The cost to go on vacation seems to be doing nothing but rising these days. Set against a landscape of rising oil prices and the weakened state of the American dollar, travelers all too frequently have to reach for their already burdened wallets.

“While it’s true that many people are concerned about the economy, we find that this economic climate has a tremendous upside for today’s traveler, as there are phenomenal trips offered at great values,” said William Sutherland, AAA Southern New England’s vice president of travel.

“We’re seeing more robust and interesting packages offered with many ‘extras’ thrown in that are not only appealing to consumers, but also enable them to get significant return on investment for their travel dollars. It’s important for today’s travelers to know what to look for, how to shop for and how to be prepared for booking a trip that suits their travel and budget needs,” he added.

Here are some ideas from AAA Travel on dollar-smart ways to travel in today’s challenging economy:

Look for travel extras. Today’s consumers are not necessarily seeking the least expensive trip, but are looking to get the most for their travel dollar. To accommodate those needs, some travel providers are even offering extra benefits with trips, such as gas cards, extra nights at a hotel, upgrades and more. Consumers should be on the lookout — and ask for — those extras.

Be opportunistic. Many times, the best travel opportunities are discovered at the last minute. For consumers to take advantage of those offers, they need to be prepared for them. Passports can take up to six weeks to secure and with today’s new passport regulations, it’s a good idea to get yours ahead of time. That way, when a good offer comes along you will be able to take full advantage.

QPoll: Travel costs

Will the rising costs of gas and travel prevent or limit your vacation options this year? Click here to vote in this issue’s QPoll.

Maximize the value of the challenged U.S. dollar. Today’s traveler should look for trips that maximize the value of the U.S. dollar. For example, consider going to Europe by cruise ship. With a cruise, costs are paid in advance with US dollars. All onboard meals are included, and the ship is your hotel so you can go from city to city without additional transportation costs.

Buy a package deal. While consumers can put together all of the pieces of a trip online, the best packages are typically developed by experienced travel counselors. These experts leverage their knowledge and connections in the business to compile deals that meet the individual’s unique needs. Many packages not only offer savings, but often include extras that heighten the travel experience.

Time your trip right. Peak travel time equates to top-tier prices while flexibility leads to savings. Consumers can take advantage of “shoulder seasons” — just before and just after peak travel times — to save money at many desired destinations.

Purchase third party trip insurance. Protect your investment. Know what your insurance includes. Be certain default insurance is part of the plan — unfortunately, many consumers purchase travel insurance through the vacation provider and aren’t covered if that provider goes out of business.

Buy from reputable brands. Another form of “insurance” is to purchase your vacation from a reputable brand. Dependability, consistency and experience are the hallmarks of great brands. Wouldn’t you rather know your vacation provider stands behind you before, during and after your vacation?

Find trips that deliver on “connectedness.” Recent studies show that time is the new currency and perhaps even more precious for some than money. That said, today’s time-deprived traveler is often looking for trips that deliver on quality time and connectedness with friends and family. Travel providers offer many interesting trips ideal for family reunions, family vacations or time away with friends that really deliver on this. Explore the offers that offer something for everyone.

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