Just like flying, the base rate of a hotel room is not always what it seems. Some high-end hotels will charge resort fees of $25 a day just to use the gym, pool or other amenities. The resort fee is often charged regardless of whether you use the services.
Others will charge for parking or to have a pet stay in your room.
Dowling promotes that her chain doesn't charge such fees and often has free breakfast and Internet service. Red Roof Inn also now offers free Wi-Fi Internet connections at all its properties and many other chains will throw in a free breakfast. Even mid-to-high-end hotels on weekends will occasionally have a package that throws in a breakfast for free.
"Look at the total cost of the stay," Dowling warned. "Look at other fees."
You might have had your heart set on driving cross-country or spending a week in Hawaii but, unfortunately, neither is within your budget.
So consider something else.
"Cruises are still very, very cheap," George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com. Yes, the airfare specialist is suggesting cruises.
Another option is to consider a place you never thought about going.
There are still discounts in Mexico, the South Pacific or South America, MacDonell said.
But beware, Hobica warned, "airfare is up already and that means fewer deals." For international airfare, he said, "if you see something at $500 with tax, grab it."
Not all hotels are created equal. Dowling noted that sticking with a trusted brand name can at least ensure travelers that they know what they are getting.
But sometimes another hotel will pop up that has a better bargain.
Before checking in, however, it is worth doing a little research.
There are about 55,000 hotels in America, MacDonell said. AAA rates about 32,000 of them.
"If they aren't in that category, you have to ask why aren't they," he said.
There are also peer-to-peer review sites such as TripAdvisor that got a mixed review from the group.
Hobica noted that all online review sites, not just travel ones, provide slightly skewed reviews.
"There are people who think that the iPad is the next God," he said of some reviews. Overall, "we never see 5-stars. It's always 3.5 stars."
MacDonell said, "You have to take it with a grain of salt. Frankly, if I see a lot of mixed reviews, I would stay somewhere else."
Group Membership Discounts
Many hotels, theme parks and other attractions give discounts for members of various groups. If you are a member of AAA, AARP or another similar group, always ask is there is a discount.
If planning a big trip, it might pay to join one of these groups just for the discounts. Find out what deals are out there and then take out your calculator and see if they will cover the membership fees.