Memorial Day weekend serves as the kickoff of summer, but high gas and airfare prices are threatening to put a damper on vacation plans.
"It's a total myth that you can't get a good deal on travel," says Marita Hudson Thomas, Orbitz.com spokesperson. "It's about being smarter about travel and looking at where you are staying and when you are traveling."
A study from Travelocity showed booking airfare and hotel at the same time saved travelers up to $525, on its top destinations in 2010. The study compared roundtrip flights and a five-night hotel stay booked separately and as a package.
Shaw Brown says hotels and airlines are not as willing to lower rates in stand-alone deals because it lowers their price and brand integrity. However, in a package deal, both suppliers are more comfortable lowering rates.
"As you get closer to a peak holiday, prices tend to go up. You need to shop around and price it out together and separately.”
Booking a package can also be more convenient for travelers if a flight gets delayed, or a hotel stay pushed back.
"If something goes wrong, [a package] has benefits because then you are just making one phone call," says Shaw Brown.
Hot Spots: Where to Go
While beach trips tend to be popular during the long weekend, travelers can also snag good deals on other vacation hot spots.
Travelocity's top five most popular destinations by booking for this Memorial Day weekend are: Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., South Florida, New York City, and Cancun.
The average roundtrip domestic airfare for this three-day weekend is up 15% to $360 compared to last year, forcing travelers to seek discounts from other areas of the trip.
Many hotels are also offering travel incentives, including free nights, room upgrades, resort credits and "kids-stay-free" deals, according to Shaw Brown.
"This is particularly popular in the Caribbean and Mexico to offset the rising cost of airfare. The offers are out there—so pay attention to them."
Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo, says the recent disaster in Japan has less Japanese tourists headed to Hawaii, leading to "unusually good bargains," for this Memorial Day weekend.
Travelers are also flocking to New York City and Washington, D.C., for what Saglie calls "patriotic getaways." Big cities often hike up their weekday prices due to business travel, so the value for travelers is staying during the weekend.
"Memorial Day is the change to spill over value into weekdays, which are typically more expensive," he says. "You can stay for under $200 a night, even at four-star hotels for between $200 and $250 a night."
Travelers with some flexibility should try a cruise. Saglie says cruises leaving from Southern California and Florida are cutting their prices for three and four-day getaways.
Hudson Thomas of Orbitz.com says the site's top three destinations for the weekend based on bookings are Las Vegas, New York City and Chicago. In other hot destinations like San Diego and Orlando, hotel rates are around $100 a night, she says.
A great way to cutback during trips to big cities like this is to take advantage of mass transportation systems.
"These top destinations are all big cities, and offer great transportation," she says. "You have to do your research."