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Best deals on summer travel

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April 24th, 2012

Summer is high season for vacationing, but that doesn t have to mean high prices. Try these creative tips to get out of town without getting into debt. 1. Do good and feel good. Instead of a typical beach or golf getaway, take a volunteer vacation. Sheryl Kayne (immersiontraveler.com), author of Immersion Travel USA: The Best & Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living & Learning Excursions, says there are many ways to see the world and make it a better place. A few of her recommendations: Head to Point Reyes National Seashore in California to help count the elk population, join a reef monitoring team in Florida or Hawaii, or hike and lend a helping hand on the Appalachian Trail. 2. Be your own tour guide. If you ve got a mobile device like an iPad or Android, you may be able to swap pricey tours for inexpensive apps that will lead you to local points of interest. Ken Dodelin, CEO of Mobile Surroundings, recommends an app called It Happened Here (ithappenedhere.com). For $2.99, Dodelin says tourists can use the app to find spots like the restaurant in Washington, D.C., where JFK proposed to Jackie Onassis or the building in New York that was used to film exterior shots for the television show Seinfeld. 3. Find freebies. Travel writer Lydie Thomas penned an entire book on the subject Your Guide to Visit Paris for Free (visitparisforfree.com). Thomas says top tourist attractions like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre usually offer free admission on certain days. Do some research and plan your visit accordingly. Another budget-friendly travel tip: skip the overpriced buses and hop on the regular city bus with the locals instead. 4. Do the math. One of the biggest costs of travel is, well, the traveling. Comparing the cost of several tanks of gasoline and roadside meals versus the price of an airline ticket and baggage fees can be tricky. But, Jon Lal, founder of cash back and coupons website BeFrugal.com, says you can eliminate some of the guesswork by using his site s Fly or Drive widget (http://www.befrugal.com/tools/fly-or-drive-widget/). Punch in your beginning and ending addresses and the handy (and free) online tool will calculate the cost and time it will take you to get to your destination in a car and on a plane. 5. It never hurts to ask. It s true that many airlines and hotels aren t offering the same deep discounts they were a few years ago when the travel industry was crippled by the recession. But that doesn t mean there are no more deals to be had. Catherine Ross, executive director of the Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce (playwinterpark.com ) in Winter Park, Colo., says sometimes all you have to do is ask. Aside from senior discounts, which you should always take advantage of, Ross says many lodging properties, restaurants, and tourist attractions are still struggling and may be willing to knock off a few bucks to win a customer. meghan.streit@erickson.com

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