Summer vacation prices are driven higher by surging demand

By Hugo Martin

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Monday, June 2 2014 7:32 p.m. MDT

Marilyn Fils, a recently retired school administrator from Tarzana, is flying to Paris to attend a wedding with her husband. She used credit card reward points to pay for the flight, saving thousands of dollars. Otherwise, she said, she could not have afforded the trip.

Vacationers can save even more this summer by steering clear of expensive tourist hot spots, travel experts say.

“Consider visiting national parks or destinations like Memphis or Nashville,” said Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy for the U.S. Travel Association, the trade group for the nation’s travel industry.

Coby King, president of a Los Angeles public affairs company, is saving by taking his wife and two children to a small lodge on the Havasupai Indian Reservation near the Grand Canyon for several days of hiking.

“We are not deliberately saving money by going off the beaten path, but it’s a happy coincidence,” he said.

Planning ahead is another way to save money.

Nick Berkuta, a firefighter from Costa Mesa, wanted to take his wife and daughter to Hawaii but didn’t want to pay the exorbitant airfares and hotel rates charged during summer.

Instead, he booked the trip for May, just before the higher rates took effect. Berkuta also rented a home in Kona so that he could prepare his own meals.

“We have decided to save more for those rainy days, so we extend ourselves less,” Berkuta said.

Would-be travelers who have yet to book their trip can still score bargains if they can travel on short notice, experts say.

Travelers can now hold an airline seat for 24 hours without paying as long as they reserve at least seven days in advance. This often means that flights that appear full can suddenly have empty seats when travelers change their minds, said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, an airfare alert and air travel advice website.

“People don’t realize that airlines are dumping last-minute seats,” he said.

Travelers who plan short-distance road trips will also save money, as the price of car rentals is expected to go up only 1%, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Gasoline prices should remain stable and might even drop over the summer, said energy industry analyst Trilby Lundberg.

That’s good news for Heather Wilkins, a public relations manager from Orange County, who plans road trips with her husband and two children to San Diego and Palm Springs.

“The improved economy has encouraged me to splurge more, hence I’m eyeing that future Hawaii or family cruise vacation,” she said. “However, I’m always looking for a deal to make my dollars go further. Who isn’t?”

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©2014 Los Angeles Times

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