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Lifestyle

May 5, 2013

6 things to ask before booking a summer vacation

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s May. Memorial Day and the end of the school year are in sight. Suddenly, you’re thinking about a summer vacation. A little advance planning — and some insider tips — can save you a lot of money. Whether you’re booking airfare, a car rental or a hotel room, there are questions you should ask first.

AIR TRAVEL

Q: When is the best time to buy airfare?

A: There is no overarching rule, but generally the sweet spot for buying is four to six weeks before you travel. Prices are highest eight to 10 weeks and two to three weeks in advance. However, start your search earlier, if possible. Learn what fares tend to be on a route so you can jump on a deal when one appears. Timing it right can save a family hundreds of dollars. And remember, with most fares you now have 24 hours to cancel for any reason. Use that to your advantage.

Q: Is it worth paying for extras such as more legroom, access to shorter security lines and early boarding?

A: There are a number of variables to consider here, including the length of your flight — and your legs. The airline and time of day can also matter.

You can buy your way to the front of a security line. United, for examples, charges $9 for the privilege. But first consider the time you’re flying. At lunchtime on a Tuesday, the airport is probably empty anyway. However, if you’re leaving Orlando or Las Vegas on a Sunday, the fee could be money well spent.

Boarding early improves your chances of finding overhead space. But that’s about it. If you don’t have a carry-on bag, then save the money — typically $10 each way. Only on Southwest — which doesn’t assign seats — is there an additional advantage: being first to pick where to sit.

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