By Jennie Montgomery
The summer travel season starts Memorial Day weekend, and AAA says nearly 35 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles, slightly up from last year.
Buckle up, because I checked with the experts for tips to help you have a little cash left when you get where you're going…
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows 7 out of 10 Americans think it's important to vacation away from home, and many say they're finding ways around high gasoline prices, airfares and hotel rooms to do it.
One way is to go easy on the odometer… with a 300-mile roundtrip.
Krispin McGee has helped people plan vacations for 13 years, as a manager at AAA.
“There's always Atlanta, I mean you've got Six Flags, Stone Mountain, all kinds of museums, the Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta- that makes a nice weekend.”
Charleston, Savannah, and Helen are other one-tank options.
And whether you like the mountains, or you're more of a beach person, the Georgia Welcome Center is a great resource with ideas to fit the whole family.
Janis Campbell is an information specialist at the Welcome Center. She says if you know where to look you can book a room with deep discounts.
“You can find rates in here from $27 to $89 – $99. So now is the time to really start coming and looking and trying to lock in prices at what they are now.”
Even though more Americans are traveling, high gas prices will force them to cut back on activities. That's where Janis can help.
“We have a table set up that is the Summer Fun in Georgia, all the way from hang gliding, rafting, going to Clarks Hill lake, going all the way up to the north Georgia mountains to Rock City. And we didn't leave out the adults; we've also got a little area over there that says, 'shopping'!”
McGee explains that the AAA guide book is filled with savings.
“We put a little red save icon in there which signifies just show your AAA card at the gate and you get a savings.”
AAA can hook you up with everything from discount attraction tickets to navigating the most fuel-efficient routes. The auto club predicts nearly 31-million people will hit the road for the unofficial start of summer.
Dr. Simon Medcalfe is an Associate Professor at Augusta State University's Hull Business College.
“The economy's improved a little since a couple of years ago when the key phrase was a 'stay-cation,' but people are still looking for a budget-friendly vacation… relax and enjoy the summer without busting the bank.”
He says if you have to fly to your vacation destination, planning is the first step to cutting costs.
“Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday tend to be cheaper than if you're flying at the end of the week. If you're really flexible and you can wait until the week of, try sites like http://www.priceline.com. You can get tickets or hotel reservations for 50% off the normal price.”
Simon says (I couldn't resist) a “house swap” is another option to keep costs down.
“They can come down here for a week and you can go up there – and you've saved a week's worth of hotel.”
Hmmmm… strangers staying in your home: An idea that isn't limited to the first week in April!