The tough economy, high gas prices and climbing airfares are discouraging many of us from heading out on vacation this summer.
But there are still ways to enjoy one without spending a small fortune.
On The Early Show Wednesday, Travelocity Editor at Large Amy Ziff answered questions from people who were in New York's Times Square.
"If I want to plan a family vacation, is it better to book a package deal or try to plan it on my own and put it all together?"
Absolutely, a package can save you hundreds of dollars. At Travelocity, the average package savings is $240 per person. But be sure you're buying a package in which you can choose every element (flight, hotel, rental car, etc.). There should be no guesswork involved. And I'm not talking about a tour or a pre-packaged vacation; a good package lets you do all the planning, so there's one for every budget, and every kind of traveler. Packages enable you to get savings that you can't access when you buy a la carte, which is why you can really save.
"With the exchange rates the way they are nowadays, is there any way I can get some good prices in countries in places such as Asia or Europe?"
You can save if you carefully select where you're going. In fact, airfares are up nearly 15 percent overall this year, but the international fares are holding much more steady and seem like a bargain. Then, going to the right destination, where you can still stretch your dollar on the ground, makes sense. Places I'd recommend are Asia, absolutely, and South or Central America, generally. Eastern Europe, to an extent, has better pricing that Western Europe right now, but your dollar won't go nearly as far there. "The average international flight is about $775 this summer," Ziff says. "That seems pricey but, when you go somewhere and just spend a couple of bucks a day on all your food and transit, then it may start to make sense."
"Is a timeshare a scam or not? Is it something I should stay away from, or something that may benefit me and my family?"
Timeshares are tricky. No two are exactly alike, and they can be very complex. You must read all the fine-print and thoroughly understand the mechanics of how yours works, and whether that makes sense for you. Many major hoteliers now have some sort of program that you can buy into. Some are great -- they give you a lot of flexibility, you can easily switch locations, and they're good investments, but others aren't. I'd highly recommend that you talk to people who have been involved with the timeshare you're interested in to see what they like and don't like about that one before you commit.