When we were kids (WAY back in the day), summer meant packing everyone up in a hot station wagon and making the long trek south to a crowded beach—where we would all get sunburned and cranky, do cartwheels on the beach and eat too many deep fried clams.  Ah, good times.

A lot has changed since then. Nobody drives station wagons anymore (thank goodness), we’ve cut back on our deep fried clam intake (again, thank goodness), we use sunscreen AND we don’t have to spend  two days in the car to have some summer family fun that includes sun, pool time and a great hotel stay. (Although some of us might still be able to pull off a cartwheel, if pressed.)

One thing that hasn't changed? We still want our summer vacations!

According to a recent study conducted by Orbitz, most of us taking summer vacations in 2012 will be spending more than last year and likely will be traveling by car. Not so surprisingly, most of us will be weighing the increasing price of gas when making our decisions on which destination to visit. The BEST piece of advice found in the article? “Book a package deal.”  Amen.

Whether you are traveling across the country or just taking a “staycation”— here is the #1 GOLDEN TIP from your friends who work in tourism:  find the package deals.

Convention and Visitors Bureaus are DESTINATION MARKETING ORGANIZATIONS. That means that year-round, we are showcasing the best of our destinations to lure you to visit us. We track where people are going, when they are visiting, what their travel preferences are and how they are spending their travel dollars. So, we can tell you where to go and where to save. For example, every summer—we watch our Kids Eat FREE Columbus Zoo/COSI Getaway package numbers increase exponentially.  Why? Because visitors (a) want to visit the #1 Zoo and #1 Science Center in the nation, (b) they like discounted attraction tickets and free kids meals (c) they don’t want to spend 2-4 days of their vacation driving in the car with the kids and (d) they want a great experience.

So, look before you book. Start with your targeted destination's convention and visitors bureau.  CVBs KNOW their areas. Really well.  Visit their web site. Call them for insider tips, ticket deals, hotel specials. Yes—you can do your own research—but why wouldn’t you talk with a local first? They’ll tell you their favorite restaurants, who has a half-price admission on Wednesday, and where the free factory tours and best splash pads are located.  Then pack the car (and your sunscreen), unplug and GO HAVE FUN!  And, if you happen to end up in Dublin, Ohio -- be sure to stop by the Dublin Convention and Visitors Bureau and say 'hi!'

~Post by Mary