Vacation On The Cheap!

Susan Koeppen CBS/The Early Show

Some 57 percent of Americans say they have less money to spend this year on their summer vacations than they did last year, according to a recent survey.

With a tight economy, fuel prices on the rise and the dollar declining, is it possible to get away for a summer break without breaking the bank?

Consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen says -- absolutely!

And she shared some ideas on how you can as part of the Early Show series, "Early on the Cheap.".

"STAY-CATIONS"

With gas prices at an all-time high, many Americans are opting to stay as close to home as possible. But staying in your home state doesn't have to be dullsville.

State tourism associations around the country are offering great deals to people who want to explore their state.

For instance, "I Love N.Y.," in an attempt to target state residents and the 80 million people who live within a three-to-five-hour drive of the state's border, is working with more than 200 hotels across the state, offering travelers who buy two nights a third night free. If you don't want to drive, you can take Amtrak and mention the "I Love N.Y." discount -- you'll get 20 percent off your train ticket (check out iloveny.com/summer). Loads of tourism boards are arranging deals like this, including the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (with an extended-day harbor pass to go along with a third-night-free).

GO ABROAD ON THE CHEAP

Believe it or not, you can get out of the country without paying a fortune! According to Budget Travel magazine, you can head out of the United States to rural areas and save some big bucks. For example, instead of spending a week in Paris, try the Dordogne region in southwestern France, where you can stay for as little as $55 a night. At that price, you could rent a car for a day or two and tool around the area! Another good option: Mexico. If you head to Yelapa, a tiny fishing village 20 miles south of Puerto Vaillarta, you can rent a six-bedroom house for $150 a night. Also, look to countries where the dollar is stronger than the local currency, such as Argentina and Costa Rica, even Thailand.

The big tip: Think outside the typical "travel box" and do more leg work to find the best deals. Pick up travel guides and check out rural areas that appeal to you. Do the same with travel magazines, and hit the Internet to start searching for the best deals out there (try EuroCheapo.com if you're looking to find a great deal in Europe), and of course get guidance from travel Web sites.








RENT A PLACE AS OPPOSED TO GETTING A HOTEL

Believe it or not, if you rent a home or apartment in a city you're heading to for vacation, you could save a lot of money. Budget Travel says you can rent an apartment in Europe for $100 a night, while a hotel could cost you $300 per. Kudetta.com, a site dedicated to rentals in Paris, lists some apartments for as little as $800 a week; you'd be hard-pressed to find a hotel room for anything less than $300 a night in the City of Lights.

For U.S. rentals, try Vrbo.com: You can find housing for less than a hotel would cost, and find great deals in some of the hottest areas (how about a three-bedroom plus pool in East Hampton this summer?!) The added bonus: The homes you'll stay in have kitchens, so you won't be spending money left and right on food, which becomes a hefty expense when you're on the road.

FOR MORE TIPS, GO TO PAGE 2.

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