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It's not too late for summer deals

APChicagoBeachvacation.jpg

June 28, 2012: Jason Gerald, left, and Adam Hoffman jump into the Lake Michigan at Montrose Beach in Chicago. (AP)

The summer travel season unofficially kicked off with Memorial Day, and it certainly started out with a bang for the industry.  So far, hotel room nights and average prices have increased by about 5 percent over 2011, which is a sure sign of travel health.  Additionally, airfare costs have increased by even more here in the U.S. as airlines are keeping capacity tight while demand slowly grows.  Now that the July 4th holiday has continued that same trend, it’s safe to say that the idea of the summer vacation is alive and well in 2012.  But at what cost?

In the long term, travel industry growth is good for everyone, but price increases can put a damper on the summer budget, as many would-be vacationers are surely finding out.  While it’s true that discounts on summer trips are becoming more difficult to find, there are actually lots of great deals still out there…if you know where to look.

In fact, there may be even more discounts right now compared to previous July time frames, thanks in large part to the mid-week Fourth of July date. With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, what’s normally a one-weekend holiday has instead spread out demand across two weekends. Some people traveled before Independence Day, while others traveled after.  That means capacity didn’t enjoy its normal, concentrated spike.  As such, many hotels are now offering great prices for the remainder of the month to try to maintain their booking momentum.

With that being said, it’s not too late for folks to get a discount on a summer trip, especially for relatively last-minute travelers. This month, there are affordable hotel rooms available in some of the most popular summer destinations for an average rate of under $100 a night, and the list might surprise most people.

Here are 10 great cities, in alphabetical order, where quality hotel rooms are less than $100 bucks (based on average nightly rates for all star rating levels found on Hotwire.com): 

City Example of a Current Hotwire Deal, US$/Night
1. Atlanta                    $70
2. Austin                     $82
3. Chicago                  $93
4. Dallas                     $60
5. Denver                    $74
6. Los Angeles            $92
7. Miami                      $83
8. Orange County        $84
9. Philadelphia             $88
10. Toronto                 $82

(Hotwire is an opaque site, so you don't find out which hotel you're working with until your credit card has been charged.)

Outside of these great prices, the cities above also provide great overall selection and value.  Together, these destinations offer up an envious mix of entertaining nightlife, tasty cuisine, rocking music, outdoor adventure, historical landmarks and beautiful beaches. 

Folks visiting Austin, for example should head to the downtown area, particularly 6th Street, which is becoming a hub for art, shopping, bars, clubs, and music.  Or if Philly is the preferred destination, it not only serves up world-famous cheesesteaks, but also provides an appetizing history lesson through Independence Hall and the famous Liberty Bell.

In July, one thing is for sure: It’s not too late for travelers to enjoy a fantastic weekend getaway or an extended trip from coast-to-coast at an affordable price.

Clem Bason is the president of the Hotwire Group. Every month he provides FoxNews.com readers travel information, tips and advice to help them plan a fun, affordable trip.

Clem Bason is the president of the Hotwire Group. Every month he provides FoxNews.com readers travel information, tips and advice to help them plan a fun, affordable trip.