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Published: Sunday, 3/23/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

A GOOD EXIT STRATEGY

The sooner your start planning your summer vacation trip, the better off you'll be

BY RONEISHA MULLEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It may not feel like it, with the polar vortex turning Toledo into a snowpocalypse every few weeks, but summer really is right around the corner.

The road to summer vacation is about three months away, and with that in mind, Toledoans can slowly thaw out from the brutal winter by planning ways to take advantage of the warmer weather ahead. As with many things, the sooner you start planning, the better.

"Now is the time to start planning, due to availability," said Sarah Rosenberger, senior travel consultant with Central Travel in Holland. "If you want to {travel} over a popular weekend, make sure there is availability. If you're going to a big city, check to see what is going on in that area in case you want to attend and because hotel availability will be limited."

In addition to limited availability, expenses rise the longer you wait. The higher the demand for such things as plane tickets and hotel rooms, the more expensive they become, Mrs. Rosenberger said. Hotel prices can change daily and flight prices change even more frequently, sometimes several times a day.

"About 45 days before is a good time to book. If you do it too early, prices could come down later on," Mrs. Rosenberger said. "It's cheaper to fly on Tuesday and Wednesday. If that doesn't fit your schedule, try going in a day or two before and come back later. The key is flexibility."

As far as destinations go,cruise sales have gained momentum, along with all inclusive packages to Caribbean islands, including the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

"It's one price for air, hotel and meals, and that's what people want," said Dottie Kendall, travel services manager for AAA of Northwest Ohio. "People want to go on vacation to relax and have fun, not figure out expenses."

Disney is still king when it comes to family travel, with some families booking more than six months in advance, Ms. Kendall said. Planning that far in advance for such a popular destination "could be a difference of several hundred dollars."

Summer tours to Europe are always popular, but even more so this year, as France prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, with celebrations and festivities. Travel request to Ireland have also increased, as Americans trace their lineage. According to U.S. Census figures, more than 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.

When traveling abroad, it's important to do so with an open mind, said Char Aman, owner of Kretcshmer Travel in Toledo.

"There are a lot of things that aren't as comfortable as they are here," said Ms. Aman, a native of England. "Embrace the culture. Embrace the differences, and you'll have a great time."

In the U.S., national park tours and travel to New York city are up, Ms. Kendall said. Locally, families are headed to nearby indoor water parks and near Wooster for Amish country tours and meals.

One of the concrete laws of travel is that fuel prices rise in the summer. AAA predicts that prices this year will top last year's summer average of $3.58 per gallon, but that won't stop people from traveling, experts said.

"We've got a lot of people going to Texas and the Myrtle Beach area. Larger families with children, instead of flying, they're driving to Florida," Ms Kendall said. "With all the snow we've had, people are ready to get on the road and have a good time."

Tips for planning your summer travel

1. Plan ahead. Start looking into airfare early. Get a feel for what tickets will cost and if you see something cheaper, grab it.

2. Get your documents in order. Make sure that you have the necessary documents required for travel. Check to ensure that your passport and ID are up-to-date.

3. Plan your route. Figure out where you're going and how to get there. If possible, check for road closures, construction and detours in advance.

4. Prepay. Find out the cost of your trip and all the add-ons, i.e. taxes, gratuities and fees, and pay before hand. This way, there are no surprises.

5. Plan to have a good time. Check your destination to see what's going on in the area. If you're traveling to a big city, check to see what festivals, concerts, shows and other events of interest may be taking place. Taking a cruise? See what the ship has to offer for entertainment and decide on some activities before boarding.

Sources: Dottie Kendall of AAA of Northwest Ohio, Sarah Rosenberger of Central Travel and Char Aman of Kretchsmer Travel.

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.



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