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Only days left to get best summer travel deals online

Only days left to get best summer travel deals online
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While some parts of the country are freezing in record cold and buried under record snow, it may seem like an odd time to talk about summer vacations. But believe it or not, now is the time to get busy if you want to snag the best deals when the mercury starts hitting the other end of the thermometer. Of course summer is the time for vacation, whether it's a fun road trip near home or a full-blown overseas adventure.

Unfortunately, any trip that takes you away from home can get expensive, and if you fly (as most people do) and stay in a nice hotel (as most people want to do) the expense can get pretty big pretty quickly. I'm sure you already know that one way to cut down on expenses is to buy early. Prices are only going to go up as you get closer to your vacation date. However, "early" is kind of vague; let's get a bit more specific.

Typically, domestic airline tickets are at their lowest price six weeks before your date of departure. With hotels you generally want to book at least a month in advance to make sure you get a room.

However, those are just general figures. In my research this year, I found a specific date that appeared a few times. I'm going to tell you what that is, what kind of deals you can get if you buy before it happens and an unusual trick for paying less at hotels.

So, the date I keep running into is February 28, and that goes for booking both spring and summer vacations. If you've dreamed of traveling to exotic locations for less, you're going to need to get a move on.

Marriott is offering 30% off hotel stays in the Caribbean and Central America between April 6 and June 30. You just need to book a minimum two night stay by February 28.

The Dominican Replublic's Casa de Campo Resort offers a package, good from June 1 to September 30, that includes accommodations, meals and fun daily activities. If you book by February 28 it's just $475 a day, which is a bargain.

Thinking of heading north instead? Vacations by Rail is offering $400 off a two-person train/cruise combo or $800 off a two-person train trip for spring and summer. Book by February 28 to see the savings.

Maybe you have another vacation destination in mind. Check now and you might find that it's offering a once-in-a-lifetime deal that expires by the end of the month.

Of course, if you're a bit more of a spontaneous person, there's another savings option you can try for hotel stays.

While booking early is usually better, you can actually find some good deals if you book a hotel within 24 hours of your stay. Hotels really don't like empty rooms, so they might give you a serious discount to get you in the door. Just make sure you have a good backup ready before you roll the dice by rolling into town with no hotel booked.

You can often save even more if you call the local hotel (not the national branch number) and talk to the staff to find out what's available. In fact, even if you book early, call the hotel a few times anyway to see if prices have gone down.

You can also use a site like BackBid that lets hotels with empty rooms bid for your business. There's also an app called Roomer that lets people post pre-paid hotel rooms that they can't use. You might be able to pick up a room in a hotel that's already full. And if you paid for a room early and your plans change, this is a good way to make sure you don't lose money.

Or you can skip the hotel entirely and rent out someone's house or apartment at your destination. Click here to learn about that money-saving option more people are using.

Buying airline tickets early is good, but you can save even more if you buy and travel on specific days. Click here to learn what days those are and what sites get you the best deals.

Traveling can be stressful. Click here for five secrets that will make traveling easier so you can enjoy your vacation more.

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