Inside the deals: Hottest travel trends for summer 2009

In 2009, everything old is new again. Travelers are being more cautious during the economic downturn, and want a summer vacation that's going to give them the best experience for their hard-earned dollars and vacation time. Family vacations, road trips, and classic destinations are popular this summer, and deals are plentiful. High supply and decreased demand has created a buyers' (i.e., travelers') market. If you can swing it, you'll be able to get a lot more for your money this year.

I've been tracking the latest summer travel trends and deals to make sure you'll get a good vacation value for your money. Read on to find the latest recommendations for the most popular travel season and—of course—ways to save.

Air-and-hotel vacation packages

Airfare-and-hotel bundles, or vacation packages, offer great deals to some destinations this summer, such as Hawaii. "[Travelers] can get a better price on airfare because resorts are subsidizing the cost just to get people there," notes SmarterTravel Senior Editor Christine Sarkis; you may be able to find similar offers for destinations also hit hard by the recession (think Vegas, the Caribbean, and the like). Online travel agencies (OTA) such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity have plentiful offers to a wide variety of destinations. While the OTAs are often the first places travelers look for such vacation types, you may also want to check your preferred airline for packages, as many carriers now have comparable offers for airfare-and-hotel deals.

For example, popular low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has a robust vacation package subsidiary, Southwest Vacations. Its current Wanna Get Away? promotion offers a range of discounts, including up to $114 in savings on vacations from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale; up to $108 off packages from Long Island/Islip to Orange County, California; and up to $100 off vacations from San Francisco to Orlando, among many other city pairs. Book your vacation package by April 6 and travel through August 14. You can also check other carriers for their latest deals, including AAVacations, JetBlue Getaways, and United Vacations.

There's also a fee-elimination and travel-protection war currently going on among the major OTAs and Priceline, but only for a limited time. Read our recent blog to learn how you can save up to $600 on vacation package bookings through June 1.

All-inclusive resorts

I've been seeing a lot of deals for all-inclusive resorts this summer, and it makes sense—when you're pinching pennies, it's great to know your price for everything (accommodations, meals, and entertainment) up front, with no surprises later. All-inclusive properties also offer the ultimate in relaxation—everything is provided for you—which may be especially attractive in these high-stress times.

Vacation Outlet maintains a site exclusively for promotions at all-inclusive properties. At press time, current deals covering airfare, all-inclusive hotel, and taxes included $665 per person for four nights at the Starfish Trelawny in Falmouth, Jamaica; $779 per person for four nights at Dreams Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and $849 at Breezes Bahamas in Nassau. Many other packages are available; check the Vacation Outlet website for the latest offerings.

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