns to spring. That’s because April (and early May) is the ideal time to plot your summer vacation if you want to take full advantage of the best rates for hotels, airlines and cars. As long as you’re in that spring timeframe, the world is your proverbial oyster for great travel deals that translate into optimal vacation schedules, availability and savings.

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In addition to the massive advantage of plotting your summer vacation early, some of my top planning tips include:

– Take it slow.

Last year, my wife and I greatly regretted doing a huge drive through Colorado and Utah in 10 days rather than the 14 to 16 that it deserved and was needed. As a result, we felt like we were in a constant hurry and didn’t get to slow down enough to even enjoy certain parts. When it comes to vacations, I’ve learned that less is often more.

— Shop for the best total hotel value.

There are many nuances to picking the right hotels to stay for your vacation, but one thing you can take to the bank is that some expensive hotels leave you lacking for breakfast, Wi-Fi and other basics that all good hotels should have. When you’re measuring the value of a hotel, it’s always wise to consider the Best Western standard as an ideal rule of thumb for where to stay: Wi-Fi, free breakfast, guaranteed standards of cleanliness and, in most cases, free pool for the kids (or yourself). Those guarantees add up to a lot of value that are especially handy for family vacationers.

— Avoid the peak July holiday period

My vacation preferences are always before the Fourth of July or in the late-July to early-August time period. In between is usually the peak time for summer travel and it’s not only more expensive, but the roads, the hotels and the parks are more congested. Whenever possible, I stay away from the early- to mid-July period.

— Stay near, but not “in,” your destination

Even though it’s always tempting (and ideal) to stay in the major city, park or destination you’re visiting, doing so doesn’t always translate to what’s best for your wallet. For example, if you’re going to any of the major parks, the hotels inside the national parks are generally much more expensive than those just outside the park. The same cost-saving principle applies to flying into major cities. Most flights into and out of the Fort Lauderdale airport are considerably cheaper than those flying directly into Miami.

My wife and I are trying to plot our own family’s summer plans as we speak, but given the heat, we’re expecting that it’s safe to say we’re looking at a milder climate for our summer vacation spots. The three top candidates are an island-wide road trip to Puerto Rico, Yosemite National Park (Montana) or Acadia National Park (Maine).

Are you #DreamingofSummer like us? You can get a little closer to that summer vacation by staying two separate times at a Best Western before May 25 to earn a $50 Best Western gift card. You can also use the hashtag #DreamingofSummer on Twitter for a chance to win more Best Western gift cards!

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